Here is a reading and interview at Shelf Life Books / Calgary for the book, Wish You Were Here with John Allore and Patricia Pearson.
An interview with Justin Ling, author of Missing From The Village, a book about the 2010–2017 Toronto serial homicides.
In 2013, the Toronto Police Service announced that the disappearances of three men–Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan–from Toronto’s gay village were, perhaps, linked. When the leads ran dry, the investigation was shut down, on paper classified as “open but suspended.” By 2015, investigative journalist Justin Ling had begun to retrace investigators’ steps, convinced there was evidence of a serial killer. Meanwhile, more men would go missing, and police would continue to deny that there was a threat to the community. On January 18, 2018, Bruce McArthur, a landscaper, would be arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder. In February 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of eight men.
“This is one of those mysteries that will remain a mystery because we blew it from the beginning. There were all these questions. And we never got good answers.”News Anchor Monica Kaufman-Pearson – Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered
The lead up to Theresa Allore’s disappearance was a colossal fuck-up
Friday October 27, 1978
The Surete du Quebec announce the grand opening of their new Sherbrooke police headquarters on rue Don Bosco. Several hundred people show up for a tour of the facilities and police equipment such as officer Lapaime’s “riot gun”.
Moving into a new building, you know how that goes. The phones don’t work, you can’t find co-workers’ offices, file boxes get misplaced or lost…
Also on Friday October 27, 1978
We learn that Micheline Gregoire, Luc Gregoire’s aunt Micheline died of cancer that week. Was Luc close to Micheline? Did her death trigger him?
Apparently a nurse, Luc’s sister later also became a nurse. She was actually the one who attended to Charles Marion’s “wounds” at the Sherbrooke hospital when he was brought in after 182 days in “captivity”.
Monday October 30, 1978
Champlain Regional College announces the appointment of Dr. William Matson as Campus Director. Matson is a career academic with no experience in administration or student relations.
Halloween, Tuesday October 31, 1978
Apropos of nothing but the shit show to come, The Sherbrooke Record reports that an inmate was found hanged in his cell at Orsainville. This comes on the heals of another hanging of an 18-year-old inmate in Quebec City who was beaten by police investigators before he died.
Thursday, November 2, 1978
A Bishop’s University student is accosted walking to campus. Police say there have “been rumours” of incidents against women on campus, but most are going unreported.
Friday November 3, 1978
The poem, Grace is published in the Bishop’s University newspaper, The Campus by “Nellie Keeler” containing the line, “Someone will take a scarf to strangle all sound”. “Nellie Keeler” does not appear as an enrolled student at either Champlain College or Bishop’s University. That evening, Theresa Allore disappears. Today, one theory is that Theresa was strangled with the green scarf she was wearing.
- Half a haunted house ( What’s the scariest thing?)
- The Montreal Jack The Ripper (Mary Gallagher and Thomas Neill Cream)
- Tales from the Crypt of Journalism ($150 beat job)
- Ripper Redux
- Terrifying Tales from a Book Tour
- Mohanbir’s Radio (Everybody’s Restless)
- The London Rippers (formerly the London Werewolves)
- What’s that scariest thing?
Last week Quebec Premier François Legault appointed former Montreal police officer Ian Lafrenière to head the province’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. This follows the ouster of Sylvie D’Amours, criticized for her failure to address discrimination facing Indigenous people in the wake of the death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old mother of seven, who died in a Joliette hospital while medical staff stood by mocking her as her condition slowly deteriorated.
In appointing Lafrenière Legault remarked, ”I think one of the main challenges is to rebuild trust between Indigenous nations and police officers, and who better than a police officer, who understands that problem, to solve it?”
This isn’t just a question of the fox guarding the hen house. The fox has been appointed to the hen house within one year of having been essentially instructed to never come within the vicinity of the hen house again.
As the brother of a murdered woman in Quebec, I know full well how the police looks after its own in the province. Navigating the confusing and byzantine channels of police process in Quebec can be an exercise in futility and confusion, a reductio ad absurdum pursuit that often folds back on itself.
A little over a year ago retired Quebec Superior Court justice Jacques Viens’s presented his 520-page report that concluded it was “”impossible to deny” Indigenous people in Quebec are victims of “systemic discrimination””. Citing 142 calls to action, the Viens report was the culminating event after an inquiry was launched in 2016 into allegations of police misconduct against Indigenous women in Val-d’Or, Quebec.
