Julie Surprenant: Inquiry into 16-year-old girl’s death opens
by Paul Cherry
MONTREAL – Quebec coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier is expected to begin Tuesday an unusual, if not unprecedented, public inquiry into the death of Julie Surprenant, 16, who disappeared in 1999.
The coroner’s inquiry at the Laval courthouse is unusual because Surprenant’s body was never located despite what is believed to have been the deathbed confession of a man who was always considered a suspect in her disappearance.
Rudel-Tessier has set aside two days to hear from witnesses and will add a third if needed.
Richard Bouillon, a convicted sex offender with a long history of mental health problems, lived two doors away from Surprenant’s family home in Terrebonne when she went missing.
He died of cancer, at 52, in 2006.
Bouillon was investigated in the disappearance of Surprenant, who went missing after getting off a bus close to her home.
While looking into his past, a Sûreté du Québec investigator found a woman who alleged she had been raped by Bouillon when she was 16, in the early-1970s.
Another woman, who learned Bouillon was a suspect in Surprenant’s disappearance from a media report, came forward and alleged he sexually assaulted her several times when she was a child and again when she was a teenager.
In 2001, Bouillon was charged with sexually assaulting both victims and was convicted of several sex-related offences in 2003.
He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term and was declared a long-term offender but was never charged in Surprenant’s disappearance.
The Crown tried to have Bouillon declared a dangerous offender, which would have given him an indefinite sentence, but a Quebec Court judge opted for the less severe long-term offender designation.
In the process, disturbing details about Bouillon’s past came to light.
His criminal record by 2003 included several convictions dating back to 1970 when, at age 16, he molested a teenager at knifepoint and did the same thing to a 27-year-old woman 10 days later.
According to court documents, Bouillon’s parents had serious concerns about his sexual impulses in 1970 and had him committed to a hospital for three months.
When he was readmitted months later, after being convicted for the first time, he told doctors he was relieved because he could not control himself.
Four years later, he tried to rape a 6-year-old girl.
After undergoing an evaluation at the Philippe Pinel Institute, in 1975, a psychiatrist diagnosed Bouillon as “an individual with very severe personality disorders of a psychopathic nature” and “incapable of empathy.”
In 1990, Bouillon was convicted of sexually assaulting a patient who was at the same mental health clinic where he was being treated.
When Surprenant disappeared, on Nov. 16, 1999, Bouillon was on probation for having paid a minor for sexual services in 1996.
A pre-sentencing report prepared in that case described him as having a high risk of reoffending if he were in the presence of teenagers or young girls.
He was not required to undergo therapy in that case because he refused to admit he had a problem.
On his deathbed in 2006, Bouillon reportedly confessed to a caregiver that he killed Surprenant.
He told the caregiver he had placed Julie’s body in a sports bag and dumped it into the Mille Îles River.
The caregiver did not tell the police what Bouillon said until long after his death.
Police searched the river last year but were unable to locate the girl’s remains.