My favorite Quebec artist is Jean Paul Lemieux. Not all of the times, but sometimes he paints these stark landscapes where a simple figure stands very prominently in the foreground as if posing for a photograph. This can be seen in the podcast episode about Back River Jane Doe / Armand Duhamel – WKT3 #22 which features Lemieux’s 1961 painting, “The Terminus”. White snow, black sky, and a woman in a red winter coat and hat. There’s something haunting in this work. The woman is almost absent in her presence.
I have a Lemieux print in my home. It’s similar, a young boy in the snow standing to the right of the frame near the shore in Levis, the Saint Lawrence river and Quebec City citadel in the background. I often think I’ll wake up one morning and that boy will be gone.
“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”
This is Who Killed Theresa.
I am going to retell and expand on the Halloween episode I did last fall about the Villeneuve family. Remember that the Villeneuves were a family that lived up the street from us growing up in Pierresonds, which is a town in the West Island of Montreal. The Villeneuves used to do a big spectacle at Halloween. The mother, Lysa, and her two daughters – Debbie and Vivian – would dress up like the three witches from MacBeth. They’s have a caldron on their front lawn with a dry ice and a strobe light. To pick it up, I’m going to read from Christopher Bain’s Montreal Gazette article from October 31, 1977, “Kids bewitched into safe Halloween”. I read it on that last episode, but this time I’m going to read the whole article (you can find that first podcast here):
What happened next after that podcast was strange. It wasn’t just strange it was an “Oh Fuck Off” moment. Because that podcast was supposed to have been a breather, a break and brief respite from the gloom that I usually talk about. It was some one-off fun before we leaned back into some real horror. About a week after posting that episode I received the following message.
Now before plunging into this, a word of caution about the messages I’m about to read. In the absence of facts, people tend to feed off suspicion and rumour and fear. Also, there are many suggestions about Villeneuve family lifestyle in these correspondences. And I’m going to leave them at suggestions and allow you to draw your own conclusions.
This is the first message I received from a high school friend of Vivienne Villeneuve, we’ll call her Claire:
CLAIRE’S STORY (a high school friend)
I lived not far from you growing up in Montreal, I’m surprised we didn’t know each other. Vivian Villenueve was a friend of mine and for years I have been trying to find out about her murder with no answers. Do you know anything about her case? Vivian lived and walked this earth and now it is like the whole family disappeared. I understand that Debbie committed suicide a few years after Vivian’s murder.
Viv and I graduated in 79 and I lost track of her as so many of us left Montreal at the time. With the introduction of home computers I started to look for my friends like Vivian. At my 25th high school reunion I learned that Vivian had passed but did not know how. I was searching for her obituary again, then I learned that Viv had been violently murdered shortly after high school. I have searched everywhere for a sign. With Vivian’s family being pagan I did not expect to find any church records. I just want to know what happened to my friend. I understand that you were not aware of the situation
I checked with some high school friends. We figure that it probably happened between 1979-1985. What I was told so far that it was a suspected drug deal gone bad. She was tied and thrown off the roof of a building. I assumed it was Montreal as my friend knew someone who went to the funeral. Let me check with my friend again.
I talked to a number of people last night. The general consensus is that Vivian was killed at a house party in Montreal possibly in 1980. It could have been a drug deal gone bad. There are rumours that it was a very violent death and she may have been thrown from the roof of a building. I find it strange that I can find nothing on a crime of this magnitude. I worked in the justice system for 25 years and something just isn’t adding up to me. How can a family just vanish from history? I will keep looking for Vivian. I do want to thank you for sharing your experiences with her family, it reminded many people of the wonderful times we had with Vivian.
Before I move onto the second message, there was a lot of digging for information that went on through all of this, a lot of back-and-forth messaging. This went on through Christmas and into the new year. Checking newspaper archives, medical legal records, checking with the police. I go into more detail about this in the actually podcast which you can listen to at the beginning of this post. At some point during all this effort, I got the second message from a relative of the Villeneuve’s we’ll call her Carmen:
CARMEN’S STORY (a relative)
Vivian’s sister Debbie did not commit suicide. It was their mother, Lysa who committed suicide. Lisa died first, then Vivian – this is what I heard and trying to figure out why. I can’t find anything, and at the time I was very young, and now everyone has passed, even my mother, Lise’s sister.
I know Debbie was married and used to do dog shows with her german short hair dogs, and then got divorced. Debbie got into drugs, had a car accident, broke her neck and recovered. She no longer spoke to my uncle, not sure why [ MARK THAT – that becomes important]. The family was into witchcraft. My baby sister swears she saw either Debbie or Vivian using their eyes to throw plates at their mother ….my sister was only 3 at the time and swears it’s true.