Specifically, the allegations targeted the Quebec provincial police, the Surete du Quebec and extended over a period of at least two decades.
Among other things, officers were accused of performing “Starlight Tours”, a practice of routinely picking up women who appeared to be intoxicated, driving them out of town and leaving them to walk home in the cold. Some women alleged they were physically assaulted or made to perform sex acts by the officers.
Now we have Legault’s recommendation that the best medicine to cure the ailment of systemic racism is to put yet another police officer in charge.
Lafrenière is no stranger to controversy. Once viewed as a superstar among the Montreal police – the agency itself has been accused of racial profiling and discrimination against indigenous women – he was abruptly dismissed as the head of the SPVM’s communications department back in 2016 and “reassigned”. It seemed like the end for Lafrenière, with one police source commenting, “It’s certainly not a decision for the good of his career”. This was in the wake of what seem like endless management crises within the Montreal police when then Chief Philippe Pichet was asked to step aside and replaced on an interim basis by Surete du Quebec Director, Martin Prud’homme.
But Prud’homme was yet another fox guarding yet another hen house.
By 2019 Prud’homme was suspended as head of the SQ after an “allegation related to criminal offences.” Yesterday Prud’homme appeared on Radio Canada whingeing “I was treated like a criminal”.
Now officer Ian Lafrenière has risen from the flames, and the whole mess has collapsed upon itself like a no-rise soufflé, with the knowledge that Prud’homme testified at the Viens inquiry. In remarks that appear stunningly naive or an outright lie Prud’homme told the commission, “until May 2015, I didn’t have any information or details that led me to think there was a major problem in Val-d’Or.” When asked about Starlight Tours, if this was a “phenomenon that is well-known within the SQ?” Prud’homme responded that he had never heard of such a practice before.
Foxes guarding hen houses indeed. It’s an endless game of pass the bad apple.
de Eric Volmers / Calgary Herald / Oct 9, 2020 / Traduit par Micheline Lampron
John Allore sait que son histoire est irrésistiblement accrocheuse pour les journalistes : un frère endeuillé, ne croyant pas à la version officielle concernant la mort mystérieuse de sa sœur, passe des décennies à chercher la vérité, jusqu’à l’obsession.
Allore comprend que cela a un caractère dramatique. Toutefois, dans une entrevue pour Postmedia, faite à partir de chez lui en Caroline du Nord, il dit très clairement qu’il s’est lassé de cela. La nouvelle est ancienne. Il pense qu’il est temps d’aller de l’avant et d’approfondir les conclusions présentées dans le livre coécrit avec Patricia Pearson, autrefois chroniqueuse au National Post, au sujet de la mort de sa sœur aînée Theresa. Cette histoire et ses ramifications vont beaucoup plus loin, dit-il, que le processus de deuil d’un petit frère.
« J’apprécie les marques de sympathie. Mais nous croyons que ce livre constitue un travail sérieux de journalisme d’investigation et de rédaction », dit M. Allore, co-auteur de Wish You Were Here : A Murdered Girl, A Brother’s Quest and the Hunt for a Serial Killer. Jusqu’à maintenant, la réaction a été du style « Un frère endeuillé cherche la vérité ». J’ai dépassé ce stade. Pour ce qui est d’avoir… tourné la page – peu importe la façon de le dire – je me suis
réconcilié avec le décès de ma sœur. Ça fait 43 ans. Ce dont je parle est l’échec du système judiciaire partout au Canada. J’aimerais beaucoup discuter de cela.
L’enquête réalisée par Allore et Pearson révèle assurément des faux-pas surprenants et du travail d’enquête de mauvaise qualité de la part de plusieurs organisations à l’échelle du pays. Ce qui a vraiment l’effet d’une bombe, toutefois, est que les auteurs croient avoir mis au jour les crimes violents d’un tueur en série auparavant inconnu, du nom de Luc Yoland Grégoire. Grégoire est mort en prison en 2015, après avoir été condamné pour un seul meurtre : le meurtre sexuel de l’employée de dépanneur calgarienne Lailanie Silva.
