VICTORIA -- A former William Head inmate who stands charged with killing a Metchosin man after escaping from the prison last year, made a brief court appearance Thursday in Colwood.

James Lee Busch, 42, appeared by video before provincial court judge Evan Blake. 

Busch and fellow escapee Zachary Armitage are accused of first-degree murder in the killing of 60-year-old Metchosin resident Martin Payne in July 2019 while the two were at large from the federal prison.

Busch was already serving a life sentence for second-degree murder when he and the 30-year-old Armitage escaped on July 7, 2019. 

The two fugitives were caught two days later after they were spotted on the Esquimalt waterfront by an off-duty RCMP officer who was walking his dog.

Payne’s body was discovered in his Metchosin home on July 12, 2019, approximately six kilometres from the prison grounds. The discovery was made when police were sent to Payne's home after he failed to show up for work.

Busch and Armitage were each charged with first-degree murder on June 12, 2020, 11 months to the day after he was found dead in his home. The charges came after an investigation into the death led by the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit.

Payne’s family issued a statement when police announced the murder charges against the two inmates. 

“Marty was deeply loved by his tight circle of friends and family and we have continued to mourn his senseless loss everyday for the past 11 months,” the family said in a statement. “The man who was taken from us was an exceptionally gentle and caring human being whose love, and encouragement were unfailing.”

Busch has yet to enter a plea in relation to the first-degree murder charge. Judge Blake adjourned court proceedings until Sept. 10, when it is expected a date will be set for a preliminary hearing. Busch will again appear by video link. 

Busch has consented to remain in custody while he faces the murder charge. He is currently in a federal corrections institution serving the balance of his sentences for the second-degree murder conviction and his conviction for the escape from William Head prison.

Armitage is also scheduled to appear on Sept. 10 for arraignment on a single count of first-degree murder for Payne's killing. He is also serving the balance of his sentence for robbery and aggravated assault in an undisclosed federal prison. 

Armitage's current sentence is set to expire in 2025, but he will serve one additional year after being sentenced for being unlawfully at large during the escape.