The cases that linger in our minds are the ones where no one theory fully satisfies an explanation of all the facts. I was talking about this puzzle the other day with my former spouse, Elisabeth. She said that she had – once again – become a little obsessed with the JonBenét Ramsey case. At different times in her life, when she had considered the evidence, she came to suspect the mother, or the father, then a stranger. This time she was convinced it was JonBenét’s brother that did it.
An old friend from Canada discovered I now work in Durham and asked if I had seen The Staircase, the Netflix documentary about convicted murderer Michael Peterson. Yes, in fact I used to see Peterson around city hall when he was the city hall reporter for the Herald Sun. “Really! What do you thing happened?” The owl did it, of course.
It’s even true of my sister’s case; specifically where she was, and where she was going the night she died. The simplest explanation is that on Friday, November 3rd, 1978 she hitchhiked from the town of Lennnoxville to the school residence, 9 miles away in Compton. She never made it to her dorm room because the person that picked her up murdered her and dumped her body about a mile before the Compton city limits.
Then how to account for the testimony of a fellow Compton boarder, Sharon Buzzee who claims to have talked her on the residence staircase about 9:00 p.m. that same evening? This leads to the second explanation. Theresa did make it back to her dorm. She briefly went about her business, then decided to walk into Compton to buy cigarettes at the local watering hole, Entre Deux. It was only then she was abducted, murdered, then dumped on the outskirts of the village.
Neither of these are very satisfying explanations. Theory number one is the cleanest. But what to make of Sharon Buzzee’s account? Buzzee has repeated over decades that she did not mistake which evening it was when the staircase encounter occurred. Further, she cited specific information that correctly identified that it could have only been on Friday, November 3rd that the conversation with Theresa took place: That some of their conversation mentioned the important playoff game the football team had the following day. It could only have been that evening that they conversed because there was only one important playoff game for the Champlain Cougars in the fall of 1978. The Saturday, November 4th game was a first-round match. The Vanier Cheetahs routed the Cougars 50 to 3, and Champlain was eliminated from the playoffs.
Theory number two makes sense were it not for an increasing stack of improbabilities. For this theory to work you would have to believe that Sharon Buzzee was practically the only person who saw, or remembered seeing Theresa around 9:00 p.m. that November evening (there was a second testimony given that she was spotted in the kitchen, but the witness didn’t come forward for another six months: it’s is very likely that this witness did in fact mix up which weekend she saw Theresa). It was said that it was a “quiet night” that evening in the dorms at King’s Hall, but this was the home to over two hundred students: surely someone else would remember seeing her?
Equally problematic, you now have to believe that Theresa survived the hitchhiking experience, only to fall victim to a predator who is lurking in a car along the one-mile corridor between the student residence and the watering hole, Entre Deux. Possible, I suppose, but somewhat unsatisfying. Theresa wouldn’t hitchhike a lift between such short distances, so we are left with her being pulled into the car against her will. She would not have done that without putting up considerable resistance. And there are houses all along that route, on small plots, very close to the road…
And on it on it goes, like some reductive ad absurdum Escher painting.
The 1975 murders of Diane Déry and Mario Corbeil are a similar puzzle. The pieces keep shuffling around in our mind because no explanation seems completely satisfying. If they were shot in the woods by disgruntled neighborhood kids, how did those kids get there? Were they lurking in the woods waiting to entrap Diane and Mario? Not probable. Did they run down the block outpacing Mario’s motorcycle? Impossible. I’m getting ahead of myself. Before offering some new information, let’s start with a summary of what we know so far, including new facts disclosed in the Radio Canada documentary, Le Dernier Soir (the series recently aired again on Quebec television).
Short Summary of the Dery / Corbeil Case
13-year-old Diane Déry and 15-year-old Mario Corbeil both lived near Boulevard Roland-Therrien in the suburb of Longueuil, just southeast off the island of Montreal. It was around supper time on the evening of Tuesday, May 20th, 1975, and Mario was enjoying his new red Kawasaki motorbike, his parents had given it to him as a present. Mario had offered several rides to his friends – and this is important – up and down the main drag of Roland-Therrien which ended southeast of their homes, turning into a gravel road, and eventually a wooded area, just before Longueuil ends and St. Hubert begins at the Canadian Forces Base, CFB St. Hubert.
Around 8:00 p.m. Mario gave a ride to Diane Déry, both were apparently / possibly sweet on each other. They disappeared into the wooded area, and this is the last time they were seen alive. A search began around 10:00 p.m. but turned up nothing. The next morning around 7:30 a.m. Déry and Corbeil were found in a field near the woods where they were last seen riding.
