There’s an incredible piece of investigative journalism by Nicolas Berube in today’s La Presse on the 1975 murder of Diane Thibault. Recall that Thibault was covered in the Who Killed Theresa? podcast, Intro To Loco Part II. What follows is an English translation of the article. You can read it in French by visiting La Presse’s website ( here ):
WHO KILLED DIANE THIBEAULT?
The body of a 25-year-old woman found in flames on a vacant lot in downtown Montreal. An ex-lover who confesses to having committed the crime. A passionate about unresolved issues who wonder why, more than 40 years later, the murder of Diane Thibeault remains unsolved.
MONTREAL, AUGUST 1975 A BODY ON FIRE
Jean Brisson is on his bike near his home in downtown Montreal, when he sees a box on fire in the dim light, in the middle of a vacant lot.
“I wanted to stop it,” he said. There was an abandoned house not far away and I did not want the house to catch fire. “
Laying down his bike, the 16-year-old sneaks into the hole of an old fence, at the corner of St. Dominique Street and Dorchester Boulevard, and approaches the flames.
“I fired at the boxes. This is where I saw the legs. In panic, the teenager goes to warn the police.
Smoke still emerges from the corpse upon the arrival of Agent Roy and Agent Lemieux of the Montreal Police. The body of the victim, a woman, is naked from the waist down, and the police find that a piece of burning wood is embedded in her vagina. It is 4:30 in the morning, Saturday, August 2, 1975.
The victim is Diane Thibeault. She is 25 years old, hair dyed black, skin pale. She is wearing a partially burnt blue sweater with yellow stripes on the sleeves. Close to the body, the police found a jute hat, two scattered shoes, a comb and a purse containing $ 26.40 in cash (the equivalent of more than $ 125 in today’s dollars). Diane Thibeault has essentially the constitution of a child: measuring 1.5 m and weighs 37 kg.
According to police officers, the victim was beaten to death before someone set fire to the body. “The victim was sexually assaulted,” says Agent Roy in his report. “Bruises to the face. Strangulation mark on the neck. “
It was daylight at 6:10 am when J. Fortin, an employee of Alfred Dallaire, arrived with his truck to pick up the corpse.
The investigators assigned to the case of the murder of Diane Thibeault do not make any arrests in the last months of 1975. Neither in 1976. Nor in 1977. In 1978, more than three years after the crime, the police will meet a suspect.
MONTREAL, APRIL 2018
The murder of Diane Thibeault was the subject of a recent episode of the Who Killed Theresa? Podcast, which focuses on unresolved crimes in Quebec.
In this episode, facilitator John Allore explains the details of the investigation into the death of Diane Thibeault, for whom he had requested and received a copy of the coroner’s report, archived at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).
“Where and when Diane Thibeault was killed is not clear,” says Allore in his podcast. But the investigators deduced that the killer returned to the scene, around 4 am, to set fire to the body. “
For John Allore, the unsolved crimes have a personal resonance: his sister, Theresa, was missing and found dead in the Eastern Townships in 1979, at the age of 19, an unsolved crime. John Allore was 14 years old when it happened. He has since become interested in these tragic stories, often forgotten by the media and the general public.
In reviewing the documents on Diane Thibeault, Mr. Allore realized that in 1978, three years after the murder, a man named Edmond Turcotte, a former Diane Thibeault lover, confessed to the police officers being the author of the sordid murder. But 42 years later, the crime remains unpunished. The person who killed Diane Thibeault was never sentenced.
Wanting to learn more about the murder of Diane Thibeault, La Presse wrote to Mr. Allore to ask him if he was ready to share the coroner’s report.
A few hours later, a 61-page PDF document appeared in our inbox.
It describes the smallest details about the state of the victim when she was found. Her neck has “significant marks of traumatic violence in the form of ecchymotic erosion,” wrote on August 2, 1975 Dr. André Lauzon, forensic pathologist. Burns on the body “would have been inflicted after the death of the victim, or in the agonic period,” he notes.
The document also contains all the statements that Edmond Turcotte made to the investigators, a story that reads like a macabre play narrated by his main character.
Coincidentally, it says that the detective sergeant who questioned Turcotte was Jacques Duchesneau. Detective Sergeant, 29 years old at the time, Mr. Duchesneau later became Director of the Montreal Police, then Member of Parliament for Saint-Jérôme from 2012 to 2014 under the banner of the Coalition Avenir of Quebec.
I do not know why this testimony did not lead to the conviction of Edmond Turcotte,” writes Mr. Allore.
