MONTREAL – Tenants in a Montreal apartment block have made their home at the scene of one of Canada’s most-notorious slayings – the former abode of accused killer Luka Rocco Magnotta.
What’s unclear is whether they know about the space’s gruesome history following a killing that made global headlines.
A year ago this week, Jun Lin’s torso was found in a suitcase behind a low-rent apartment building in the city’s west end.
Police said that days before the May 29 discovery, the 33-year-old university student was killed and dismembered in Magnotta’s blood-splashed apartment.
Magnotta, 30, faces several criminal charges, including first-degree murder in Lin’s death. The former porn actor and stripper has pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Life at his old building, meanwhile, took a long time to return to normal after it was thrust into international news reports, said Eric Schorer, the superintendent.
Initially, the 57-unit building struggled to find tenants after images of it circulated far beyond Montreal. The high-profile case touched three continents amid interest in Lin’s native China and the international manhunt that led to Magnotta’s June arrest in a Berlin Internet cafe.
Many units sat empty due to the stigma, but Schorer says business picked up in recent months after management adopted a tighter tenant-screening process to weed out potential troublemakers. The block, he says, now boasts a better clientele that has made its hallways “quiet like a church.”
He even found tenants for Magnotta’s second-floor bachelor unit, which remained vacant for more than half a year.
The renovated apartment, Schorer says, has since been rented to two different people, with one of the men still living there today.
He doesn’t think the man, whom he described as a foreigner, knows anything about the past of his current home.
“We don’t advertise it, obviously,” Schorer said recently as he sat on a bench in front of the building, which overlooks the buzzing Decarie Expressway.
“But like I said, he’ll find out because people talk.”
The Canadian Press paid a couple of visits to the building, but did not get a response after ringing the buzzer for the furnished, $490-per-month unit.
Schorer described the apartment’s first post-Magnotta tenant as a student who moved out without giving a reason. He doesn’t know whether he ever learned about what happened there.
Many residents who lived in the building when Lin was killed moved out shortly after the discovery. Schorer believes the mini-exodus from around 10 apartments was due to the incident.
“It was very unfortunate and there was, of course… people freaked out,” said Schorer, who also helps screen prospective tenants.
“It affects some people more than others, like myself, I’m not really affected by ghosts and spirits because I don’t really believe in all that. But there’s some people, and they can even have high education, they just freak out.”
Today, the building is full except for about three vacancies, he said.
The carpets in the infamous apartment were ripped out, the floor was refinished and the furniture was replaced, he added.
“We changed everything, I mean, it’s hard to believe that anything ever happened there,” said Schorer, who thinks it’s now one of the nicest units in the 48-year-old building.
“The only problem, like I say, is people who are afraid of ghosts.”
Looking back at the past year, Schorer said some residents have had a difficult time dealing with what they had seen.
“It screwed us all up a little bit,” said Schorer, who feels terrible for what Lin’s loved ones have gone through.
“I couldn’t help but think, ‘(What) if that was my son?’ ”
A man close to Lin said a small group of friends had planned to mark the grim anniversary by paying a private visit Sunday to his grave.
“The friends have been pretty well,” said Benjamin, who did not want his family name published.
“He’s almost in every conversation every time we meet up… He’s always with us.”
Benjamin said he told Lin’s mother last week about the plan to visit her son’s gravesite. Lin’s parents returned to China from Montreal recently, following Magnotta’s preliminary hearing.
“She’s pretty happy with that,” said Benjamin, who refers to his friend as Justin, another name he went by in Canada.
“She’s glad that Justin – or Jun Lin – had friends like us.”
Back at Magnotta’s former building, a nagging concern remains: the number on the apartment door, which gained a notoriety on its own.
Schorer said he’s thought about changing the number, but he figured that future tenants would eventually find out anyway.
That’s why he’s decided to rent the unit only when nothing else is available.
“If somebody finds out (what happened there) and comes to me and freaks out, I’ll give him another apartment,” he said.