Kidnapped a 7-year-old girl. Ahuntsic man charged after his DNA was found on Natasha Cournoyer
In 2005, a Quebec Court Judge called Claude Larouche’s behaviour extremely worrisome, then sentenced him to 40 months in prison for kidnapping a 7-year-old girl in Mercier.
Yesterday, Larouche, a 48-year-old Montreal carpenter described by his neighbours as a nice family guy, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 37-year-old Natasha Cournoyer.
The balding, stocky man, dressed in a brown leather jacket, pleaded not guilty in a brief court appearance and is due back in court Dec.
DNA found on Cournoyer matched a sample of Larouche in the national DNA bank, which led to his arrest, Crown prosecutor Eliane Perreault said at a news conference following the arraignment.
Perreault said police were still waiting for results of tests to determine whether Cournoyer was sexually assaulted.
In Ahuntsic, Larouche’s upstairs and downstairs neighbours expressed surprise when reached by phone yesterday and told about the murder charge.
“We only knew him to say hello,” said the upstairs neighbour, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used. “He seemed nice, so we find it very strange (that he’s been charged).” Larouche was living with a woman who has two teenage boys, the neighbour living below him said.
Larouche has a son and daughter of his own, but they don’t live with him.
But the woman with whom he lives, Caroline Bastien, was living with him when he kidnapped the little girl.
Cournoyer’s body was found a month ago in Pointe aux Trembles in thick bushes near the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Larouche’s charge sheet says the killing took place between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6.
The Correctional Service of Canada employee was last seen alive leaving her office building after working until 8 p.m. on Oct. 1.
Larouche is no stranger to the criminal justice system, with charges dating back to 1984 in Chicoutimi, Trois Rivières, Joliette, Quebec City and Montreal. He is due in court in February in Quebec City for trial on a theft charge.
The Crown said Larouche also has a prior conviction for sexual assault.
But the most serious charge on Larouche’s record is the 2003 kidnapping of an elementary school girl in Mercier. For this crime, Larouche was sentenced in June 2005 to 40 months in prison, followed by three years’ probation.
The girl had been walking toward a friend’s house about 7 a.m. when Larouche got her attention by saying she dropped some money, then grabbed her and pulled her into the front seat of his car.
The girl fought back and managed to flee to a nearby house.
Larouche followed her but fled as soon as the person at the house opened the door, but not before the occupant took note of the first three numbers of Larouche’s licence plate.
He was arrested in May 2004. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and assault.