Après avoir consulté des criminologues, des enquêteurs travaillant sur des affaires non résolues et des témoins, et après s’être penchés sur les rapports du Service correctionnel du Canada et de la Commission des libérations conditionnelles du Canada, le tandem a pu retracer les allées et venues de Grégoire entre les Cantons de l’Est et l’Alberta, et trouver des preuves convaincantes qui semblent l’associer à plusieurs meurtres. Allore est convaincu qu’il a tué au moins cinq femmes au Québec, incluant sa sœur. Il croit qu’à Calgary, Grégoire a assassiné non seulement Silva mais aussi Rebecca Boutilier, âgée de 20 ans, au début de l’année 1993, et Tracey Maunder, âgée de 26 ans, en 1992. Les deux meurtres n’ont jamais été officiellement élucidés.
Ce sont les deux crimes que la police de Calgary croit fermement être l’œuvre de Grégoire, dit Allore, qui va se joindre à Pearson pour un lancement virtuel de livre le 15 octobre, organisé par Owl’s Nest Books. Il y en a eu plusieurs, durant cette période, entre 1991 et 1993, appelés « les meurtres de prostituées de Calgary », et je pense qu’il pourrait être responsable d’au moins quatre autres assassinats.
Allore et Pearson ont officiellement débuté leur enquête en 2001. Allore, qui venait de déménager en Caroline du Nord, a contacté Pearson avec l’idée d’écrire sur la mort de sa sœur au Québec. En 1978, Theresa avait 19 ans et étudiait au Collège Champlain dans les Cantons de l’Est. Son frère avait 14 ans et vivait avec sa famille au Nouveau-Brunswick. En novembre, Theresa a été portée disparue. En avril suivant, son corps a été découvert à un kilomètre de Compton, où elle demeurait dans une résidence hors campus. Elle a été retrouvée en sous- vêtements. Il n’y avait aucune trace de drogue dans son organisme, mais la police a fait fi de cela
en considérant sa mort comme une surdose et en refusant d’enquêter davantage.
John Allore et Patricia Pearson se sont fréquentés au Nouveau-Brunswick lorsqu’ils étaient adolescents, de sorte que celle-ci connaissait déjà l’affaire. Leurs chemins se sont séparés. En 2001, Pearson était devenue une journaliste renommée et une auteure de documentaires criminels. Les deux ont alors collaboré à la réalisation d’une série, par le National Post, portant sur la mort de Theresa. La piste qui les a menés à Grégoire a commencé à prendre forme
lorsqu’ils ont consulté le criminologue Kim Rossmo, ancien policier de Vancouver qui a été l’instigateur d’une technique appelée « profilage géographique », qui permet de cartographier le parcours des criminels en série dans une région donnée. On lui a demandé de se pencher sur une série de meurtres non résolus dans les Cantons de l’Est, incluant celui de Theresa. Rossmo croit que ces morts sont liées. Allore et Pearson ont ensuite consulté un autre criminologue. Celui-ci a établi le profil de douzaines de délinquants sexuels violents incarcérés qui étaient actifs au Québec pendant cette période. Le tandem lui a demandé s’il connaissait qui que ce soit dont le profil correspondrait.
Il a dit « Oui, il y a un type auquel vous devriez vous intéresser; son nom est Luc Grégoire ». Nous avons réalisé qu’il avait commis le meurtre de Calgary, alors nous avons commencé à nous concentrer là-dessus.
Allore et Pearson ont reconstitué les déplacements de Grégoire jusqu’à Edmonton, où il était incarcéré pour vol à main armée, et ensuite à Calgary, où il travaillait comme couvreur. Après le meurtre de Silva, une enquête interne a été menée par le Service correctionnel du Canada, qui
retraçait ses allées et venues à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur du système correctionnel dans les années 80 et les premières années de la décennie 90, jusqu’à son arrestation pour l’assassinat de Silva. La famille de celle-ci a poursuivi le gouvernement fédéral pour négligence, quand elle a appris que Grégoire aurait dû se trouver en prison, pour violation de liberté conditionnelle, au moment où il a enlevé et assassiné la jeune femme de 22 ans.
