MONTREAL -- An American fugitive wanted for murder in Texas says he fears for his safety if returned to the United States.

Derek Cameron Whisenand made the comment Tuesday during what was expected to be a hearing to determine his admissibility to Canada.

Instead, Whisenand told the Immigration and Refugee Board member hearing his case that he wants to make a refugee claim.

Whisenand refused to go any further after he learned journalists were present.

His case was put off until March 10.

The 28-year-old has been detained since his Dec. 30 arrest, which came after police responded to a call about the shoplifting of work boots at a Walmart in the Bayers Lake area of Halifax.

Whisenand is a suspect in the June 2019 death of a 78-year-old man in Eastland County, Texas, about 170 kilometres southwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

He told the Immigration and Refugee Board on Tuesday that he didn't feel comfortable speaking with reporters present.

"My safety is in jeopardy so I'm trying to apply for citizenship (sic) in Canada," he said, later correcting it to refugee claim when it was pointed out by the board member.

"I don't feel comfortable putting that out ... for hundreds of thousands of people to read," he added about his security concerns.

Dianne Tordoff, the board member hearing his case, told him to meet with the Canada Border Services Agency about a possible refugee claim.

Whisenand had refused to leave his cell during his last hearing in January, explaining Tuesday he didn't want to appear without a lawyer present and he has had trouble finding one.

He is alleged to have crossed illegally into Manitoba sometime in late June from North Dakota, where authorities found his car.

The fugitive hasn't explained how he got to Nova Scotia, but he was found living in a tent near the commercial area in Halifax where he was arrested. The CBSA said he has no family or friends in Canada.

Whisenand was ordered to remain detained at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility on the basis he was a flight risk and a danger to the Canadian public.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2020.