30-year-old Anna-Maria Codina-Leva was a single mother of three working at a food-processing plant in Montreal when she met a traveling salesman at the plant offices in the city’s east end. On June 19th, 1992 the man asked her out on a date. Codina-Leva left her three children in the charge of her brother, then departed her Verdun apartment. Before leaving she wrote the name and phone number of the traveling salesman on a piece of paper: Serge Archambault.
Anna-Maria disappeared that evening. Montreal Urban Community police investigators questioned Archambault about the disappearance, but they concluded Archambault had never seen Codina-Leva on the evening in question.
Serge Archambault: Quebec’s first serial killer.
Although Serge Archambault may have been active as a sexual predator in Quebec as early as the late 1970s, the first that we learn of him is in November of 1992 when he’s arrested for the murders of Chantale Briere and Rolande Asselin-Beaucage. In the first media filings it is revealed that Archambault worked as a traveling salesman, and I believe he worked for a company called H. Belanger Plumbing Ltd. An ad in the Montreal Gazette in September 1990 lists the position of “inside sales representative” and asks all interested parties to contact “Mr. Serge Archembault” at their offices on de Maisonneuve in Montreal. Now the fact that he was possibly a plumbing salesman may bear some significance later.
The 36-year-old Archambeault – a twice-married father of two living with his second wife in St. Eustache, northwest off the island of Montreal – is charged with the slayings of Chantale Briere, 24, found strangled in her house in Deux Montagnes in late November 1992, and Rolande Asselin-Beaucage, 47, shot dead in her home in Ste. Calixte, January 6th, 1992.
After Archambault’s arrest, police begin searching for the remains of a missing 30-year-old woman who disappeared from her Verdun home in June of 1989. Archambault leads police to a wooded area in St. Hubert near the intersections of Moise Vincent and Mariecourt streets. There they find bones scattered in the woods. The bones are sent to the medical laboratory for further analysis.
Police reveal that some police officers with 26 years’ experience had “never seen this type of crime”, but hesitate when asked if they consider the crimes serial killings. “There are two killings, possibly three. We consider them multiple murders”, remarks Lucie Boult, Surete du Quebec spokesman. When asked what the difference was, Boult shrugged, “The numbers… I don’t know.” The Gazette article notes that “Serial killings have been defined as multiple murders that are fantasy or ritually driven.”
Police confirm that they drew up a psychological profile of the suspect as part of their investigation. The Gazette notes that “…the technique was pioneered by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in the ’70s and has become known for its use in the tracking of serial killers.”
Police play up the amount of detective work it took to crack the case, but the real break came from the careless actions of Archambault. Shortly after the strangulation and sexual assault of Chantale Briere in her Deux Montagnes home, Archambault used her ATM card to withdraw $300 from a local Boni Soir depanneur. The Surveillance camera caught the whole thing on tape, including the store’s elevator music, Roch Voisine’s hit Helene which a Laval radio DJ would later testify he played at 12:58 pm on November 26th, within an hour of Briere’s murder. Neighbors of Archambault comment that “… he looked like a nice guy, very faithful to his wife.”
On November 30th, 1992 Serge Archambault is charged with the first-degree murders of all three women. He is immediately ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation at the Pinel psychiatric institute located not far from where Anna Maria Codina-Leva lived in Montreal’s east end. The assessment is to determine if Archambault is mentally fit to stand trial.
Archambault is charged with Codina-Leva’s murder even though technically her remains have not been recovered. Surete du Quebec police are still waiting for the results from analysis on the bones recovered from St. Hubert. Montreal police are repeatedly asked whether they questioned Archambault three years earlier in 1989 about Codina-Leva’s disappearance. They continue to be evasive:
“It’s a file that goes back three years and the investigator who handled the case is on vacation.”
The father of Anna Maria, Rosendo Codina reveals that in 1989 police told him Archambault had an alibi:
“They said he had been on vacation, or something like that.”
On December 1st, Montreal police finally confirm that they did in fact question Serge Archambault about the disappearance of Anna Maria Codina-Leva, but quickly punt the matter to the provincial police:
“At no time was he treated as a suspect… He was asked some questions, he answered, and that was it,” says Detective Michel Quintal of the MUC police. In any event, Quintal states, the case is now in the hands of the Surete du Quebec.
The family of Codina-Leva were not the only ones sounding the alarm about Serge Archambault. Dr. Paul-Andre Lafleur, assistant director of the Pinel psychiatric institute comes forward to disclose that in 1982 Archambault checked himself into the Pinel institute and remained there for 30 months after attacking a woman with a crowbar to her face.
On December 12th the Pinel institute rules that Archambault is mentally fit to stand trial. Police also reveal that the bones recovered in the St. Hubert wooded area – including a skull – are the remains of Anna Maria Codina-Leva.
La Presse reports that after his arrest police found in his home a list of three houses for sale in the St. Eustache neighborhood where Archambault lived, along with a box of jewelry and underwear not belonging to his wife.
