24-year-old Jocelyn Houle was a nursing student from Chicoutimi, Quebec. The 5’2″, 100 lbs young woman traveled to Montreal with a group of fellow students to study respiratory therapy for three weeks at The Institute of Cardiology in the city’s Rosemont district.
During her stay Houle was living at a boarding house, The Jeanne Mance Institute at 6675 44e avenue. Wednesday evening, April 13th Houle decides to join seven of her fellow students for a night on the town. They have dinner at The Barnsider which was at 2250 rue Guy. After dinner they decide to go to the Old Munich at Saint Denis and Dorchester (now boule Rene Levesque). They arrive at 11:30 pm. They drink, they dance, they stay until closing. They leave the club together around 1:30 am with the intention of moving the party up the street to La Caleche on Saint Catherines, just west of Saint Denis (I believe this was – and still is – La Caleche du Sexe, a strip club still in existence to this day). Jocelyne Houle, who was walking apart from the group with two men, never arrived.
When they arrive at La Caleche the friends discover Houle isn’t there. They go back to the The Old Munich, but Jocelyne isn’t there either. They then decide that Houle must have gone back to the boarding house. Later when they get home, Houle isn’t at the boarding house. Houle is absent from her classes at the Institute of Cardiology on Thursday and Friday April 14 and 15th. She doesn’t return to her parent’s home in Chicoutimi at the end of the week.
Discovery of the body
On Sunday, April 17th Houle’s body is discovered about an hour north of Montreal near Saint Calixte. She is found off a gravel road, Rang 5 about 8 feet in from the road lying face down in a few inches of water. Houle is found half-naked and badly beaten about the face and head. Her purse is lying next to her.
First to arrive on the scene at 11:00 am are P Renaud of the Saint Jerome Surete du Quebec, and Reynald Vincent of the SQ in Rawdon. They are soon joined by Raymond Girard, Victor Judd, Gilles Vachon, Fernand Yelle and Normand Vien of the Surete du Quebec in Montreal. Yelle and Vien both worked the O’Brien / Fisher murders in 1974 and 1975 in Chateauguay.
The coroner on the scene is Rene Raymond. The body is taken to Montreal and the autopsy to performed by Andre Lauzon at the SQ Parthenais headquarters. The autopsy confirms that Houle was beaten to death. She had a fractured jaw, and many facial injuries caused by “kicks or punches”. Houle had been raped, possibly my several persons. Houle was still wearing some of her clothing, including her bra, which was torn. Investigators conclude that Houle was not killed at the Saint Calixte location, only dumped there.
The above image is the full page from Allo Police, May 1, 1977 (it looks a little funny because I had to splice the top and bottom together).
Initially, the Surete du Quebec and the media focused all their attention on a possible connection between the Houle murder and the death of Louis Camirand. There reasoning appears to be this:
- Camirand was murdered three weeks earlier.
- Both Camirand and Houle were found in remote wooded areas.
- Both victims were raped.
- Both victims were in their 20s.
Linking Houle and Camirand was also a matter of convenience: both cases were assigned to the Surete du Quebec.
The media also seemed to fixate on the fact that both victims were engaged to be married: Tragic, but hardly evidentiary (I don’t think we’re chasing the “Engagement Killer”).
When you think of it, given what was known at the time, the Surete du Quebec was really linking the wrong cases:
- Camirand was found almost completely naked, Houle was partially clothed.
- Houle was badly beaten about the face and head, Camirand did not appear to be touched around the head area.
Here is the front page of Allo police on May 1, 1977:
Look familiar? It should. It is practically identical to the Sharron Prior crime scene. Here is Photo Police April 17, 1975:
- Prior and Houle both have their socks and shoes left on.
- Prior and Houle are both beaten about the face.
- Prior and Houle both disappear from the island of Montreal and are dumped off the inland in Longueuil and Saint Calixte.
Finally, the clue to the fact that the police were looking at the wrong crime lies in the page above showing the picture of Houle next to the photo of Camirand with her fiancee. The picture the Surete du Quebec should have been focused on is the one below Houle of the unidentified victim (read more about her here) who was found wrapped in a blanket on chemin du Lac in Longueuil, the very street where Sharron Prior’s body had been discarded two years earlier almost to the date that Unidentified was found (Prior was found April 1st 1975, Unidentified was found April 2nd, 1977).
I would even suggest the Surete du Quebec might have forgotten about the Prior case after 2 years, because it was not part of their unsolved portfolio. The Prior file was in the portfolio of the Longeueil Police.
There is even evidence to suggest linking Houle to other similar cases in the East End area of Montreal that occurred later. In the cases of Lison Blais and Denise Bazinet we have a profile of the victims out late at night in the club scene of Saint Denis (Partying) before disappearing and eventually being found murdered. This is in fact what Houle was doing with her friends at the Old Munich. So is there a profile here of a perpetrator who was stalking victims in bars?
Eventually, we shall see – as more cases are added on – Prior again becomes part of the picture, but at this early stage of investigation the SQ lost valuable time by focusing on the wrong cases.
One final thought.
Saint Calixte is quite a distance from Montreal. It is the farthest away any of these victims were dumped.
I can’t quite understand what would have brought the perpetrators from downtown Montreal all the way north to Saint Calixte. Though I do note that Saint-Anne-des-Plaines is along the way, home to the infamous Archambault prison (at the time, a maximum security facility)
It’s a puzzle.
CASE UPDATE, APRIL 21, 2018
Recall that on the night she disappeared, April 17, 1977, Jocelyne Houle left the Old Munich on her way to La Caleche, which was a strip-bar on Ste. Catherines street. Her body was later found in the woods off Range 5 in Ste-Calixte.
In September 1977 the skeletal remains of two young women were found in the woods side-by-side off Range 4 in Ste. Calixte. They were later identified as 21 year old Francine Loiselle and 18 year old Suzanne Morrow, two strippers from Longueuil and Laval respectively. The newspaper La Presse reports that the Surete du Quebec are working on a theory of suicide. The coroner ruled that the remains had been in the woods since at least June of 1977. If you look on a map, Range 4 turns into Range 5.