MONTREAL - Before 2012, Luka Rocco Magnotta was a little-known, 4-a.m regular at a Montreal diner, where he munched on poutine and guzzled water to rehydrate after performing at a nearby strip joint.
He ends the year as a notorious international figure an accused killer charged with stomach-turning crimes that set off a global manhunt and horrified people around the world.
Driven by his headline-grabbing spring, Magnotta has been voted Canada's 2012 Newsmaker of the Year in the annual poll of the country's newsrooms by The Canadian Press.
The choice, made by editors and news directors, is rooted in the eye-opening reach of a story that erupted last May after the death and dismemberment of university student Jun Lin.
Magnotta now sits in a Montreal detention centre, where he awaits trial on several criminal counts, including first-degree murder in Lin's killing. The 30-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The Montreal slaying touched regions across Canada after Lin's hands and feet were mailed separately to four locations in British Columbia and Ottawa.
The bizarre circumstances around Lin's death also hit the public radar on two other continents.
The news landed in Lin's native country of China, where his parents still live. He had left his homeland to study computer engineering in Canada.
The story also spread to Europe. The high-profile search by authorities for Magnotta ended with his June arrest in a Berlin Internet cafe, where he was reportedly reading online articles about himself.
The public's interest was drawn in by the rare horror of the accusations against Magnotta, a small-time porn actor, stripper and escort who was dubbed "Canadian Psycho" by some foreign media.
"The depravity of the charges that Luka Magnotta faces proves truth truly is stranger than fiction," said Victor Krasowski, CJUK/CKTG news director in Thunder Bay, Ont., who voted for Magnotta.
James O'Connor, managing editor of the Brandon Sun, said the allegations against Magnotta "ripped the lid off the unimaginably depraved underworld" of sadistic sex, mutilation and death.
The 33-year-old Lin's torso was found in a suitcase outside Magnotta's apartment building, his hands and feet were mailed to political offices in Ottawa and schools in B.C., and his head was discovered in a Montreal park.
There was also the infamous video posted online that police believe showed the dismemberment.
In the gruesome footage, a person is seen repeatedly stabbing a naked young man with an ice pick. The killer later dismembers the corpse and appears to commit sexual and cannibalistic acts on it.
Magnotta had a prolific online presence, with details about his life embellished and fabricated on Internet message boards and social media.
One of Lin's close friends believes Magnotta would take satisfaction from his selection as Newsmaker of the Year.
"That's what he obviously wanted, isn't it?" Benjamin, who spoke on condition that his family name not be published, told The Canadian Press.
"That's something he's been wanting for a very long time and he got it. But just on the cost of a life and our friend."
Magnotta, a native of Scarborough, Ont., collected 22 per cent of Newsmaker of the Year votes to finish ahead of Vancouver-area teen Amanda Todd, whose video and suicide prompted an international discussion on bullying.