Manon Dube – January / March 1978

Many of you already know the story of Manon Dube, as it was one of the original three cases (along with Theresa Allore and Louise Camirand) cited in the original Who Killed Theresa? series.

I’ll retell it, but if you already know it, you might want to skip down below to the Update section:

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Disappearance

In the early evening of Friday, January 27, 1978, 10-year-old Manon Dubé was playing with her friends. They decided to go sledding on the snow banks behind the parking lot of the local Caisse Populaire Bank. This was close to Manon’s home, only three blocks from where her mother was waiting for her in their first-floor apartment on rue Bienville in the southeast end of Sherbrooke, Quebec.

IMG_0115Around 7:30 p.m., as it got dark, the children decided to head home. From the Caisse Populaire on the corner of Belvedere and Union, the young girls crossed the street and proceeded to walk east on rue Union, passing in front of St. Joseph’s Elementary School. At the corner of Union and Craig, one block from Manon’s home, they stopped. Manon’s younger sister, Chantel, decided it is too cold to walk and ran ahead. This corner is the last place Manon was seen alive. She never arrived home. she simply disappeared.

When Manon Dubé was reported missing by her mother, police acted swiftly. The case was headed up by Alphee Leblanc, Camille Vachon, Pierre Cabana,  and Jean Perreaut of the Sherbrooke Municipal Police.

Police immediately published a bulletin with Manon’s picture. They dispatched a 16-officer search team and combed a nearby wooded area with two tracking dogs (under the command of the SQ’s Fernand Yelle who also worked the O’Brian / Fisher case, and the Houle case). An additional 13-officer party conducted a house-to-house search along rue Bienville. Manon’s sister, Chantel, told police someone in a dark Buick had been following her and her cousin during the week of the disappearance.

Less than a week into the disappearance, investigators received what appeared to be a break in the case. Manon’s mother received a telephone call demanding $25,000 for the safe return of her daughter. Mrs. Dubé told police that on three separate occasions since Manon went missing, her telephone rang, but when she answered it, the person on the other end hung up. Mrs. Dubé was a recent widow who, upon the death of her husband, received approximately $20,000 from his insurance. Perhaps someone was aware of this money and kidnapped Manon in order to collect it.

The following day police announced the ransom call was most likely a hoax. The Dubé’s telephone number was broadcast on a local radio station. Someone probably called up Mrs. Dubé as a sick joke.

Body found

On the evening of Friday, March 24, two young boys found Manon’s partially frozen body face down in a brook near Ayer’s Cliff, 30 miles south of Sherbrooke, Quebec. Police arrived on the scene shortly after dark, including Surete du Quebec investigators Roch Gaudreault and Pierre Marcoux. Gaudreault had worked the Louise Camirand case.

IMG_0112Dubé’s body was  found frozen in two inches of ice and had to be carefully removed with a hatchet. On first view, there were no signs of violence or molestation. She was found, as she was last seen, wearing her snowsuit and boots. The only thing missing was one red mitten. There was a small gash on her forehead but this was initially thought to have been caused by the effects of the frozen ice. Because of the condition of the body, investigators speculated that Manon was moved to this location shortly after her disappearance.

An autopsy was performed by Dr Andre Lauzon in Montreal, but the pathologist was unable to determine the exact cause of death. Some investigators speculated that perhaps Manon was the victim of a hit-and-run accident and the cut on her head was caused by an automobile fender. Still others wondered if she had simply frozen to death. Most agreed that sexual molestation—although possible—was unlikely. She was found with her clothes on; the assumption was made that if she had been raped, she would have been found without her clothes.