Il y a deux ans, Pearson s’est rendue à Calgary pour pousser l’enquête. C’est alors qu’elle a reçu de nouvelles informations de la part de l’ancienne logeuse de Grégoire, qui avait été un témoin déterminant pour l’affaire Silva. Finalement, avec Ken Carriere, enquêteur de Calgary spécialisé en affaires non résolues, Allore et Pearson ont discuté de ce meurtre et également de soupçons quant à l’implication de Grégoire dans d’autres meurtres ayant eu lieu à Calgary entre 1991 et 1993. Selon Pearson, l’enquête menée à Calgary est du tout-cuit.
« Il ne fait aucun doute pour moi qu’il y a tué au moins trois femmes », dit-elle, persuadée que les affaires de Calgary vont maintenant être réexaminées par la police.
Pour Allore, ce serait assurément une victoire, mais il souhaite une discussion de fond.
La police de Calgary, la Gendarmerie royale du Canada, la Sûreté du Québec, la police de Montréal, le Service correctionnel du Canada, la Commission des libérations conditionnelles, etc., jusqu’au ministère de la Justice et au ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec –ce sont
de toutes ces instances dont il est question ici, dit-il. Il y a quelque chose de foncièrement erroné lorsque ces gens disent qu’un des problèmes rencontrés était que les premières décisions prises quant à la libération conditionnelle de Grégoire étaient rédigées en français et qu’ils ne parlaient pas français. C’était les années 90! Peut-être dans les années 70 mais pas dans les années 90. Ça ne passe pas.
Allore a fini par envoyer un message à Grégoire en prison. Dans une lettre manuscrite, celui-ci lui a répondu vaguement qu’il n’avait rien à voir dans le meurtre de sa sœur Theresa. Allore ne le croit pas. Autant il a l’expression « tourner la page » en aversion, autant il est maintenant
convaincu de connaître le responsable de la mort de sa sœur en 1978.
J’ai posé la question à un expert dans le domaine des meurtres sexuels et aussi en ce qui concerne Luc Grégoire, puisqu’il a établi son profil. Il a répondu ainsi : « Il est
statistiquement improbable que Luc Grégoire n’ait pas commis ces meurtres ».
Wish You Were Here : A Murdered Girl, A Brother’s Quest and the Hunt for a Serial Killer. John Allore et Patricia Pearson feront un lancement virtuel de leur livre le 15 octobre, à 19 h, sous les auspices de Owl’s Nest Books. Visitez le site owlsnestbooks.com
Eric Volmers, Calgary Herald / Oct 09, 2020
John Allore realizes his story has an irresistible hook for journalists: A grieving brother, unconvinced of the official story about his sister’s mysterious death, spends decades obsessively searching for the truth.
Allore understands it’s a dramatic angle. But, in an interview with Postmedia from his home in North Carolina, he makes it quite clear that he has grown weary of it. It’s old news and he thinks it’s time to move on and dig deeper into the findings presented in thebook he wrote with former National Post columnist Patricia Pearson about his older sister Theresa Allore’s death. This story and its ramifications, he says, go far beyond one little brother’s grief.
“I appreciate sympathy but we consider this a serious piece of investigative journalism or writing,” says Allore, co-writer of Wish You Were Here: A Murdered Girl, A Brother’s Quest and the Hunt for a Serial Killer. “So far, the response has been ‘A grieving brother’s search for the truth’ and this sort of thing. I’m way past that. In terms of … closure or whatever you want to call it, I made amends with my sister’s death. It’s been 43 years. What I’m talking about is the failure of a justice system that spans across the country. I’d love to discuss that.”
Allore and Pearson’s investigation certainly reveals some startling missteps and shoddy investigative work by several agencies throughout the country. But the biggest bombshell in the book is that they believe they uncovered the brutal crimes of a previously unknown serial killer named Luc Yolande Gregoire. Gregoire died in prison in 2015 after being convicted of only one murder: the 1993 sex slaying of Calgary convenience store worker Lailanie Silva.
But after consulting criminologists, cold-case detectives and witnesses and poring over Corrections Canada and parole board reports, the pair were able to trace Gregoire’s movements from Quebec’s Eastern Townships into Alberta and find compelling evidence that seems to link him to several murders. Allore believes he killed at least five women in Quebec, including his sister. In Calgary, he believes Gregoire killed not only Silva but also Rebecca Boutilier, 20, in early 1993 and Tracey Maunder, 26, in 1992. Both murders have never officially been solved.
