LONDON, Ont. — Just a few days after the arrest of a young Ontario man accused of murdering his friend and stuffing his body into hockey bags, police found a violent handwritten poem in his home that discussed death and dismemberment, the man’s trial heard Tuesday.
The rap-style poem, which ran over two pages, was found by police in the home of James McCullough in September 2013, not long after police found the remains of Alex Fraser in two bags in a London, Ont., hotel room, a detective told the trial.
But after every juror was given time to read an excerpt of the poem, the judge presiding over the case issued a note of caution to the 14-member panel.
“The lyrics are graphic, they could be seen by some to be repulsive, you must not allow your emotional reaction to the lyrics affect your objective assessment of this evidence,” said Justice Renee Pomerance.
“The question is not whether he is the kind of person who’d commit the offences charged, the question is whether he did in fact commit the offences charged. The lyrics may assist you in determining what Mr. McCullough did, why he did it and what he was thinking when he did it.”
McCullough, 22, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body in 20-year-old Fraser’s death two and a half years ago.
The poem — the latest piece of tough-to-digest evidence at the grisly trial — first discussed breaking someone’s jaw and ramming a knife through their stomach.
It then contained the lines: “I’ll go through your whole crew, a routine I’m used to. Chop ’em up, mail their parts to you.”
Pomerance instructed the jury to first consider whether the poem could be a form of artistic expression and noted that people sometimes write poems or songs about activities they have no intention of performing.
If jurors conclude McCullough’s interest in the poem was more than “purely artistic,” they must then consider what McCullough thought its lines referred to.
“Do they refer to killing, dismemberment and cannibalism, or do they refer to something else?” Pomerance said. “You can only consider this evidence as it relates to Mr. McCullough’s intention and state of mind at the time he killed Mr. Fraser and dismembered Mr. Fraser’s body.”
The trial has heard that Fraser and McCullough took a cab from Orangeville, Ont., where they lived, to London late on a Saturday night, with Fraser clearly intoxicated at the time.
The jury has heard that the men checked into a Travelodge, where McCullough gave a fake name, a fake address and paid for the room in cash. He later asked to extend his stay and emphasized that he did not want any housekeeping.
The trial heard that later on the Sunday, two young men visited McCullough in the hotel room where they saw two hockey style bags in the room, which McCullough told them not to touch.
Court has heard that McCullough tried to get one of the men to drive him to northern Ontario and then told the men he had “done something terrible.”
He first told them he had robbed a government building and had thousands of dollars of stolen property in the bags in the room, the trial heard.
He then told them he had robbed the government building with a gang member from Toronto and they had killed someone in the process, cut up the person’s body and put some of the body parts in the bags that were in the room, court heard.
McCullough called 911 himself later that day, saying repeatedly “someone is dead and I am unarmed.”
Police officers initially didn’t notice anything amiss in the tidy hotel room where McCullough had been staying, the trial has heard. It was only when an officer unzipped one of the hockey bags on the floor that police realized there were human remains in the room.
An expert in DNA and body fluid analysis who testified later Tuesday told the court that forensic testing revealed blood in a number of locations, particularly the bathroom.
Tricia Miller, with the Centre of Forensic Science in Toronto, told the court blood was detected on swabs taken from the bathtub, tub drain, toilet bowl, garbage can and bathroom floor. Blood was also detected on swabs taken from the room carpet, the bedskirt and from a bottle of alcohol on a bedside table, she said.
Blood stains were also found on McCullough’s pants, a shoe, a sock and on a knife and knife sharpener found in the room, Miller said.
The jury has been told Fraser was stabbed more than 20 times, was decapitated and had his arms and legs severed from his body.