Mario had been shot six times; twice in the head (through the right jaw and the right side of the head), once in the right of his back (then exiting through the right lower neck), in his right buttock, his right thigh, and in the left bicep. Diane had been shot twice (the head and the chest, the shot to the chest – through her armpit – was determined to have occurred at close range). Diane was lying on her back. She had been raped and / or sexually assaulted (there is much speculation over this). Mario’s body had been placed on top of Diane, and there had been bleeding around his rectum area, suggesting to some that he too may have been sexually assaulted.
This next part that I’m about to share with you comes from the Quebec researcher, Eric Veillette. Eric maintains the website, Historiquement Logique, and he’s one of the few to explicitly ask the question, was this a sex crime? Not even the police in that era gave any meaningful consideration to this possibility.
No analysis is ever mentioned of any samples such as sperm or hairs – though we know that a hair was collected off of Mario which wasn’t his. You have to keep in mind this is 1975, so pretty much a pre-forensics era, but it is still curious. As well, the autopsy and police reports never explicitly state whether Diane and Mario were naked or clothed. We presume naked because the report mentions marks on Diane’s back attributed to branches or thick grass.
Veillette asks, if they were naked, then why? Was this staged? Was this a sexual crime? He continues:
“If this staging is true, then consideration should perhaps be given to the possibility that the victims were placed in this position while they were still alive, which would automatically entail the element of humiliation. This theory seems to find support with firing trajectories. Most of the trajectories of the projectiles that hit Mario Corbeil suggest that the shots were fired from different directions and while he was lying on his stomach. Either there was only one shooter who moved between each shot or there were multiple shooters.”
“In fact… [it may] suggest that… Diane and Mario were forced to strip naked while alive to create this humiliating scene, Diane was forced to lie down first and Mario on top of her. Then did the attackers force them to do certain things?”
Many questions have surrounded the weapon used, the 22 caliber Cooey Sure-Shot rifle. Though lethal, it was considered a starter-rifle for young boys. In a previous post, I pointed out that the Cooey was marketed to young boys in the sporting advertisements of local newspapers during Easter of 1975. Le Dernier Soir suggested that Diane may have been shot off the back of Mario’s motorcycle first, though many have since pointed out that the Cooey was probably too small a caliber of rifle to do this. In fact, many have offered that because of its small caliber that a Cooey couldn’t have been the weapon at all. Eric Veillette gives a plausible explanation for the Cooey:
“After shooting Mario, they may have realized that the small caliber projectiles had not completely passed through Mario’s body and that Diane was still alive. Thus, one or two shooters would have bent over to make the two fatal shots. In fact, the two shootings of which Diane was the victim could have been perfectly made while Mario was lying over her. One entered through the armpit and the other behind the head, as she tried – perhaps – in vain to look away from one of the shooters.”
Having offered the plausible-possible, Veillette then suggests a pretty good theory as to the type of person who may have committed the murders:
“At the very least, premeditation for the murder of Diane is practically impossible since the shooter (s) could not have predicted in advance that Diane would be on [Mario’s] ride. Was the meeting in the woods accidental? Was there a confrontation? Did [ the shooter (s) ] have accounts to settle? Or was it only the gratuitous crime of a future psychopath?”
Le Dernier Soir offers a very detailed, logically thought out, methodically researched and expertly presented profile suggesting the following suspect or suspects: A teenager, perhaps a group of teenagers, with a ringleader, accustomed to hunting or taking target practice in those woods. Perhaps someone who held a grudge against Mario.
A band of marauding youths would not be out of character with what we know of Longueuil in this era. Two weeks before the Déry / Corbeil murders, The Gazette reported on a “Teen Crime Wave” sweeping the Montreal area, with forty-seven percent of all crimes in the first three months of 1975 having been committed by persons younger than 20.
The chief suspect posited in the Le Dernier Soir documentary grew up to become an influential member of organized crime in the Montreal area. Eventually he became so dangerous that the Canadian government exiled him back to France, where he was born. At the end of the six-part documentary we are left feeling frustrated and helpless, knowing that this person will probably never be brought to justice.
This is one theory. I can tell you now that not even the producers of Le Dernier Soir were fully confident in what they put forward.
