Carpenter charged in killing of corrections worker

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Globe and Mail

A federal bureaucrat who was snatched outside her suburban office building was a rare victim of random murder, authorities alleged Friday.

Police and prosecutors charged Claude Larouche, a 48-year-old carpenter with a long criminal history, with the first-degree murder of Natasha Cournoyer.

Mr. Larouche, who has previously served two prison terms for kidnapping a girl and sexually assaulting a woman, did not know Ms. Cournoyer last month when he allegedly grabbed her from a parking lot in the Montreal suburb of Laval, police said.

“He had no links with the victim, and it’s also important to note her work had nothing to do with it,” said Montreal police Inspector Daniel Rousseau.

Ms. Cournoyer, 37, had only worked for a few months in communications at Corrections Canada when she was killed. She had no contact with convicts in her daily work.

Court records show Mr. Larouche’s most recent conviction was in 2005 for kidnapping and assaulting a seven-year-old girl. The girl was walking to school when Mr. Larouche stopped her and told her she’d dropped some money.

When the girl looked for the change, Mr. Larouche grabbed her by the neck and dragged her into the car. The girl fought back, smashing his glasses before fleeing.

“Okay, save yourself,” Mr. Larouche yelled at the girl as she fled, according to local newspaper coverage of his guilty plea.

The girl identified Mr. Larouche by the rosary hanging from his rearview mirror. She testified against him and, in the face of overwhelming evidence, Mr. Larouche pleaded guilty. His sentence of 40 months expired in November, 2008.

In the Cournoyer case, court records show he was ordered to surrender a DNA sample, giving investigators an alleged match to genetic material left on the victim’s body.

“It’s no secret that scientific evidence … will be a key to the case,” said prosecutor Éliane Perreault.

Mr. Larouche was arrested at his home, where he lived with a woman and two children, just after 11 p.m., Thursday night. He appeared dishevelled during his first court appearance.

A neighbour who saw Mr. Larouche raking leaves hours before his arrest said he believed the woman had the children in a previous relationship.

There was no answer at Mr. Larouche’s duplex Friday.

Part of the mystery surrounding Ms. Cournoyer’s disappearance Oct. 1 ended six days later when her body was found on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, 25 kilometres away.

Security cameras at the office complex in Laval recorded her walking across the lot after work but apparently did not capture her abduction.

For several days before the body was found, Ms. Cournoyer’s boyfriend, Michel Trottier, ran a campaign to publicize her disappearance. The 32-year-old eventually asked investigators for a polygraph test after he admitted some of Ms. Cournoyer’s family members were doubting him. He passed the test.

Mr. Trottier declined to be interviewed Friday, saying only he was relieved a suspect was caught.

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