“SEEKING EDMOND TURCOTTE”
It was not the investigators who found the witness, it was the witness who found the investigators.
In November 1978, more than three years after the violent death of Diane Thibeault, 47-year-old Roger Moreau, who works as a laborer at the Miron quarry, sits down with investigators from the Montreal police. We do not know why he decides to speak at this moment.
He explains that he is the brother-in-law of a man named Edmond Turcotte, and recounts having met Diane Thibeault four weeks before his death.
“The first time I saw her was at my mother’s house,” says Moreau. My mother said to me, “This is Diane, my tenant.”
Mr. Moreau remembers Diane Thibeault shaking his hand. The young woman was “petite” and had “red-red” hair.
During this first conversation, Diane asks him if he knows Edmond Turcotte.
“Yes, yes, it’s my brother-in-law,” says Moreau.
Diane asks him. “If you see Edmond, don’t tell him I’m here because he promised me he was to give me a beating …” Mr. Moreau promises to say nothing.
Then, a few days later, Edmond Turcotte arrives at his brother-in-law’s place, at 6225, Chambord Street, in Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie.
“[Edmond] was pretty hot,” recalls Moreau. The two men go out to the tavern.
While drinking, Mr. Turcotte asks him if he knows Diane Thibeault. He adds, “It looks like I got her pregnant, and the damn thing, if I see her, she’s going to catch one, she’ll remember it for the rest of her life…”
Roger Moreau says he saw Diane Thibeault one last time a week later. It was in Saint-Hubert Street, near Saint-Zotique Street. She was with Edmond Turcotte. The two were kissing each other.
“Diane said to me,” Hello, Roger. “I said,” Are you all right, you two? “They kissed again and continued [to walk]. […] I never saw her again, and I never saw Edmond Turcotte either. “
In the days following the murder, Roger Moreau sees Diane Thibeault’s photo in the newspapers. After a moment’s hesitation, he decides to call the police from a payphone.
“I called at post 18. I said,” Sir, if you’re looking for Diane, look for Edmond Turcotte. “” Then he hung up.
“THAT IS A SPECIAL”
Although more than four decades have passed since the murder, Jacques Duchesneau remembers Diane Thibeault’s record.
“I remember pictures,” he says. It was abominable. Even though I’ve been to homicides for a long time, that’s a special thing … “
On the phone, Mr. Duchesneau explains to me how the investigation of Edmond Turcotte took place. To refresh his memory, he has in front of him his notebooks, notebooks which he has meticulously preserved throughout his career. “The investigators, we have what are called” diaries “. We write everything we do every day. I searched, and I found it. “
At the time, few police were assigned to the homicide division, he recalls. “I look at that, the days before, the days after, I had a murder, I made an arrest in another murder, we had a policeman who had shot someone, it’s me who did investigation. We were pretty busy … “
Mr. Duchesneau and his colleague Bernard Gagnon arrested Edmond Turcotte in November 1978.
“Turcotte was a cook at New Spiro’s restaurant at 175 Peel Street. It was in a basement, a small restaurant in a factory. That’s where we went to stop him. Then he showed us places, addresses. He had come with us. “
At approximately 9 pm on November 15, Jacques Duchesneau and Bernard Gagnon drove Turcotte to the Sûreté du Québec headquarters on Parthenais Street in Montreal. He was then subjected to a polygraph test.
“At 1:15 in the morning, Parthenais call us to tell us that Turcotte has made a statement. He is brought back to the office and interrogated the next day. “
Edmond Turcotte decides to tell everything.
“The meeting lasts all morning,” said M. Duchesneau. It was a free and voluntary declaration. Then the coroner asked the questions … [Turcotte] was never beaten, he never had any promises, he was just afraid of the police … He asked for a coffee, he was given a coffee. He was very cooperative. “
“I CONTINUED TO STRIKE HER”
In his testimony given to the police on November 16, 1978, Edmond Turcotte spares no detail.
Edmond Turcotte is 29 years old. He lives in an apartment on Larante Street in LaSalle. He says that on Friday, August 1, 1975, the day before the murder, he went to “drink a large 50” at Cabaret Rodeo, on Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
“I got there in the morning, around 10 am, 11 am,” he says. I was sitting at a table all day. “
The Rodéo cabaret was a well known place in Montreal: it was there that Michel Tremblay set the action of his play Sainte Carmen of the Main, published in 1976, about a Quebec singer who returns to sing in French in cabarets from Montreal after visiting Nashville.
Towards dinner time, Diane Thibeault arrives at the Rodeo and sits at Edmond Turcotte’s table.