Longueuil in 1975
Le Dernier Soir‘s argument was largely based on hitherto unknown historical police documents discovered in the vaults of the Quebec national library, BAnQ. Though it’s news to us, much of this information couldn’t have been a secret to the people of Longueuil in 1975. In a rare display of police transparency, Longueuil detectives showed their entire case and strategy in an article in La Presse two weeks after the discovery of the bodies:
In the article journalist Normand Gilles reveals:
“the hypothesis of a sexual maniac haunting the woods of Longueuil in search of innocent young girls is now excluded. At least that’s what the police investigation into the double assassination of Diane Déry, 13, and her motorcycle companion, Mario Corbeil, 15, whose bullet hole filled bodies were found… in a field bordering avenue Vauquelin, in Longueuil have concluded. Police now believe the two teenagers were shot dead by three or four young men under the age of 20 who were practicing 0.22 rifle shooting. Teenagers who were seen in the same place, practicing their favorite sport in the days preceding the crime, have not returned since, and are the subject of an intense search by the police …”
Sergeant-Detective Renault Lacombe then goes on to lay out his entire theory as to what he thinks happened:
Lacombe explained the double murder this way: The young couple would enter the wooded area, and one of the shooters takes a shot near the girl to scare her, but the shot accidentally hits [the girl] in the arm, and this provokes Mario. There would then be a fight, and the shooters would then open fire on the two, principally on Mario. They would finally try to disguise what had happened.
The French wording is weird, but the implication is clear: the “disguise” was the sexual assault. Wait, what? They sexually assaulted Diane, and possibly Mario, but that was all part of a clever ploy carried out by these adolescent hunters to hide their tracks? Setting that aside for the moment, we now know it couldn’t have happened this way as ballistics would prove Diane’s shot to the arm was at close range (if they shot her in the head off the back of a moving motorbike, that’s quite a marksmen).
And anyway, the Longueuil police apparently had bigger fish to fry than the murders of children (recall that Sharron Prior’s badly beaten body was found just six weeks earlier and two miles away along Chemin du Lac). In this same La Presse article Normand Gilles goes on to say that the Longueuil police have been very busy trying to solve the murder of mob figure, Marcel Martel. Known as “les bras” for being the right-hand-man of Frank Catroni – the leading underworld figure in Montreal at that time – Martel’s body was found the day after the discovery of Dery and Corbeil. Martel was shot several times at the Astro Bar ( 1227 Cure Poirier Ouest ) then dumped in a field on – you guessed it – Chemin du Lac.
Hot on the trail was the Chief-Inspector of the Longueuil force, Pierre Robidoux (Robidoux was also assigned to the Déry / Corbeil and Sharron Prior cases):
“We know who committed the murder of Martel. We have eyewitnesses. We’re looking for two guys, Jacques Legault, age 35, and Ronald Cormier, age 19, the manager and bouncer respectively at L’Astro Bar, against whom the coroner’s warrant has been obtained.”
Legault was eventually charged with the murder of Marcel Martel and sentenced to 12 years. Like Déry / Corbeil, Sharron Prior’s murder has never been solved.
We’ve seen this many times before. The murders of innocents get short justice as the Quebec police turn their attention to what they deem to be more important matters. This was the case with American student Margaret Coleman in 1970 when her murder investigation got waylaid due to the October Crisis. It was the same situation in the summer of 1994 when Melanie Cabay’s murder investigation was furloughed so Quebec police could focus on (another) “biker war”.
Longueuil in those days was a tough, bad place. We’ve talked before how Trois Rivieres in the sixties was a red light district town. The sort of place you’d go to fulfill all of your vices. Longueuil in the seventies was a mini-version of that on the south shore of Montreal – Industrial parcs and go-go bars. And the Longueuil police weren’t much help at solving crimes. I’ve suggested before that the Longueuil force was incompetent, well it was more than that. They were compromised, and criminals would have known they were compromised, all the more reason to commit your crimes in Longueuil.
Take for example Chief Inspector Robidoux who in 1975 had his hands full with those three cases. In 1980 Robidoux became the Longueuil chief of police. The year prior Jacques Déry begged then minister of justice Andre Bedard to transfer his daughter Diane’s case from Longueuil to the Surete du Quebec. On October 2nd, 1979 a 17-year-old boy was accidentally shot while standing up in a duck blind along the Longueuil side of the Saint Lawrence river. Within a month the case was transferred from Longueuil to the Surete du Quebec. This was a duck hunting accident. How badly could the Longueuil police screw up a duck hunting accident?
