LONDON, Ont. – A man accused in the grisly slaying and dismemberment of a friend in a southwestern Ontario hotel room was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday night, after a jury took mere hours to decide his fate.
Jurors in London, Ont., also found James McCullough guilty of offering an indignity to a dead body.
McCullough, 22, had pleaded not guilty to both charges in the bloody death of 20-year-old Alex Fraser.
Crown prosecutors had argued McCullough was a “calculated predator” acting out a sick fantasy when he killed his friend and cut up his body in a hotel room in September 2013.
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But McCullough’s defence lawyer suggested her client, who had been drinking and doing drugs, only stabbed his friend in a rage after an abrupt and troubling sexual advance from his buddy before blacking out.
The case, which was loaded with hard-to-stomach evidence, had prompted the presiding judge to warn jurors not to let the disturbing material at trial cloud their thinking.
Jurors, however, appeared to have been able to quickly decide the facts of the case, reaching their verdict some three hours after being presented with closing arguments from the Crown and defence, as well as instructions from the judge.
The trial heard that Fraser was stabbed more than 20 times, was decapitated and had his arms and legs severed from his body. His remains were found in two hockey bags in a hotel room he and McCullough shared for a night.
Court heard that one Saturday night, after first drinking at McCullough’s home, the two friends took a cab from Orangeville, Ont., where they lived, to London, with Fraser clearly intoxicated at the time.
READ MORE:‘I killed one of my best friends’ Orangeville man tells his murder trial
McCullough testified there were three reasons for the trip — to party, to go shopping for clothes and to conduct a home invasion on a residence where he once lived when he attended a college in the city.
McCullough said he brought alcohol and two hockey bags on the trip, as well as a knife and knife sharpener that he said he usually had on hand “for protection,” because he was a drug dealer.
The jury heard that the men checked into a Travelodge, where McCullough gave a fake name, a fake address and paid for the room in cash.
Once in the room, the two young men drank about six shots of tequila each, talked about their plans in London and McCullough had some cocaine, the trial heard.
McCullough then went for a shower and when he emerged from the washroom, he said Fraser was standing in the room, naked, saying he wanted to have sex.
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McCullough said he got angry and pushed Fraser, who made a grab for his genitals, he said. The two got into a tussle and Fraser fell, at which point McCullough said he “freaked out,” grabbed his knife and stabbed his friend twice.
He told the court he then blacked out and when he regained consciousness, his friend’s body parts were lying in a bathtub — a sight so horrific it caused him to throw up.
Crown prosecutors, however, suggested there never was any sexual advance made by Fraser and called McCullough’s blackout “convenient.”
They also noted that a clean piece of bone was found in a ziplock bag in McCullough’s backpack, suggesting it was a “trophy” by which McCullough could remember living out his fantasy.
The trial heard that after Fraser died, McCullough reached out to an old acquaintance in the hope of getting a ride out of town, but the friend refused.
McCullough eventually called 911, saying repeatedly “someone is dead and I am unarmed.”