According to Turcotte, Diane Thibeault drank “six or seven” big Labatt 50 beers during the evening. Edmond Turcotte explains that he himself drank “strong drinks, such as [gin] Beefeater, cognac, these things”.
People sit at their table, but Edmond does not remember them anymore. “I had too much drink. Because when I take too much drink, I mix, and I see no more. That’s why afterwards, if I do things, I do not realize it. “
Detective Sergeant Jacques Duchesneau asks him, “Do you remember how Diane Thibeault was dressed that night when she came to sit at your table? “
“I just remember her hat, there, and her shoes. “
Around 2 am, Diane Thibeault and Edmond Turcotte leave the Rodeo.
“We left to get a room for the night. It was towards St. Catherine Street. Then we rented the room. “
In the bedroom, a fight breaks out.
“We bickered about the child. Because she said that the next day she wanted to go see her child [at her brother’s in Saint-Jerome], and I wanted to go with her. And she said no. She wanted to hit me with the lamp, but I took it away, but trying to take off the lamp, there was a glass on the desk, I hit it, and it broke. There, I took the glass and I gave her a blow in the neck, with the glass. She fell, and I continued to hit her. The more she tried to defend herself, the more I hit her with fists and kicks. “
Edmond Turcotte explains having then “descended [the body] down”.
“I think that when I transported her, she was dead, she was quite soft. I think that when I took her down, her top was torn. Outside, I dropped her somewhere, I do not know where … and I took some branches, a pebble or a stone, to put them into her vagina. Because I calculated that she had done enough for me. There, I told myself she will do no more trouble to anyone. […] However, I do not remember setting fire to her. “
Turcotte says he then left “in another direction”.
The week following these statements, Turcotte returns to his confession. He says he lied when he told the police about the murder. The coroner, who was laying criminal charges at this time, does not let this new development influence his decision.
He declares :
“Monsieur Turcotte, do you want to get up? After hearing the evidence before me this morning regarding the death of Diane Thibeault, I have no other verdict to make the following verdict: Diane Thibeault died a violent death on August 2, 1975, death for which you, Edmond Turcotte, must be held criminally responsible. “
“THAT IS, LIFE, EH? “
On the phone, Jacques Duchesneau says he does not know how the case progressed after the confession of Edmond Turcotte.
“I do not know if he was charged … I would have to dig deeper into my notes. In my opinion, he was charged. Otherwise, sometimes, it has nothing to do with police action, sometimes it’s with the body … You should go see the books at the court, you could see that … By the way, what angle did you want to take [with this story]? “
The plumitif is the register of the court. Anyone who has been charged is registered.
In the case of Edmond Turcotte, born September 17, 1949, there are five charges for various offenses, the most recent of which is a charge of theft in Joliette, in 1997, for which the decision was withdrawn.
There is also one count for murder, filed on November 24, 1978.
The lawyer who defended Edmond Turcotte is called Réal Charbonneau, and he still practices today.
On the phone, Mr. Charbonneau explains that he no longer remembers the appearance or personality of Edmond Turcotte. But he remembers the trial very well.
“Chance helped me a lot,” he says. The judge was Judge André Biron, a good lawyer. I had an incredible chance. I will remember it all my life! “
The case was based on Edmond Turcotte’s statement to detective sergeants Duchesneau and Gagnon.
“My cross-examination focused on the police conduct in obtaining this statement,” says the lawyer.
It is a comment by Judge Biron that changed the course of the trial, he recalls.
Mr. Charbonneau wanted to have a psychiatrist testify. “The psychiatrist had put in the file that Edmond Turcotte was slightly deficient – that’s my term. He was a little light at the intellectual level. “
Before the judge, Crown Attorney Christiane Béland, skeptical, had launched: “Well, yes, yes, deficient, deficient, deficient …”, remembers M Charbonneau.
The judge replied: “You do not know that, you, the defectives. I know that. I took care of that, defending those people who are used in freak shows … “
At that time, there was exploitation of the intellectual handicapped in shows in cabarets, says Me Charbonneau. “I do not know the exact term, but they called it freak shows. “
In his experience, Judge Biron was not convinced that Turcotte had made incriminating statements freely and voluntarily. He had refused to admit them into evidence.
At 9:35 am on May 14, 1979, Edmond Turcotte was acquitted of the murder of Diane Thibeault.