I spoke to Debbie’s first husband, Gerald. Vivian died in the summer of 85 or 86. He remembers it was hot. She lived in downtown Montreal in an apartment building and he can’t remember the street but she lived on the 11th floor. Her hands were tied together and her legs were tied together and she was thrown out of the 11th floor. They would not release anything to the public – and that is why there are no news articles – until the investigation was finished. The investigation took 6 months and then they deemed it a suicide and closed the file. Gerarld never once believed that it was suicide and that something was being covered up.
So this answers the question of why i can’t find articles of news about her. Now to his knowledge Lise was always Lysa which is not true so i wonder if she was buried under Lysa (assuming she changed her name legally)… “Lysa Cartier” as she was not married to my uncle, so she was not a Villeneuve. And in Quebec you don’t change your name as a women sometimes. Gerard said he always believed it was a cover up. yes me too. I need to think.
Viviane was not involved in drugs and those sorts of things but she was quite successful in modeling and was still modeling at the time. I remember her being very tall like her mom and the last time I spoke to Debbie she indicated that Viviane was dying a slow death already with bulimia. She had been this way for years so she must have been quite skinny. So she was a model and my father said she hung out with high society people which is starting to make sense why there is nothing available and sounding a bit like a pay off from a very wealthy person, but I’m no detective. My father said she hung with the high and mighty so that is always a possibility. I am reading that there was a lot of Hells Angels action in Montreal in that period. I’m going to change the focus of my research to figure out what Montreal modeling agency she was associated with. Having uncovered all of this short of talking to retired police officers or old models I’m sure there will be no further information as it’s all been wiped clean.
So it is at this point that I find the autopsy report for Lysa Cartier / Villeneuve. I will read what it says on the podcast….
It’s what i had been told it was a suicidal overdose. Even my cousin thought it was odd that she went by Lysa and must have changed her name legally as she was definitely Lise Cartier at marriage. My cousin also tells me that Vivian was not a professional model but modeled things for her mom… When I asked what I was told was that Lysa dabbled in a few things…nothing more than that. My cousin indicated Vivi died at age 24.
I had a long conversation with my cousin who set me straight on a few things. First of all Viv was not a model. My aunt sold furry bikini’s and Viv would model those. Please don’t ask as it sounds like my aunt was a little funny. The morning that Vivian died, she called her dad and asked him for electrical wire. When he asked why she said she was doing a project, so he brought it to her. That day her hands were tied and her legs were tied when she went over the 11th story balcony. She was not in any trouble or into drugs as far as anyone knows. My uncle blamed himself for years for the suicide and for bringing her the electrical wire. Hmmm… as i said to my cousin…you can’t tie your hands and legs and drop off the balcony on your own, so it’s always been assumed that she had an accomplice help her in her suicide. Her sister Debbie and her ex husband never believed it was suicide, and really there are easier ways to take your life such as pills etc. I’m not sure what to believe but I will continue in my search because either way someone needed to help her.
NOBODY knew what Lysa did for a living. She dressed to the Ts, and hung around with rich people at very fancy yacht clubs, as well as with Hells Angels. I just found out that her sister and brother in law often thought she was a call girl because she just had too much money – hung with the rich, but nobody knew what work she did. She often brought my cousin and her girls to the fancy yacht club to eat. Lysa was in to some very weird stuff and it may very well be that Viv followed in her footsteps as they were very close. Viv used to model her mother’s line of fur bikini underwear and that in itself is very very weird.
Having said that, my cousin says that it’s quite possible that Viv could have been an escort, as she lived in a very very nice building in downtown Toronto. I’m going to try to also get more details on the apartment bldg.
Deborah’s husband Gerry / Gerald has not spoken to his ex-wife in 40 years and has no clue where she is (I figure it was not an amicable divorce). He has not talked to my uncle Marcel in 30 years either. I never got to ask Gerry if he knew where Viv was buried. If you would like i can give you his number to contact him. what do you think?
He used to own a business that provided props for events, movie sets etc in Montreal. Le Roi Rouge or something like this….Le Roi du Tapis Rouge. To find that info I might find Lyson, his partner but for the love of god… I can’t find anything on that either. I even tried searching old articles as my uncle was investigated for a fire/potential fraud for an event fire in either Kingston or Kitchener…don’t remember which one or the year and unable to find anything.
Gerry and Deborah never believed it was suicide and he was married to Debbie at the time of Vivienne’s death. Gerry told me there was no info released for six months then they closed the file as suicide.
