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From Kittens to Sick Kicks: Little evidence Luka Rocco Magnotta, aka Eric Newman, was a gay porn star or many of the other things he called himself

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from www.nationalpost.com – So far, there is little evidence Luka Rocco Magnotta is a gay porn star, a legitimate model or that he ever dated serial killer Karla Homolka. Instead, beyond the murder suspect’s highly crafted Internet persona is evidence that a boy, little noticed by classmates during his tumultuous Southern Ontario upbringing, slowly descended into petty crime, purported animal cruelty, and now, alleged murder and dismemberment.

The apparent descent was fueled by, as one relative called it, “delusions of grandeur.”

He came into this world as Eric Newman on July 24, 1982, born to Anna Yourkin and Donald Newman, both of whom were reportedly still teenagers. In an online journal penned in 2007, Mr. Magnotta described his parents as “high school sweethearts,” and claimed that his mother named him after American actor Eric Roberts.

Much of his childhood was spent in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, where he attended Charlottetown Junior Public School. Former classmates, calling into Toronto news radio stations this week, remembered him showing up to class wearing slicked-back hair and gold-coloured rings. He was alternately described as “always happy” or quick to violence, with one former student remembering him throwing a chair at his Grade 6 teacher.

By his late teens, Mr. Magnotta had relocated to Lindsay, Ont., a community of 20,000 about two hours north of Toronto. He may have lived with his grandmother, Phyllis.

Only four years before Mr. Magnotta’s arrival, a Phyllis Yourkin in the area had recently terminated a 40-year marriage to a worker at the nearby Unilever factory. As late as December, the former couple was still in court over tax issues related to the separation.

In grades 10 and 11, he attended I.E. Weldon Secondary School, where he appears to have melted unseen into the 1,400-person student body. Four former classmates contacted by the Post said they had no memory of the boy, who had reportedly adopted his signature bleach-blonde “look” while at the school.

Mr. Magnotta’s sister, mother and grandmother still live in neighbouring Peterborough.

His mother lives in a red brick home on the fringes of downtown. One year ago, the house was the site of fire that began in a second floor bedroom and caused $60,000 in damage and injured one of the house’s seven occupants before it was extinguished by the Peterborough Fire Department.

On Wednesday, on the request of Montreal Police, Peterborough police visited the relatives for questioning. “We have not seen him for a long time,” sister Melissa Newman told a La Presse reporter, adding that the news has been “really difficult for us all.” Mr. Magnotta’s mother told the Post by phone “I’m sorry but I’m not commenting at this time.”

Nevertheless, one anonymous relative — who had known Mr. Magnotta from childhood — told a reporter with the local Peterborough Examiner that Mr. Magnotta was “a ticking time bomb.”

“He’s a nut job. I did not trust him,” she told the newspaper at a local Tim Hortons. “Eric is the type of individual, I think he’s mentally ill. He has delusions of grandeur. He concocts stories that he tends to believe and they in turn become fact in his mind.”

Mr. Magnotta left the community under unknown circumstances and surfaced three years later in a Toronto courtroom on charges of a dozen counts of fraud and impersonation for using a woman’s credit card to buy $16,900 worth of goods, including a television, DVD player and several cellphones.

He was also charged with sexually assaulting the same woman, but those charges were later dropped.

His co-accused, Antonio Minakakis, 30, told Postmedia Mr. Magnotta was a “creepy neighbourhood guy” who dragged him into the case in an attempt to reduce his own culpability. “He had a very weird way to him. Very weird. His eyes. He was very unstable, very shaky. I don’t know if he was on meds or what … He was schizo. That’s what we used to say: ‘The guy’s schizo.’”

After pleading guilty, Mr. Magnotta received a nine-month conditional sentence. However, according to his criminal lawyer, Peter B. Scully, Mr. Magnotta was most concerned with the possibility of retribution from the victim’s family. “The father was a powerful man in the Greek community and my client was afraid,” Mr. Scully told the Citizen. In 2005, Mr. Scully said he wrote a letter to Toronto Police warning that his client might be in in danger.

Mr. Minakakis said the crime was likely an attempt to curry friends, given that he distributed the stolen goods around the neighbourhood. Mr. Magnotta often attempted to impress those who would listen with hyped-up accounts of being an escort or a porn star, said Mr. Minkakis, but the ruse failed to supersede his “creepy” demeanour.

In the summer of 2006, Mr. Magnotta’s attempts at personal reinvention reached entirely new heights when he officially changed his name and kicked off a relentless campaign to craft what can so far be described as a fake online persona as a male model and porn star using an ever-growing network of social media profiles, news articles and anonymous video comments.