In his article on the acquittal, two days later, La Presse writes:
“Clearly mental deficiency, Turcotte was led to” confess “after prolonged detention during which he would have eaten only toast or sandwiches and during which he would also have been tested with a polygraph. At first, he would have denied everything, but put in front of some “reactions” of the machine, he would have changed his version. “
Le Devoir writes that Judge Biron reproached the police officers “for having established the instruction that the accused should not receive any telephone call or visit without their consent with, as a result, that Turcotte’s lawyer a triple refusal to see his client during the same day. […] Unlike the law of coroners, Turcotte had not appeared within 24 hours of his arrest and the investigators had taken advantage of a coroner’s warrant to question him. […] The judge considers that these statements [are not admissible], whether or not they reflect the truth “.
At the end of the line, Mr. Charbonneau explains that things sometimes turn so in a court.
“That’s it, life, huh? I do not think that the police put eight investigators to find another accused after that … He was acquitted, he was acquitted … If he had been another judge, who had not had that experience, he might have had a different attitude on the perception of facts. All this is chance. It is providence. “
Contacted again for comments on the acquittal of Edmond Turcotte and the judge’s remarks about his work and that of his colleague, Jacques Duchesneau did not call La Presse.
“I NEVER FORGOT THIS”
The last known address of Edmond Turcotte is located on Adam Street, in Sainte-Julienne, near the city of Rawdon, in Lanaudière. Listed in the court register the address dates from 1997, the year of the last charge filed against him.
There is no rue Adam in the small municipality of Sainte-Julienne, but there is a street Aram. The address is that of a well-kept mobile home with children’s toys on the ground. Nobody was home when we were there. The neighbors with whom we spoke had never heard of a man named Edmond Turcotte. His name is not found in the register of residents of the municipality of Sainte-Julienne.
Jean Brisson, the teenager who discovered Diane Thibeault’s corpse more than 40 years ago, still lives in downtown Montreal.
Today, aged 58, Mr. Brisson explains that if he was cycling on the night of August 2, 1975, it was because his father had died the year before, and that there were no rules at home.
“I was out late at that time,” he said. At home, we did not have what we wanted. “
The land where he found Diane Thibeault’s body is no longer vacant: an apartment tower was erected there. Even the boulevard has changed its name: Dorchester Boulevard became René-Lévesque Boulevard in 1987.
The atmosphere is no longer the same in the neighborhood, he says.
“At that time, there was a lot of action … When people had problems, it was dealt with in the street, bing, bang …”
Mr. Brisson says he sometimes thinks about the body he saw under the burning cartons in the summer of his 16th birthday.
“I was so nervous … It’s not something you forget. I never forgot that. “
804 UNRESOLVED HOMICIDES SINCE 1980
Since 1980, 2023 homicides have occurred on the territory of the island of Montreal. Of this number, 804 are unresolved.
Pascal Côté, commander of the major crime section of the Montreal Police Service (SPVM), explains that it is generally after three years that an investigation into a homicide becomes a “cold case”.
“After three years, a homicide case is not closed, but there are no active proceedings, unless we have scientific evidence that is brought to us, or that a witness decides to collaborate with the police, he says. Then we will assign investigators to the file, we will reactivate the investigation. “
THREE CASES DISPLAYED ON THE SPVM WEBSITE
Of the 804 unsolved cases in Montreal, only 3 cases are posted on the SPVM website. “We have a fourth in preparation. We do not want to flood the site with files, we try to target those who are most likely to succeed, “says Commander Côté.
There are several reasons why a homicide may be unresolved. “In Montreal, there is a large floating population. A little less than 2 million people live on the island, but it rises a lot on weekdays and some evenings on the weekends. “
“There are also several murders committed by organized crime. We are talking about seasoned killers, and it is sometimes more difficult to arrive with accusations. “
– Pascal Côté, commander in the major crimes section of the SPVM
Investigative techniques have also evolved considerably, so that the oldest crimes are more difficult to resolve as the years go by. “The requirements of the preservation of evidence at the time were not the same as today. Just in terms of DNA, in the 1960s, we did not even talk about that. As a result, the samples and evidence were not retained. “
A RESOLUTION RATE OF 72%
As for the homicide resolution rate, compiled by Statistics Canada from police data, it has actually been 72% in Montreal since 1980, says Commander Côté.
“When an unsolved crime is solved, it changes the resolution rate of the current year, not the year the crime occurred. In summary, from 1980 to 2018, we have a solution rate of 72%. “
The number of homicides is in constant decline in Montreal: 22 murders occurred on the island last year, the lowest number since the statistics for the whole island began to be compiled, he 46 years ago. In the early 2000s, there were often more than 50 murders reported in a year in Montreal, and frequently more than 80 a year in the 1980s.