Robidoux’s arrival coincided with a series of labor and salary disputes with the Longueuil force. Police complained of long hours and overworked staff. By 1982 serious troubles were unfolding. La Presse reported that the Longueuil police were keeping a “dossier noir”, a “black book”of secret files. Chief Robidoux spoke of a “profound malaise” within his force, and of “troubling revelations”. Officers began reporting to work out of uniform. Robidoux urged that officers were “obliged to wear the uniform”. He was ignored. In April 1983 Robidoux was caught modifying timekeeping records for a select group of police officers and fined $100.
By 1987 Robidoux left the force and was quickly made a director general for the city of Longueuil. Two years later – in an apparent arson incident – Robidoux’s brand new home in a recently completed suburban development burned to the ground. Robidoux ended his civic career with accusations of accepting bribes. In 1991 he was accused of receiving $165,000 in exchange for the approval of illegal zoning map changes.
Make of all of that what you will – That’s Longueuil.
The Text Message
With a little added history, that pretty much brings you up-to-date with where the Déry / Corbeil case stands at this moment. And personally, and quite frankly, I’m a little disappointed that it’s been almost a year since the premiere of LDS and nothing has moved. Then again I’m used to disappointment in these matters. What I’m about to tell you may offer some explanation as to why the matter has been met with investigative crickets. Before moving forward, a little explanation as to my involvement with this case.
Initially I wrote about Déry / Corbeil because I needed podcast content, and there was so little information available about this case. My recollection was that the website Quebec Unsolved Murders had one of the only postings on Diane and Mario, and what it said (most of it wrong) left you asking more questions:
“The two young people were shot and left in a field… Diane was placed half naked on top of Mario.We know, however, that the girl was not sexually molested, but Mario was beaten. This case is still a cold case.”
I often preach that – in the case of Quebec police in this era – a statement like “the girl was not sexually molested” must be interpreted in the most literal sense. There were no overt signs of rape, there was not conclusive evidence of sperm. The chief faculty you must possess in order to discover the true nature of this crime – that this was a sexual murder – was precisely the one gadget missing from the Longueuil police’s toolbox: imagination.
When I podcasted about the case two years ago it was nothing more than an english translation of some articles I had found in the archives of Allo Police. I remember my one suggestion was that since the shootings occurred so close to a military base, that people might want to start looking for a suspect there. Much like the Quebec Unsolved post, my own suggestions merely raised more questions. A listener asked the following:
“Is there D. N. A.? what details have not been publicly released? Who are the suspects,? What are their stories.? Did Mario have enemies? what was the relationship between Mario and Diane ? Who were their friends? Was there a jealous friend ? what institutions if any existed within the murder zone? Psycho wards, hospitals, prisons , half way houses, military establishments , airports, has this case been closed or not? How can a case like this still be cold and forgotten in 2018?”
More excellent questions.
Six months later, when the producers of Le Dernier Soir asked me to offer some comments on the case, it was more my view from 30,000 feet; What did the staging suggest to me? What was my opinion of the Longueuil force? The history of unsolved crimes in that era?
And then the big kicker where I said something like, It will take an act of moral courage for someone to step forward and admit that they know what happened and are willing to take some responsibility.
If there’s still doubt in anyone’s mind about the calculation in that statement, I can tell you now that it was planned – the producers didn’t know I was going to say it, but I did – and I knew that I really had to land it. That was a Hail Mary pass, a plea for someone to step forward. And I wasn’t just addressing the Déry / Corbeil case, that was a deliberate and desperate prayer for all Quebec cold cases.
One person did come forward.
It was during the second airing of Le Dernier Soir, in January of 2020, that a man contacted me – we’ll call him Mike – with a story of growing up in St-Hubert in the mid-1970s. In the winter of 1975 Mike was living with his parents on the military base, CFB St. Hubert when this happened – recall that CFB St. Hubert is right across the street from the Déry / Corbeil dump site:
“It was a nice quiet sunny day, in the middle of the afternoon most probably Saturday or Sunday. It might have been February or March 1975, I’m not quite sure. Because the weather was mild, I tend to think that we were close to the month of March. A group of friends decided to go out into the woods in the back of C.F.B. St-Hubert to play hockey, on a shallow pond of water. I was there, though I don’t remember having my skates on, some of the others had skates and some were playing with boots. I do remember that someone lent me a stick. The goals were defined by a pair of boots at each end.
At one point, while we were playing hockey, we heard a single gunshot that hit one of the boots that were used for the goals. We saw Danny, someone said that he had a 22. He was about 100 feet away. I remember him roaring with laughter. He didn’t approach us but kept on his way going to wherever he was going. I don’t remember what the others did but I left not wanting to see him on his way back. Danny terrorized all the Kids on the base at that time. He was a bully.