Mr. Magnotta’s time in Toronto’s small gay porn scene was extremely brief, or perhaps non-existent. Only a smattering of online pornographic videos carry his name, and many of them feature men who are either out of frame or are clearly not him.

“I honestly can’t say that I have ever heard of him before the coverage started,” said Sophie Delancey, a Toronto-based PR and marketing director who works in the porn industry. “It’s possible that he was quite small-time and went under some [other] alias.”

Mr. Magnotta would often claim he was a semi-finalist on the Toronto reality show CoverGuy, an amateur model contest for people looking to be discovered. But director Larry Peloso, who was at the auditions, said that while Mr. Magnotta did audition for the show, the three judges deemed the bare-chested, bleached-blonde man to be too thin.

Video from the audition shows a shirtless Mr. Magnotta, with a gold chain hanging around his neck and a black shirt slug over his shoulder, defending his looks, saying: “A lot of people tell me I’m really devastatingly good-looking.”

“He was trying to project himself as a confident person, but I think it was quite evident that he was not,” said Mr. Peloso. “You wouldn’t have necessarily picked him out in the crowd as being anyone particularly odd. This goes back five years ago — who knows what happened between then and now to create these terrible circumstances.”

Nina Arsenault, a well-known transsexual writer and performer, told the CBC she saw Mr. Magnotta at the same audition. Five years before that, when Ms. Arsenault worked at a Toronto strip club and went by the name Angel, the two were lovers — despite her account to the broadcaster that Mr. Magnotta was a manipulator with a short-fuse, someone who hated his family because they did not accept him.

On Wednesday, another alleged ex-girlfriend quoted by Xtra!, a Canadian gay and lesbian news site, said Mr. Magnotta danced at Remington’s, a prominent Toronto gay strip club. However, on Thursday, patrons and staff at the club told a QMI reporter that they no recollection of Mr. Magnotta.

In mid-2007, it is possible Mr. Magnotta may have picked up work as a gay escort named “Jimmy” [a profile on an escort site shows a striking resemblance] In July of that year, an online review by an anonymous client described Jimmy as distant, ill-mannered, and prone to embellishing his sexual prowess and penis size. “I felt as though I was trying to have sex with a dead fish, so I just gave up,” wrote the man.

That same year, in response to an Internet rumour that he was dating Karla Homolka, Mr. Magnotta scored an interview with the Toronto Sun to “clear his name.” “Whoever’s doing this, please stop, you’re doing a lot of harm,” he said. All evidence points to the rumour stemming from Mr. Magnotta’s own online posts — and repeated attempts to insert his name into Karla Homolka’s Wikipedia page.

Nevertheless, the rumour had staying power: In the opening days of Mr. Magnotta’s murder investigation, Montreal Police confirmed — and then backtracked — claims that Mr. Magnotta had had a relationship with Homolka.

Although his myriad online profiles described a life of jet-setting luxury, by 2010 Mr. Magnotta appeared to be living in a low-income neighbourhood of Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto. A pair of online photos timestamped for the fall of 2010 depict Mr. Magnotta lounging on the 10th floor balcony of a concrete apartment block. Another series of photos — dated to the same period — shows him playing with an unknown child in and around Summit Place, a housing complex in Scarborough.

It was around this time that Mr. Magnotta’s reputation for mere creepiness evolved into menace. He is suspected to be behind a December, 2010 video depicting a man suffocating two kittens in a vacuum cleaner bag — and then rubbing the animals’ dead bodies against his genitalia. A year later, two more cat-killing videos would emerge with a man matching Mr. Magnotta’s description. In one, a man in a Santa suit feeds a kitten to a python. In another, a man tapes a cat to a broomstick and drowning it in a bathtub.

Around the same time, Mr. Magnotta appears to have been living in London, England, above a Wembley pub known as the Fusilier. Alex West, a reporter for the Sun, showed up at his door in December and Mr. Magnotta — clad in foundation and blue eye-shadow — welcomed him inside.

“Behind the denials [of any involvement in the animal cruelty] it seemed he was getting some sort of bizarre pleasure out of the attention,” Mr. West wrote in his online account of the interview.

Two days later, the newspaper received an email, which was littered with punctuation and spelling mistakes, saying the kitten-killer planned to graduate from cats to humans. The writer claimed he found it “fun watching people work so hard gathering all the evidence, then not being able to name me or catch me.”

Four months ago, Mr. Magnotta slipped relatively unseen into Montreal, took up residence in a cheap furnished apartment and reportedly struck up a relationship with Concordia University student Lin Jun, the man he would be accused of murdering.

The target of an international arrest warrant, as of Friday police still do not know whether he is in France, England — or back in Canada under an assumed alias.

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