The murder of his sister 40 years ago has sent John Allore on a relentless mission to probe unsolved murders
BY KRISTIAN GRAVENOR – POLICE ADVOCATES JOURNAL OF CANADA
Durham, North Carolina is known for its sprawling tobacco fields and shady walnut trees, but the town also bears the unusual claim of being home to one of the best-known analysts of Quebec homicides.
For almost two decades, accountant John Allore has tirelessly probed unsolved murders in his ultimate quest to uncover the fate of his sister Theresa, found dead in the province’s Eastern Townships region in 1979.
Allore generates an incessant stream of podcasts, tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts – and soon a book from a major publisher – while fully understanding that his sister’s mysterious death will likely never be solved.
But the light Allore shines on Quebec’s murder investigations from the past have exposed an often-shocking pattern of carelessness and indifference.
And although a stern critic of Quebec investigation squads, Allore remains in regular touch with Quebec provincial police officers, who dutifully remain cordial and civil in their dealings. Yet the relationship remains fraught with frustration for Allore, who grew up in Pierrefonds, a city located in the western fringes of the island of Montreal.
“The relationship will always be — must always be — one-sided,” says Allore. “Information goes into that big black box and it can never come out. I can share things with them but they can’t share things with me. But there’s no choice, they’re the only ones who can solve the investigation.”
Becoming a first-time father in 2001 provided Allore with a sudden and intense compulsion to examine the mysterious circumstances surrounding his older sister’s demise.
Theresa Alllore, 19, disappeared outside her dorm room in Compton, Quebec, several kilometres from her school at Champlain College in Compton in the Eastern Townships in early November 1978.
A dorm shortage forced many students like Theresa Allore to commute on a shuttle bus. Missing that bus meant taking a costly taxi or hitchhiking, something Theresa was known to do.
The street outside the dorms was dark and many students feared walking home, according to reports from the school paper. As well, a chronic lack of supervision added much mayhem to the student dorms.
“There are no restrictions, no curfews and especially no parents. They go wild,” read one school article from the period.
Theresa Allore was found dead clad only in a bra and panties in woods about one kilometre away from the dorms on April 13, 1979.
Five months in the snow made it difficult to determine a cause of death.
Theresa Allore had not been sexually assaulted, her clothes were not torn and there was no sign of a struggle, according to police, who suggested that her death might have been caused by a drug overdose.
John, then only 14, recalls how his family was shattered by the ordeal that was worsened when police and school administrators speculated on possible lesbian orgies and LSD parties, none of which jibed with their knowledge of Theresa.
The Allores hired a private investi- gator who concluded that the death was either by a sexual predator or she was dumped off by students after a drug overdose.
Police came to no conclusions and little was done to solve the mystery.
Once fired up with the mission of solving his sister’s tragic death, Allore traveled to Sherbrooke in 2003 to consult the Sûreté du Québec’s homicide file but was disappointed to learn that much of the information was kept out of his hands, including a list of possible suspects, which could not be shown due to Canada’s privacy laws.
DNA evidence and other possible clues, police ruefully confessed, had been tossed out five years after his sister’s death, due to lack of storage.
Police acknowledged that they were not actively trying to solve the mystery due to time constraints.
One criminal investigation expert familiar with the case considers the SQ’s approach a casebook example in a botched investigation.
“The way her body was found showed that the obvious conclusion was homicide but police didn’t handle it that way,” says Kim Rossmo, a longtime police investigator-turned criminology professor and author.
“John took years to come to the conclusion that something wasn’t right and he has had success getting government to acknowledge it a homicide but finding the killer will be difficult,” says Rossmo.
“There’s a high probability that it will never be solved, so he should not set himself up for feelings of failure when he’s got an impossible task ahead.”
Allore’s initially-humble initiative led him to question whether Theresa’s death might have been the work of a serial killer who might have gotten away with many more such killings.