Danny liked to scare other kids… When he was on the skating rink, he would deliberately do slap shots that would hit the boards right in front of you just to scare and warn you not to get in his way. That’s who Danny was. A year later we were all surprised to learn that Danny had committed a murder.”
Danny’s not his real name. He was a juvenile at the time so we want to be careful. Here is a map that Mike drew of the area where this incident occurred, with the hockey rink and the Déry / Corbeil dump site circled in red, they are about 300 meters or 1,000 feet apart:
And this is a photograph taken by my sister of my brother and I playing pond hockey in Montreal right around the same time, 1975. That’s me in goal with, I think, some boots standing in for goal posts, it was a very common thing to do:
According to Mike, Danny lived on Pine Circle (now rue Lery) on the CFB St. Hubert base at the time of the Déry / Corbeil murders. You could cut through a path on the base and that’s a direct half-mile from the Déry / Corbeil dump site:
A friend of Mike’s ran into Danny years later. This would have been after Danny had served time for manslaughter. Danny told the friend that the incident in 1976 was “… an accident, that the gun had gone off accidentally and that his friend was dead.” As well, three friends were contacted who ran into Danny in a nearby park the night of the manslaughter incident. At the time, Danny admitted he had killed his friend, but insisted it was an accident.
This is the point in the story where I became very interested in Danny and looking again at the Déry / Corbeil case.
The first question was, who did Danny murder in 1976? The internet newspaper archives proved no use – because Danny had been an anonymous juvie, the incident wasn’t easy to identify: we found nothing. Mike was certain there would have been mention of it in the Quebec tabloids of 1976, but he didn’t know how to find the article. After sending Mike to comb the BAnQ archives (the Quebec library), I put in a request with Corrections Canada for any parole information on Danny (we guessed he probably ended up a career offender, with a long history of crimes). We didn’t want Mike making this request (FOIA laws require disclosure to the inmate as to who is making the information request); I’m a guy who does this routinely, Mike had been Danny’s neighbor on the airport base in St-Hubert. At this stage, we didn’t want him outed.
It didn’t take long for Mike to quickly find what we were looking for in the Journal de Montreal. The victim in the 1976 shooting was a 19-year-old named Ralph Edwards:
With the victim’s name, we were able to obtain the autopsy, coroner’s report, and other medical-legal records for Ralph Edwards. Around the same time, Corrections Canada provided the following response:
“Please note that the Parole Board of Canada cannot give access to any decisions rendered prior to November 1, 1992, in accordance with our procedures and with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Therefore, we are unable to provide the decisions regarding the first sentence of the offender for manslaughter.
However, please note that the offender has completed a second sentence concerning offences of theft and driving. This second sentence occurred after November 1, 1992 and as such, we would be able to provide the decisions of this latter sentence if you wish.”
We guessed right, Danny had been a life-long offender. If you’ve seen parole decision files you know that they always start with a detailed description of the criminal’s offense history. We were fairly confident that the theft and driving decision registries would offer a back-door window into the 1976 murder of Ralph Edwards.
The killing of Ralph Edwards
On the afternoon of Thursday, May 13th, 1976 Danny and Ralph Edwards approached an acquaintance, 18-year-old Christian Lamoureux looking for a car to use so they could pull a job in Sherbrooke. “I knew someone who would lend us a car for the night”, offered Lamoureux in testimony. The three went off to Place Desormeaux where they secured a car from a guy named Pierre Trepanier. At 17, Danny was the youngest of the three, 19-year-old Ralph was the oldest. Lamoureux didn’t know them well, but Danny and Ralph were friends, and both spoke english. They then went back to Danny’s sister’s apartment at 149 Turgeon in Longueuil. By this point, Danny was probably no longer living with his parents at the military base in St. Hubert. They drank some beer, smoked a joint and some hash, before heading to Sherbrooke for the hold-up.
Lamoureux stated that Danny had drawn a map of a restaurant they were going to rob, the Marche du Nord in Sherbrooke ( In Danny’s testimony he stated that it was Ralph who made the map). Danny provided two firearms: a 32 caliber revolver, and a 410 gauge rifle. Lamoureux and Danny both testified that they had never been to Sherbrooke before (so was the caper Ralph’s idea?).