“Those are the two that Calgary Police also feel strongly point toward Gregoire,” says Allore, who will join Pearson for an online book launch Oct. 15 organized by Owl’s Nest Books. “But there were many from that era, from 1991 to 1993, known as the Calgary prostitute murders, and I think he is (possibly responsible) for at least another four.”
Allore and Pearson officially began their investigation in 2001. That was when Allore, who had recently moved to North Carolina, contacted Pearson regarding writing about his sister’s death in Quebec. In 1978, Theresa Allore was 19 and studying at Champlain College in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Her brother was 14 and living with his family in Saint John, N.B. In November, Theresa went missing. In April, her body was found a kilometre from Compton, Que., where she was living in an off-campus residence. She was found in her bra and panties and there was no trace of drugs in her system, but police shrugged it off as a drug overdose and refused to investigate further.
John Allore and Pearson had dated in New Brunswick when they were teenagers so she was already familiar with the case. They had gone their separate ways, but by 2001 Pearson had become a renowned journalist and true-crime author. The two collaborated on a National Post series about Theresa’s death. The path to Gregoire began when they consulted criminologist Kim Rossmo. He is a former Vancouver police officer who pioneered a technique called geo-profiling, which maps the local pathways of serial offenders. He was asked to look at a series of unsolved killings, including Theresa’s, in Quebec’s Eastern Township. Rossmo said he believed the deaths were linked. Later, the pair consulted another criminologist, Simon Fraser University’s Eric Beauregard, who had profiled dozens of incarcerated, violent, sexual offenders who had been active in Quebec during that time. They asked him if he knew of anyone whose profile would fit.
“He said ‘Yeah, there’s this one guy I think you should look at and his name is Luc Gregoire,’ ” Allore says. “We realized he had committed this murder in Calgary. So we began to focus on that.”
Allore and Pearson traced Gregoire’s movements to Edmonton, where he was incarcerated for armed robbery, and later to Calgary, where he worked as a roofer. After the murder of Silva, an internal inquiry was conducted by Corrections Canada that tracked Gregoire’s movements in and out of the parole system throughout the 1980s and early 1990s until his arrest for Silva’s murder. Her family later sued the federal government for negligence when it was discovered Gregoire should have been in prison for violating parole when he abducted and murdered the 22-year-old woman.
Two years ago, Pearson went to Calgary to further the investigation, where she received new information from Gregoire’s former landlady who had been a crucial witness in the Silva case. Allore and Pearson would eventually consult with Calgary cold-case detective Ken Carriere about that murder, but also about suspicions of Gregoire’s involvement in other Calgary killings between 1991 and 1993. For Pearson, the Calgary side of the investigation is a “slam dunk.”
“There is no question in my mind that he killed at least three women in Calgary,” she says, adding she is confident the Calgary cases will now be revisited by police.
For Allore, that would certainly be a victory. But he hopes the conversation goes deeper.
“Calgary Police, the RCMP, the Surete du Quebec, the Montreal Police Force, Corrections Canada, parole and all the way up to the justice ministers of Quebec and the minister of public safety and security in Quebec — all of these agencies are what we’re talking about,” he says. “There’s something fundamentally wrong when they say ‘One of the problems we had was that all of Gregoire’s early parole decisions were in French and we don’t speak French.’ I mean, this was the 1990s. I might accept a little of that in the ’70s, but I don’t accept this in the 1990s.”
Allore eventually sent a note to Gregoire in prison, who responded with a vague handwritten letter in which he stated he had nothing to do with Theresa’s death. But it’s a claim Allore doesn’t believe. While he dislikes the word closure, he says he is now confident he knows who was responsible for his sister’s death back in 1978.
“I asked the question to Eric Beauregard, who is an expert on sexual murder and who is an expert on Luc Gregoire because he profiled him. I put the question to him and his response was this: ‘It is statistically improbable that Luc Gregoire did not commit these murders.’ ”
Wish You Were Here: A Murdered Girl, A Brother’s Quest and the Hunt for a Serial Killer. John Allore and Patricia Pearson will hold a virtual book launch organized by Owl’s Nest Books on Oct. 15 and 7 p.m. Visit owlsnestbooks.com
Wednesday, April 29, 1981
It is late evening and 55-year old Germain Derome and his 52-year old partner, Julien Bessette are retiring for bed. There is a knock at the door of their modest Brossard bungalow located in the suburbs along the south shore of Montreal. A young woman identifies herself as a surveyor for Quebec funeral homes. Derome works as the director-general for a chain of funeral parlors. Can she come in? There is a second version of the story where she comes to the door only asking for a glass of water, but leave that aside for the moment. It is 11 o’clock at night.