Police now begin to investigated Archambault in the unsolved murders of other women including Louise Blanc-Poupart, raped and stabbed 17 times in 1987 at her home in Ste Adele, Pauline Laplante, sexually assaulted and stabbed in 1989 in Piedmont, Johanne Beaudoin murdered in her Mount-Royal home in 1990, and the murders of Danielle Laplante and Claire Samson, murdered in a boutique in Outremont, also in 1990.
At the close of the year, December 31, 1992, in a lengthy piece in Le Devoir, Rollande Parent reveals that the Surete du Quebec have added to the list of suspected murders the names of Marie Claude Cote, a Breboeuf college student who disappeared from club Barina in October 1991, and 22-year-old Chantal Brochu who was strangled in Outremont in September 1992.
Serge Archambault’s trial begins on October of 1993. One of the first witnesses is Chantal Briere’s husband, Raymond Latour. He breaks down at the sight of articles of clothing belonging to his wife he is asked to identify. He recalls kissing his wife Chantal goodbye at 5:30 a.m. on November 26th, 1992, and reminding her that a man interested in buying their home was going to drop by around 10 a.m. Chantal’s mother testifies that she spoke to her daughter at 11 a.m. and was told that a man was there with her. When she tried calling back at 12:45 p.m. there was no answer. Francine Briere testifies that she found her sister’s body around 5 p.m. on the kitchen floor of her home. Chantal was lying on her stomach, naked from the waist down, with her hands tied behind her back. Pathologist Jean Hould testifies that Briere died of asphyxiation from swallowing her tongue. A sock had been shoved in her mouth and was held there by a bra tied around her neck. He ankles and wrists were tied with electrical cords. The handle of a bathroom plunger had been inserted into Briere’s rectum.
[I’m going to say this repeatedly: Briere did not have to die had Montreal police done their job in the Codova-Leva investigation]
Surete du Quebec investigator Michel Tanguay testifies that the Briere home at 62 de la 9e avenue in Deux Montagnes was a 10-minute drive from where Archambault later used Chantal’s ATM card to withdraw $300 in cash from a local depanneur.
At the end of the first week of the trial, police reveal statements given by Archambault when first taken into custody. He confessed that he killed and mutilated three woman to get back at an aunt who sexually molested him as a child:
“I did it because of her… I wanted revenge but I didn’t want to do it to my aunt because it would have been too hard on my mother… she did all kinds of things to me. She put her fingers in my rectum.”
In his confession of the murder of Chantal Briere, Archambault said that on the pretext of wanting to buy the house, he made his way into the home and hit her on the head from behind with the back of an ax. He then retrained her with electrical cords. When she regained consciousness, he demanded money, taking $200 and two bank cards from her wallet,
“I hit her again pulled down her pants and panties then stuck a bathroom plunger in her rear.”
Archambault’s other victims had knives inserted in their rectums after they were killed.
The murder of 47-year-old St. Calixte resident Rollande Asselin was a crime of opportunity. Archambault was driving around the Laurentians when he saw Asselin in her front yard at 400 Montee Mongeau. He asked for directions and a glass of water.
Once inside a similar scenario unfolded. He tied her wrists and ankles with electrical cord, then shot her in the back of the head. After she was dead Archambault mutilated her body with a knife.
In the case of Anna Maria Codova-Leva, Archambault said that they worked together in Pointe aux Trembles and that he was paying her to sleep with him. “When I stopped paying, she called my wife.” In June 1989, Archambault slit her throat, decapitated her, and cut her into pieces, “you wouldn’t have recognized her”, he told police.
In late November 1993, almost a year since his arrest, Serge Archambault is found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a 25 year life sentence without the possibility of parole. Chantal Briere’s husband says that Archambault is “incurable and deserves the death penalty,” but there is no death penalty in Canada. Superior Court Justice Robert Flahiff calls Archambault “diabolically perverted… a despicable, manipulative coward of society.”
Now dubbed “The Butcher of St. Eustache” police confirm that Archambault is still a suspect in a number of unsolved murders, including the deaths of a half dozen prostitutes. Dr. Louis Morissette compares Archambault to Clifford Olson, describing him as a “sexually sadistic serial killer”.
After the trial it is revealed that Archambault kept a rape kit in his car consisting of knives, a rope and sometimes a loaded shotgun. His first known intended assault may have been as early as 1979 when he visited a woman in Quebec City with the intention of killing and dismembering her. Instead, he hit her on the head with a hammer, then fled in panic when she began screaming. Police also disclose that Archambault is now being considered as a suspect in the 1989 murder and dismemberment of 13-year-old Valerie Dalpe.
And further, police were aware that starting in 1991 Archambault was responsible for a series of break-ins where he would place women’s underwear and lingerie on beds as if being worn, then cut them with a knife, sometimes leaving the knife behind sticking out of the garments.
A shout out to Kristian Grevenor from Coolopolis, I didn’t lift this from him, but going back I noticed that in 2012 he wrote an account of Serge Archambault that is virtually identical to mine, although i didn’t read it until after I wrote this.
On that post someone named Ariane, claiming to be the daughter of Serge Archambault wrote the following:
“Thanks for posting this. I’m Mr. Archambault’s daughter and I’m terrified that he will be let out later this year. He is not a sane man and shouldn’t be left out to roam the streets. I haven’t had any contact with him in over 2 decades.”