The trip to Sherbrooke wasn’t easy. The beater they borrowed stalled and backfired along the way. The three were inexperienced, and the robbery only yielded a measly $500. Heading back to Longueuil, while Danny drove, Edwards and Lamoureux crouched down on the floor of the car for fear of being spotted by the police. Ralph Edwards was in possession of the firearms, as well as a bag containing the loot. At some point, Danny said he heard a click behind him where Edwards was hiding. Danny then asked Edwards to give him the guns and suitcase, which Danny said Ralph did without protest.
This trip back from Sherbrooke was also an odyssey. The beater continued to stall. They became paranoid they’d be stopped by the police at the highway toll booths, so they got off the main highway and started taking back roads along route 112. They picked up a hitchhiker and dropped them in Chambly. They stopped several times, once for a couple of beers at a roadside bar. They were in constant fear of passing police cars. All of this is to say that the trip back to Longueuil took a lot of time; a lot of time to think ( time enough for Ralph to sneak off at the roadside bar and make a phone call?)
Both Danny and Christian Lamoureux’s testimony agree that the car broke down near route 112 and the St. Hubert airport – keep in mind this is just on the other side of the Déry / Corbeil dump site and the location of the hockey pond shooting; those incidents occurred on the east border of CFB St. Hubert, the car broke down on the west border, a little over a mile away. The three youths abandoned the vehicle – this was early the next morning, May 14th – and began to walk single-file along the road. Immediately they spotted a police cruiser heading toward them, so they cut up the stairwell at the junction of 112 and 116 ( in those days that stairwell – which still exists today – led up to the old Longueuil train station along chemin de l’Aeroport).
At this point, according to Christian Lamoureux’s testimony:
“Suddenly I heard a shot … I saw Ralph, who had fallen to his knees, and then crashed to the ground. “
Lamoureux added that he saw Danny hit Ralph in the face with the rifle butt, and he repeatedly shouted at him to stop.
At the inquest Danny tried to argue that he was merely attempting to get rid of the rifle, so he threw it in the direction of Ralph, when it accidentally discharged. Then a few seconds later it discharged again! In testimony Danny stated that he was “freaking out”. Lamoureux stated that Danny hit Ralph repeatedly with the rifle butt:
“Coroner: Did you have words with him?
Danny: No, we said nothing.
Coroner: You said that you shot him a second time and then hit him in the head?
Coroner: For no reason?
Danny: No, because I had lost control.
Coroner: Did you hit Christian Lamoureux?
Danny: No, I never hit him.”
Throughout the coroner’s inquiry the news media kept reminding everyone that Ralph Edwards was a black illegal immigrant from Trinidad:
“… Ralph Edwards, un Noir de 19 ans, qui habitait illégalement au pays depuis l’an passé”
“… Ralph Edwards, “un Noir” / a Black of 19 years who has been living in the country illegally for the past year.”
The coroner’s inquest ruled that Ralph Edwards died due to multiple perforations of the brain, heart and lungs from gunshot wounds. Danny was given nine years for Manslaughter and Armed Robbery. The motive cited was “in order to get money to buy drugs.” Christian Lamoureux’s sentence is not known, though in court he was represented by Frank Shoofey, the prominent criminal defense attorney who in 1985 was shot to death while working late one evening in his Montreal law office.
After The Trial
It’s important to state that we did contact the producers of Le Dernier Soir with all the information in the story right around up to this point. We wanted to be sure they weren’t working on a follow-up to their documentary, or planning a second series. They informed us that they were not, and gave us an “all clear” to pursue our story.
As mentioned, Danny’s parole decision registries reveal that he did indeed evolve into a career criminal. In 2009 Danny was denied a request for day parole. At that time he was serving 6 years, 8 months and 10 days for his second federal term, approximately 7 years for “Robbery, Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle, and Flight while Pursued by A Peace Officer”. In 2005 Danny used a loaded handgun to rob a bank of $2,000. He next robbed a gas station of $370 and 30 packs of cigarettes using a pellet gun and a machete. When police attempted to stop Danny after the second robbery, he drove over the street curbs and into a parking lot in order to evade pursuit. Danny then collided with another police cruiser before fleeing on foot. He further resisted arrest, but was finally apprehended in a physical “high-risk takedown”. He told police he had “nothing to live for”, and had no means other than crime to support his addiction to pain medication. His file notes that police suspected Danny of several other robberies in the area of his arrest, some of them involving an accomplice, and the use of weapons and violence.
The decision notes:
“… the direct correlation between alcohol and drug addictions and your violent and potentially violent criminal behaviour over a period exceeding 30 years. You have not yet addressed this key contributing factor and your sporadic attendance at alcoholic’s anonymous meetings within the institution, is certainly insufficient to mitigate your chronic problem in this area.”