And for the life of me I tried the cemetery again they checked under Lysa and Lise Cartier and Villeneuve….they checked under Deborah Villeneuve…..they checked under Marcel Villeneuve and neither my aunt or Lyse is there….she took my number and will keep looking but she spent ten minutes going through all of the details and NOTHING.
For a while I let things settle down. I got busy. Then recently I was talking with my brother. Now I should have gone to my brother in the first place, because he remembers everything. But I don’t like to involve him in these things too much. It depends on his mood. He might respond, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “I don’t care, can we talk about something else”. Except he’ll never say that, you just know that’s the case and you quickly drop it.
This time – maybe because we all have a lot of time on our hands – he said… well, it started the usual way. I tell him the story of the Villeneuve’s, so far so good. He remembers this. Halloween, ok, got that. The witches, he’s got me there. Then we switch to murder and suicide, and it’s immediately,
“I don’t know, I don’t remember… I didn’t really know them.., you should talk to Damien Mitchell, he lived next store to them”
“I don’t know who that is.“
“The Mitchell’s? Sure you do. Big family… boys. You used to play with his younger brother, Emmett.
“I don’t remember.”
“Sure you do. Big family? You know who you should talk to? Glenn Poole, he was neighbors with Joanne Bedard, and Joanne was friends with Vivian. Vivian was around my age. In fact… you know? Just when you said that, you know? I think I remember Damien Mitchell, I remember seeing him, at a reunion or a show, this was like 10 years ago, and just with you saying that, I think I remember him telling me about this. That Vivian was killed, and it was all very tragic. Talk to Joanne Bedard. She was a close friend of Vivian’s, and I knew her. That’s how I was in the Villeneuve house. And I remember being scared shitless.”
I never phoned Debbie’s ex-husband, Gerry. I thought about it, but I never picked up the phone. I never contacted Damian Mitchell or spoke with Joanne Bedard. Why put everyone through that. Why put a family through all that – again – on a story that may not be true. Our deepest fears. What if I’m forgotten. Do I really exist. Maybe these people want to be left alone. Maybe they just want to be forgotten.
So what if it’s true. Vivian Villeneuve was bound and tossed from the 11th story of a Montreal apartment building. [11th is interesting. It’s specific. It doesn’t sound made up]. It’s interesting. That would mean 3 young woman from that Pierrefonds neighborhood wound up murdered. My sister, Theresa Allore, the 1976 murder of Barbara Myers who lived just across the railroad tracks, and Vivian Villeneuve who lived up the street from our house on Blondin. Take Blondin up to Woodland and you’re at the house of Joanne Bedard. Blondin the other way ends at Pavillion, our house on the corner. Follow Pavillion two blocks and you’re at the old Villeneuve house.
I still don’t remember Damien Mitchell. I do remember Greg Aldridge. He was my hockey coach and he also lived close to the Villeneuve’s. Greg was an early mentor, he gave me a copy of Boy On Defense, a hockey book by Neil Young’s father, Scott Young. Greg died young of cancer. After his death his wife, Maise used to sit up all night alone in that house with the lights off, suffering in silence and the dark. (needs to tie with Lisa autopsy)
Do you know the concept of cryptomnesia? It’s were you unintentionally copy or plagiarize something. Byron did it. So did J.M. Barrie and Umberto Eco. My favorite cryptomnesia story is about Aerosmith. This is in their heavy, heavy drug use days. I think they were recording Done With Mirrors, and their song, You See Me Crying comes on the radio. That song is an early ballad, it rarely got airplay, and the band never performed it in concert. So Steven Tyler hears it and says, “Hey, that’s a really great song, we should cover it!” to which Joe Perry replied, “That’s us, fuckhead!”.
I’m a little obsessed with cryptomnesia. There’s a story about it, and the writing of this book that I’ll share on the podcast….
I’m also fond of cryptomnesia’s distant cousins, false memory and the Mandela effect. Do you know jamais vu? That’s where something is recognizable, but still unfamiliar. I get this a lot. I’ll hear a word in my head like “plate”, then begin to doubt that word even exists. Presque vu : that’s were something is right on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite push through that mental wall. We all know Deja Vu, but what about its Jekyll & Hyde neighbor, Déjà vécu. This is a feeling like you’ve already lived through something.
It doesn’t really matter if we finish the story of Vivien Villeneuve. It doesn’t really matter if we find out definitively what happened. The journey learning about the story is a story enough. Everything we do know about Vivian and Lysa and Debbie – broadly speaking – informs everything that came next. Confusion and uncertainty. Victim blaming. Struggling to make decisions, what to run down. What’s the right decision? Pieces of a puzzle that are missing. There are prescient pieces in that puzzle.
“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”
This is Who Killed Theresa.