Couple recalls doorstep encounter with inmates accused of murdering Metchosin man

On July 7, 2019, Janet and Clayton Reynolds were sitting in the living room of the Metchosin home watching TV when there was a knock on the door.

It was already dark in midsummer night, the couple got up to check who it was, but they didn’t expect someone.

While Clayton looked out through the windowpane of the front door and Janet through another window in the kitchen, the two looked out and saw two men on the front porch.

Testifying at the trial of Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch on Wednesday (November 16) outlined the events of the unexpected encounter three years ago. The couple have been charged with first-degree murder of Martin Payne of Metchosin after escaping from William Hyde minimum security prison.

“It’s never happened in 16 years,” Janet said of their nighttime encounter at their rural home. “It’s very unusual.”

From their respective positions, they could both have an unobstructed view of two men they didn’t know standing under their porch lights.

Clayton asked aloud what the two men were doing, and why they were at his door. They stand side by side at first, then one moves behind the other. The younger-looking, thinner, lighter-skinned pair asked if they could come in and use the phone, and Clayton said no.

With his hearing aids in and speaking through the door, the retired doctor testified that muffled conversation continued and the young man was asking for directions but not knowing where to go.

When asked by defense attorneys whether the speaker was “polite” in tone and demeanor, Clayton said “correct.”

As he choked up on the witness stand, Clayton said he charted the course and “bluffed” the men to leave.

“There’s no other way we can get them off my property, I don’t want to open the door, I certainly don’t want to confront them, I just, in the moment I can try and get it, it occurs to me that they just have to make up a sentence and some instructions to get out. “

He watched the unknown people turn and walk for a few meters until they disappeared around the bend in his driveway. The homeowners then took a walk around their property, checking that their locks and other entrances were secure before starting the normal break.

The next morning, Janet opened an online news article while waiting for her tennis match to start. The story showed pictures of two men who had been at her door the night before. She testified that she was absolutely sure it was those two men. Clayton said it was 100 percent.

The court also heard on Wednesday from expert witness Ambrose Oba-Underwood, an RCMP digital evidence expert. He detailed how on July 8 Payne’s home computer repeatedly searched for news about the prison break, the news page of the Correctional Service of Canada, the private water taxis operating in Victoria and the island, and various pornographic websites from the early morning to the afternoon on July 8. The user also entered “Zachary A” before clicking on the “Zachary Armitage” option — which Oba-Underwood said came up because of a previous search.

Wednesday’s session also heard brief testimony from a West Coast RCMP corporal who fingerprinted Busch and a woman who was asked for directions by two men, allegedly fugitives. She said they seemed nervous and lost their way in the woods.

The defense asked the woman about the men’s attire, specifically whether she remembered one of them wearing black jeans — a question that was also directed at Clayton. The woman said her initial police statement said one of the items was jeans, but she couldn’t remember what color it was.

The trial continues Thursday in Vancouver.

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