The decision further notes that Danny had a number of similar offenses, though not at the federal level involving driving while impaired, theft and robbery, the possession and purchase of illicit drugs, violence and attempts to escape custody. In making their decision the parole board cited Danny’s General Statistical Information on Recidivism, noting there was a 50% chance that Danny would reoffend within three years of release.
On the shooting of Ralph Edwards in 1976 the parole board had this to say:
“In terms of violence, you received your first federal sentence of nine years in 1977 for Manslaughter and Armed Robbery in relation to offences committed in the province of Quebec with two accomplices in order to get money to buy drugs. You were apparently all under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time. Although there are varying versions of the details surrounding this offence on your file, it is reported that you entered a restaurant establishment with a loaded .38 revolver in hand and demanded money while your accomplices waited in a stolen vehicle. When met with resistance by the restaurant owner, your accomplices entered the premises in an effort to assist you. You were successful at robbing the facility and fleeing the scene however, the vehicle broke down and you continued on foot. You were eventually spotted by police at which time you shot one of your accomplices twice and then hit him in the head with the butt of your gun. The victim succumbed to his injuries. While it is not clear why you shot your accomplice, you have offered varied explanations in the past that suggest that the offence was accidental as a result of panic, intoxication and not being aware that the firearm was loaded. Today, you indicated that you were just playing. However, it is also mentioned in your file that you may have shot the victim because you believed he had reported you and the robbery to the authorities. Your limited recollection and reluctance to openly discuss these offences did not permit to elucidate this matter any further today.”
In 2012 Danny was given Statutory Release with conditions not to consume drugs or alcohol and to avoid certain persons. At the time of this writing Danny is not currently an inmate at any federal institution in Canada.
Qu’est-ce que le Noir dit?
What did Ralph say? Let’s go back to the coroner’s inquiry. Several attorneys attempt to extract from Christian Lamoureux the exact nature of an assumed verbal dispute between Danny and Ralph. One of the attorneys asks if there was an argument, words exchanged after the car broke down. Christian says that he doesn’t know because he doesn’t understand english. “But you understand “Hold-Up,” the attorney says, “you understand an argument”:
“Q: Ralph is who, do you recall his family name?
Q: Is he a white of black guy?
Q: Did they exchange words?
Q: Do you think it possible there was a dispute between the two?
Q: …So you’re on the road, walking on foot after the car broke down, it’s Danny who has the money in his pockets?
Q: And there wasn’t a discussion about sharing (the money) at this point?
A: No, we had not talked about it.
Q: Well, it’s unique that having arrived at this situation, on the way to Danny’s, that you didn’t have a discussion about dividing the money.
Qu’est-ce que le Noir dit?
What do we have so far to connect the 1975 Déry / Corbeil murders to the 1976 shooting of Ralph Edwards?
Always begin with the geography. Danny can be placed at three locations within roughly a little over a mile of the Déry / Corbeil dump site; at the time of the murders he is living a half-mile from the dump site, a few months before the murders he is at the hockey pond 1,000 feet from the dump site, and about a year later he shoots Ralph Edwards along chemin de l’Aeroport about 1.2 miles from the Déry / Corbeil site:
There’s the curiosity of the May 14th, 1976 shooting of Ralph Edwards occurring very close to the May 20th, 1975 anniversary date of the Déry / Corbeil murders (Did the car breakdown stir up memories? Did Ralph say something about this event?)
A rifle is the murder weapon in both shootings; Déry / Corbeil are shot with a 22, and Edwards is shot with a 410. Then there are the crime scenes which on first consideration seem quite different; Edwards’ we imagine quite chaotic (Danny was “freaking out”), while with Déry / Corbeil there are elements of staging ( one body placed on top of the other as if to simulate sexual relations). Yet with both crimes there seems to be an element of overkill; was it necessary to shoot Mario six times? Why was Ralph beaten repeatedly with the butt of a rifle? Why shoot Ralph in the back, then beat him, then shoot him in the head? All the while with Christian urging Danny to stop.
Was Eric Veillette right?
Was the meeting in the woods accidental? Was there a confrontation? Did the shooters have accounts to settle? Was it the gratuitous crime of a future psychopath?