His research grew to a point where he can now recite the chapter and verse of dozens of women killed throughout Quebec over several decades. One police official recently expressed surprise to learn that Allore also has a full-time day job.
From a home office jammed with boxes full of newspaper clippings and coroners’ files, Allore has painstakingly researched and recorded over 60 podcasts that mostly focus on the minutiae of women killed in Quebec In the 1970s.
Each episode features timepiece music as well as painfully vivid details of victims pointlessly massacred as well as the justice system that all-too-often proved inadequate to deal with the heartlessness.
Allore’s Who Killed Theresa? podcast is fueled by information harvested from old crime press articles, corners’ reports sent down from the BANQ library archives and frequently recount stories of such villains as Levis, Quebec-based child-killing pedophile Guy Field, an inveterate offender with an IQ of 58. Fields was known to eat his own feces and routinely molest any vulnerable person in his presence, but in spite of the ample warning signs, authorities set Fields free only to have him murder a child near Quebec City in 1977.
Allore’s meticulous accounts of such heartbreaking and infuriating tales have attracted a worldwide listenership, from London to New York, to Australia, but Allore remains unhappy that his
productions haven’t resonated more in Quebec where attention is most valuable.
“It’s creating an awareness but it’s not meeting the audience it needs to solve murders,” he says.
In one recent podcast Allore recounts the shocking handling of Diane Thibault’s murder near Montreal’s Red Light district in 1975.
Thibault was found dead with a burning stick in her vagina near Red Light, a hideous modus operandi that was similar with another unsolved murder from the time, that of Debbie Buck.
So Allore ordered the coroner’s report on Thibault that was far more costly and extensive than others. He had no idea that the file would reveal a labyrinth of botched justice.
Following a tip from an acquaintance, police arrested Edmond Turcotte.
Turcotte had a motive and provided details of his misdeed in a confession he made to a group of Montreal police investigators.
But a judge later set Turcotte free because he considered the suspect’s IQ to be too low to make a valid confession. The judge also cited possible irregularities in police questioning by a team that included officer Jacques Duchesneau, who later rose to head the Montreal police force.
Allore’s podcast episode on the case led Montreal’s La Presse newspaper to probe the shocking case further. The suspect Turcotte, alas, could not be located and it remains unclear whether he’s still alive.
From the earliest moments of his quest Allore has forged ties with others who have lost family members, starting with Pierre Boisvenu, whose daughter Julie was murdered after disappearing from Sherbrooke in 2002. The two pushed for more victims’ rights but Boisvenu put his efforts aside after being named to the Canadian Senate.
With such new allies in tow Allore was able to pressure the province to create a cold case squad to probe what has now risen to over 700 unsolved murders – two thirds of which are difficult-to-solve underworld slayings — dating back from the 1960s. In In January, 2018, the cold case squad expanded from four full-time investigators to 30.
The initiative, though noble, has solved only three old murders, all within the early years of the squad and Allore is impatient for results.
“They’ve done nothing in the last decade. They have to be held accountable. They haven’t moved the needle,” says Allore.
One tool that police investigators are misusing, Allore argues, is the hold-back. Police routinely withhold or even release slightly incorrect details of a crime in order to weed out false confessions or other distracting dead-ends.
False convictions based on those confessions can prove to be a massive headache and a costly embarrassment for justice systems, as evidenced in the case of Simon Marshall, a mentally handicapped man who was imprisoned for five years and recently compensated $2.3 million following a confession mishap in Quebec City.
Allore argues that there needs to be a statute of limitations on holdbacks, after 25 years, for example, even though it can taint an investigation.
“I admit it’s problematic but you live with the trade offs.”
But perhaps the greatest challenge is the issue of lost or discarded evidence, which has caused many investigations to become virtually impossible to solve.
Other homicides have proven the use of saving all evidence indefinitely. For example San Francisco police preserved DNA from 1969, which recently helped identify a murder victim as Reet Jurvetson, a Montrealer killed near the ranch that housed the Charles Manson cult.