Cold case opened

For 23 years the case remained dormant. Then, in 2001, the sister of Manon, Chantel Dubé, asked Sherbrooke police to look at the case one more time. They agreed and a new investigation was launched, subjecting the 23-year-old case to the scrutiny of a modern forensic techniques. Many members of the original investigation team were still alive and willing to assist, includingJean Perreaut and Andre Lauzon. Unfortunately—and inexplicably—most of the evidence from the case had been destroyed. The team had a modern crime lab at their disposal, but they had nothing to analyze. All that remained were some particles taken from the gash on Manon’s head. It turned out that whatever caused the cut was metallic, either a car bumper or a blunt instrument. The sample was tested, but the results were inconclusive.

2361629887_9fc61e797eThe possibility that a relative accidentally killed Manon was considered. It turned out that the brook where Manon was found is on land that was owned by the Dubé family. The property is a small lot, and in 1978, had a one-story cottage situated about 100 feet from the brook. Detectives speculated that maybe Manon was accidentally hit by someone she knew, and that the grieving relative panicked and brought her body to the brook. Another theory was that she was, in fact, kidnapped. A relative who was aware of the insurance money abducted Manon in hopes of collecting a ransom. Somewhere along the way the kidnapping went wrong and the young girl died.

The idea that Manon Dube was the victim of a sexual predator was the least probable theory according to police. Detective Patrick Vuillemin, a member of the 2001 team looking into Dubé’s death, stated he seriously doubted Manon had been the victim of a predator; there were no overt signs of a struggle he believed to be associated with sexual violence.

Rossmo map from 2002 articles

Rossmo map from 2002 articles

In the summer of 2002, a series of articles for Canada’s National Post newspaper gave compelling evidence that Manon Dubé was a victim of murder, and that her death was possibly linked to two other unsolved local cases; the death of 19-year old Theresa Allore in 1978, and the murder of Louise Camirand in 1977. The theory was supported by geographic profiler and then FBI consultant, Kim Rossmo, who suggested a serial sexual predator may have been operating in the region in the late 1970s and advised police to investigate the three deaths as a series. Rossmo gained notoriety in 1998 when he suggested the creation of a serial killer task force to Vancouver police in the cases of missing women from the Vancouver’s downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton was eventually arrested and found guilty of six murders, though he was accused with, and implicated in an additional 26 murders of Vancouver missing women.

Rossmo map from 2002 articles

Rossmo map from 2002 articles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update

After the murder of Denise Bazinet in October 1977, things go very quiet. Nothing else (that we know of) until the disappearance of Manon Dube in January of 1978.

Allo Police covered the Manon Dube case extensively, without any mention of any of the other unsolved murders. They never mention Louise Camirand who was murdered 10 months earlier and lived within miles of Dube.

Of all the cases, Dube is the one I get asked about the least. People generally feel that it’s not linked, and they usually give the following reasons:

  1. Dube was a 12-year-old child.
  2. Dube was found fully clothed.
  3. The cause of death was undetermined.
  4. There was no sign of physical assault.

Here are some things to consider:

Norma O’Brien was also a 12-year-old child. That didn’t stop her assailant from beating and strangling her, and shoving a hairbrush down her throat.  

Dube was 4’9″ tall. Consider the heights of some of the other victims: Sharron Prior 5’3″, Jocelyne Houle 5’2″, Helene Monast 5’3″, and Lison Blais was just 5 feet tall.

Many people buy into the theory that Manon Dube was the subject of a hit-and-run. From this I am reminded of Kim Rossmo’s comment about crime, and the “least effort principal”:

It’s called hit-and-run for a reason; you hit, you run. You don’t hit, get out of the car, put the body in the car, get back in the car and drive 20 minutes away and dump the corpse in a creek.

And what about the body being fully clothed? Maybe the assailant didn’t get to doing what they intended to do. Maybe something happened and she died first. Maybe they did do something and put the clothing back on.

I admit Manon Dube is an outlier. It doesn’t have as many similarities as some of the other cases.  I am less convinced of a connection than I used to be.

But the case shouldn’t simply be disregarded. We are missing information. Maybe a relative did accidentally kill her and dumped her body on family owned land.

But maybe that didn’t happen at all.

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