While the documentary Le Dernier Soir was airing on Radio Canada for the second time, I started corresponding about the Déry / Corbeil case with a criminologist friend of mine. He became intrigued, so I sent him the file of documents I had accumulated on the case. He then began to watch the program, and after he had finished I asked him his opinion of the case. I should mention that this isn’t any criminologist, and it isn’t anyone I’ve talked of before. He is a leading expert on sexual murder. He thought the suspect presented in the television program – the kid who went on to become a leader in organized crime – was “probably not the murderer in this case”:
“Yes he’s probably highly antisocial, a murderer and a guy who has been involved in a lot of crime but I don’t think he would have done something like that. To me it’s the sexual element that is key here. As you mentioned, it is very immature the way it was done. At the same time, the offender needed to do something sexual to Dery (as opposed to leaving the crime scene right away after shooting them). It’s not random. “
Admittedly, what we know of Danny so far also does not suggest that he was a sexual murderer, but let’s leave that aside for the moment.
What we next learned was only discovered within the last month while putting this story together. I haven’t been sitting on it for very long, and if I had had any faith they would have acted upon it, I would have gone to the police immediately.
While preparing for an update on the Déry / Corbeil case – this year marks the 45th anniversary of their unsolved murders – I went back and read the police files, the documents provided to me originally by the producers of the television documentary in December 2018.
At some point in the original 1970s investigation chief inspector Robidoux – he of the burned down house and planning bribes – was introduced to a young informant. This young informant from the Longueuil neighborhood was the original source for suggesting that the other kid – the one who grew up to be an underworld figure – may have murdered Diane and Mario. This young informant told Robidoux many things. For instance, he told him that young people used to stand in the woods at the south end of Roland-Therrien boulevard – the area where the bodies were discovered – and use rifles “such as 22s, 410s or others” for target practice.
Then one day he told Robidoux a story about something that happened weeks after the murders:
“… so the weeks pass and one day I decide to go hunting. I’m talking me, HE and TC. We’re walking in the woods when shots were fired, bullets whistle by on either side of us. So I saw two guys, one black and one white. I started to think me and the others should do the same [fire back]. So then I came out of the woods, and ran home. That same evening I went to see Mrs. Déry, that same evening, so I could explain to her what had happened, but I was afraid of going to the police, so I kept it a secret. “
“Alors je vis deux gars, un noir et un blanc.”
We went back and checked with one of the other boys from this story, “TC”. He confirmed that it did occur the way the informant described it. When asked if he recalled them talking, and in what language, he said, “”they seemed to speak english”
What did Ralph Edwards say to Danny the night of the 1976 shooting? Why beat someone with a rifle butt and shoot them twice in front of a witness? Why risk certain arrest? Unless Ralph mentioned another murder. The murders of Diane Déry and Mario Corbeil from the previous year. Did Ralph threaten to go to the police – if he hadn’t contacted them already – and tell them of those murders if Danny didn’t hand over the robbery money? Did Christian hear some of this, but pretend to not comprehend english? Did words escalate to the point where Ralph taunted Danny about his actions the night of the Dery / Corbeil murders? $500 is not enough to die for. You don’t freak out over $500, bludgeon someone in the face, and shoot them dead.
We end where we began. This theory also has holes, it isn’t completely satisfying. The criminologist suggests a sexual murderer, (the offender needed to do something sexual to Dery ) but Danny didn’t have an incarceration history of sexual violence. Though we don’t know what we don’t know. Because of his history of incarceration maybe there wasn’t time for Danny to develop into a full-blown sexual predator. Maybe he was a sexual murderer, he just was never caught for those crimes. We also don’t know Danny’s whereabouts from 1982 – 1987. Those years are a blackout, and there are any number of unsolved murders in Quebec from that time, including the Longueuil area.
Maybe another possibility: Was the sexual element a folie a deux? Did Ralph, who was two years older – two years can seem like an eternity at that age – provoke Danny? Was there something inherently embarrassing about what happened the night of May 20th, 1975? Was Ralph the sexual murderer, and Danny the one caught up in his sexual deviance, with Ralph urging on the younger Danny? Did Danny commit the murders, but Ralph the sexual assaults? Did Ralph force Danny to do something he did not want to do? More questions. Another puzzle.
And in the end…
In the documentary Le Dernier Soir, one of the sisters – I think Diane’s – recalls that the night Diane disappeared she went to sleep watching the rotating beacon atop Place Ville Marie. It’s a four-ray searchlight that can be seen from at least a hundred miles away. It’s become sort of a protective light for Montrealers, on the other side of the mountain I used to fall asleep watching it too. She said on that night – Tuesday, May 20th, 1975 – she hoped it would help Diane find her way home.