As it turned out, Archambault was not responsible for the deaths of Danielle Laplante and Claire Samson, murdered in that boutique in Outremont.
In 1995 Agostino Ferreira is charged with these 1990 slayings, and the rape of two other women in his East Ontario street apartment.
Ferreira tells Quebec Court Judge Maurice Johnson, “I don’t need a lawyer” and chooses to represent himself, setting up the noxious potential for Ferreira to cross-examine his surviving rape victims.
Ferreira kidnapped the two women from a boutique on St. Denis St. the morning of January 4th, 1995, armed with a handgun and a stick of dynamite. They were taken by taxi to an apartment on Ontario St. near Berri, where they were tied up and sexually assaulted. At the apartment Ferreira told the women he was responsible for the 1990 stabbing deaths of two women at the boutique Haarlem / Harlem on Laurier Ave. in Outremont.
34-year-old Claire Samson and 24-year-old Danielle Laplante were stabbed repeatedly, terrifying area shopkeepers for years. Ferreira was later faced with 17 additional charges stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred in Montreal clothing boutiques from 1989 to 1991.
Ferreira almost didn’t stand trial for the murders and assaults due to the bunglings and mishandlings of the Montreal police and prosecution.
When the cases eventually came to trial late in 1995 Ferreira did cross-examine his own rape victims. In a bizarre and unsettling process, Ferreira, flanked by two guards in the prisoner’s box, rambled on with questions such as what the word cranberries meant to the woman, and had he not committed gestures of love rather than malice?
Starring straight ahead and answering in a low monotone voice the woman described how she and a colleague were abducted by a man in a long, black leather coat who claimed he was suicidal. He showed them an object which he claimed was a bomb and said that the detonator was in a small box attached to his shoulder. Forced into the taxi, the women were taken to an apartment at Ontario and Berri where the man dictated a suicide note. At one point he went to a closet and brought out a gun which he waved at them while talking.
After taping their ankles and wrists together he used a carving knife to cut the clothes off their bodies. Starting at about 2 p.m. he sexually assaulted them over a period of about two hours. He injected himself with three syringes he said contained cocaine. Ferreira then decided to go out and get more.
After he left, the women, who were no longer restrained, left the apartment, flagged down a taxi and went to a nearby police station.
Throughout the trial Ferreira would only refer to himself in the third person testifying of pentagrams, crucifixes, mauve auras and telekinesis:
“Did he restrain you in the shape of a cross, whip you, or place a crown of thorns on your head?”
Ferreira stood trial and was found guilty for assault, rape, kidnapping, confinement , attempted murder and armed robbery. Before trail commenced for the two boutique murders of Samson and Laplante, Ferreira surprised everyone and pleaded guilty saying he recognized his guilt and that he regretted killing the two clerks. Ferreira was declared a dangerous offender and jailed indefinitely, the first person in Quebec to receive the designation.
The dangerous offender provision was adopted in Canada in 1977. By 1999 there were 220 dangerous offenders in Canada, but only a handful in Quebec. Experts said that was likely to change. In a profile of two Quebec dangerous offenders at that time, Eric Dupuy and Daniel Coxen, serial rapist Dupuy was quoted as saying, “I was attracked by all of the big crimes of a sexual nature – Paul Bernardo, Ferreira, Archambault. They allowed me to reactivate my fantasies, I found that exciting.”
Dupuy wasn’t caught, he turned himself in to the Pinel Institute when he started having fantasies about murdering 12-year-old girls. Dupuy himself suggested he should receive the dangerous offender designation because he felt he posed a significant threat to society.
In theory, the dangerous offender label is supposed to mean the offender will never be let out of prison. This isn’t true. Of the 220 in 1990, 10 have been set free for good.
There is one other case I will mention, because I believe it to be largely forgotten and the M.O. sounds very much like Serge Archambault.
The battered body of 19-year-old Linda Flood was found on Mount Royal on May 7th, 1989. Her parents last saw her on March 7th when she came to their St. Sauveur home and shot some pool for her 19th birthday. She called her mother on April 15th, but all she said was “Hi Mum” before the phone went dead. Linda was found in May. Her face was so badly disfigured it took until August to positively identify her through dental records, and a distinctive horseshoe-shaped ring she wore.
Police believed Linda was murdered elsewhere, then taken to the spot on Mount Royal. A trail of dropped items – a cigarette, a shoe, a comb – lead police to believe the the offender wanted her to be found, and that it was someone she knew. Linda “was a little flirty” said her step-father, Ronald McDowell, “the boyfriends weren’t always the cream of society.”
Initially police said that Linda was not raped, though police said the offender tried to make it look that way. She was naked from the waist down, but was beaten and murdered, not sexually assaulted. A stocking had been stuffed in her mouth.
A year after her unsolved murder, police changed the story. Now they said Linda had choked to death on the pantyhose after being raped and beaten about the head, possibly with a rock. The assailant stuffing the undergarments in her mouth to silence her. Police believed now that Linda was dragged into the bushes on Mount Royal from an automobile.