Allore suspects that Montreal police have misplaced evidence as recently as 1994, as he speculates that there is no other explanation
that police couldn’t crack what appears to be the perfectly solvable murder of Melanie Cabay, 19, in the city’s Ahuntsic district.
Allore not only criticizes Quebec homicide sleuthing past and present but even has a take on its future. One recent proposal has it that municipal squads would pass their unsolved cases onto the larger and better- equipped provincial police after a period of time to be determined.
“If they go through with that plan, agencies will simply run out the clock, they’ll do nothing and toss it over the wall to the SQ. How nobody has caught onto this is beyond me.”
If Allore seems a little intense, don’t blame grief, as he insists that his reservoir of motivation does not stem from a refusal to accept the death of his sister.
“Closure and grief are not what drives me,” he says. “It’s the incom- petence and possible criminal negligence of the Sûreté de Québec. They have left me angry and bitter due to the insensitivity towards myself and other families.”
He is also moved by the thrill of hunting down killers, with little eurekas offering payoffs.
“You become a little addicted to risk and adrenaline. Making those little discoveries about cases and information lost and found again becomes a rush.”
The effort, he notes, has come at a cost. After putting up with his obsession for a couple of years Allore’s wife Elizabeth confronted him to ask how long he planned to keep his quest going.
“When does it end?” she asked.
“I told her that if I put an end to this I will be letting Theresa die, just like she died in 1978.”
“That was the trigger. I had clearly chosen. I didn’t choose advocacy and investigation over my children but I chose it over my marriage.” Within three years the couple had split.
Allore’s work ethic might be the result of a lofty academic pedigree launched when he followed a girlfriend to attend Trinity College, one of the seven colleges of the University of Toronto.
Allore’s graduating class included Malcolm Gladwell, Andrew Coyne and Nigel Wright. But Allore, who interviewed Gladwell on a recent podcast, remains humble about his role in the golden generation of the school. “I was just along for the ride and had no idea that I’d be alongside Canada’s establishment.”
He has since buttressed his education with a Masters in Criminal Justice that has better equipped him with his endless research.
The course made Allore a big admirer of the FBI’s Uniform Statistics on Crime, a resource that offers information on every unsolved murder between 1974 and 2016. A similar StatsCan initiative missed its chance at duplicating its efficacy, he rues, by failing to classify crimes by race and gender.
Allore is not holding his breath for Quebec’s new justice minister to suddenly take interest in his plea to launch a public inquiry into the unsolved murders, with specific emphasis on how and why precious evidence was discarded.
And he sees little cause for optimism in the efforts of Marc Bellemare, a Quebec City lawyer who served briefly as Justice Minister in the Jean Charest Liberal government before becoming a leader in the quest for victims’ rights. “He’s always there when the cameras are rolling but he hasn’t advanced a single initiative.”
Quebec’s justice establishment might have given Allore the cold shoulder but he still has one card left up his sleeve. Early in 2018,
Allore, along with longtime National Post journalist – and close friend — Patricia Pearson inked a deal to pen a book about his quest.
Allore’s inaugural authorial effort is finally forcing him to slow down his content – and even remove items from his site — as his publishers have asked him not to expose information that would otherwise seem fresh for his book, due in late 2020.
Allore, however, seems unable to resist giving away the ending. “The bad guy is the investigating force.”
“What I see is a complete lack of consistency and urgency to solve these crimes in what would be an acceptable timeline.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: On January 19, Montreal Police Director Sylvain Caron held a press conference to announce a major restructuring of resources within his department, adding that a special team of investigators will be created in conjunction with the provincial police to resolve some 800 unsolved murders. He credited John Allore and his tireless work for pushing the department to create the new task force.
— Kristian Gravenor is a longtime Montreal journalist, historian and author of Montreal 375 Tales of Eating, Drinking, Living and Loving. He has written extensively on Canadian crime on his site Coolopolis.blogspot.com