Vancouver Island mayor calling for change after escaped inmates charged with murder
VANCOUVER -- A small Vancouver Island community is reeling from the news that two convicts who escaped last year from William Head minimum security federal prison have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a man who lived nearby.
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped from the prison on the night of July 7, 2019, and were caught around 8 p.m. on July 9.
Friday evening, West Shore RCMP announced that the two men had been charged with killing 60-year-old Martin Payne, a crime that would have happened sometime during the roughly 48 hours the convicts spent outside the prison.
Payne's body was discovered in his Metchosin home on July 12, 2019, after he failed to show up for work.
On Sunday, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns called the news of charges against Busch and Armitage "a wake-up call" for his community.
"There have been escapes, but they've been relatively benign," said Ranns about the prison's history.
He said the community had developed "a false sense of security" around having the prison in their midst.
Now, he and others in Metchosin are calling for changes to improve the safety of their community.
Both Busch and Armitage were violent offenders before they allegedly killed Payne. Busch was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder and Armitage - who had previously escaped from custody multiple times - was serving a sentence for aggravated assault and robbery.
Since their escape, the prison has made some changes intended to prevent similar situations in the future. The institution now holds an additional daily prisoner count and has revised the time at which inmates must return to their housing units at the end of the day.
The prison also now informs local officials whenever someone is missing during a head-count, even if the missing inmate hasn't been confirmed to have escaped the facility.
For Ranns, those changes don't address the fundamental problem of housing offenders like Busch and Armitage at the minimum security facility.
The mayor would like to see the prison warden granted the authority to say no to housing offenders with similar backgrounds in the future.
"The bottom line still is who should be there and who shouldn't be there?" Ranns said. "I'm not confident that that has been adequately addressed."
With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Robert Buffam