Two men who escaped from a Vancouver Island federal prison in 2019 have been charged with murder in the killing of a man who lived near the institution.
West Shore RCMP says James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are each facing one count of first-degree murder in the death of 60-year-old Martin Payne.
“Marty was deeply loved by his tight circle of friends and family and we have continued to mourn his senseless loss every day for the past 11 months,” said Payne’s family in a statement on Saturday.
“The man who was taken from us was an exceptionally gentle and caring human being whose love, support, and encouragement were unfailing.”
The two men broke out of the minimum-security William Head Institution on July 7, and were arrested in Victoria on July 9 after being spotted by an off-duty police officer.
At the time, police described both men as dangerous
Busch, 42, was serving an indeterminate sentence for second-degree murder and assault. He has previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody.
Armitage, 30, was serving a nearly 14-year sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences, police said.
Payne was a government employee with BC Mail Plus.
He was found dead at his home in the 1000 block of Brookview Drive in Metchosin — about eight kilometres from the prison — on July 12, when he failed to show up for work.
His red Ford F150 pickup was found on July 9 in Oak Bay, about 26 kilometres away.
Police have not specified when he died, but had appealed for tips from people in the area between the evening of July 7 and mid-day on July 9. His obituary states he died on July 8.
At the time of the escape, the William Head Institution’s warden told Global News the two inmates were housed in a minimum-security prison because they had been “cascaded down” to the facility following regular assessments by corrections staff.
At the time, West Shore RCMP said the men escaped around 6:45 p.m. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) said it realized they were missing during an 11 p.m. count of inmates.
In a statement on Saturday, Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly extended her “deepest sympathies” to Payne’s family.
Kelly said the CSC has completed an internal investigation, including a review of the circumstances of the escape.
The William Head Institution has since implemented an extra daily formal count, and revised inmates’ curfew to return to their housing units on site.
She said the CSC has initiated a review of all inmates classified as minimum security “and took appropriate action, where required.”
The CSC has also revised its assessment process around minimum-security inmates and its communication practices “to make communities promptly aware of escapes,” she said.
The statement does not speak to the reasons why Armitage or Busch were classified as minimum-security prisoners.