Julien Bessette leaves the woman and Derome alone in the living room and heads to the bathroom. Derome apparently offers her a glass of water. Then shots are fired. Bessette emerges from the bathroom to discover Derome slumped in a chair. He narrowly escapes being shot himself by throwing a chair at the woman who begins shooting at him. She then shoots their German shepherd, Santa in the ass before escaping into the night.
Germain Derome died an hour later at the local hospital from the two .22 calibre bullets in his back. Bessette, a television actor best known for playing a priest on the soap opera Terre Humaine, suffered a cut to his forehead from splintered wood that shattered when the bullet hit the chair.
“I opened the door for that woman, if you can call her that. I never saw her before. I don’t know if Germain knew her.”
Derome and Bessette were described as good neighbors. Derome had only recently begun work at the funeral parlor chain after being laid off from the shuttered and beloved department store Dupuis Frères. The woman was described as in her late teens or early 20s, about 100 pounds, with short blonde hair.
Police seek blonde as shots kill man
Why was Germain Derome, a soft-spoken funeral home director gunned down in the Brossard home he shared with a well known Quebec actor? Bessette took a lie detective test which cleared him of any suspicion.
For two decades the case went cold. Then in the early 2000s the police forces of Brossard and Longueuil merged. On a whim a low level crime technician decided to submit the finger print from the water glass to the Surete du Quebec and RCMP who had sophisticated analysis software. Immediately they got a match to a case dating back to 1974. In 2002 police arrested 47-year old Christine Lepage, known to police for fraud and theft convictions around the island of Montreal.
Police were hard-pressed to come up with a motive, but they were pretty convinced in this case it wasn’t robbery. At the Longueuil courthouse Lepage was charged with first-degree murder, and plotting to commit murder with a long deceased local hoodlum named Benoit Baillargeon. At her arraignment, police disclosed the even more miraculous detail that Lepage had already confessed to the murder through an elaborate Mr. Big sting operation dubbed “Projet Colleuse”.
We’ll get to the sting operation, but for a moment, let’s focus on the fingerprints. The Gazette described what happened this way:
“In 2000 a Brossard crime-scene technician sent the fingerprints to the Surete du Quebec on a whim.”
On a whim? I’m no Columbo but I’m pretty certain fingerprint analysis has been around for over a century. THAT didn’t need a merger for police to engage in a systematic process of evidence analysis. The technician, Denis Brunet, only came up with the idea when he happened to mention he had some free time and could examine evidence from old cases. To learn that police sat on evidence for nearly 20 years before engaging in one of the most fundamental foundations of police investigation is shocking, but given who we’re dealing with, not too surprising.
So You’re Mr. Big
We’ve talked about Mr. Big operations before. In season 2, episode 9, Beasts of the Forest. Police got Eric Daudelin to confess to the murder of 9-year old Joleil Campeau through a Mr. Big operation.
Basically it goes like this. Police – usually the RCMP – create a made up criminal organization then convince a suspect to join it. The point is to get the suspect to confess to a crime, usually a murder, and usually a cold case. Over time the criminal gang manages to persuade the suspect to divulge information about their criminal history, usually as a prerequisite for being accepted as a member of the organization. This is not unlike actual tactics used by the Hells Angels, recently it played out in the HBO documentary The Vow where NXIVM sex cult members coerced young women to disclose compromising information about themselves.
It’s controversial because of the potential for false confessions and entrapment, and the matter has come before the Supreme Court of Canada. In the Andy Rose case, Rose was eventually acquitted. However in the more recent 2014 Dax Mack case, the conviction of Mack for murdering his roommate was upheld with the Court concluding that the probative value of the Mack confession outweighed any prejudicial effect, adding that undercover officers displayed no abuses of power.
She would do anything for money
(The following is based on reporting from George Kalogerakis and Paul Cherry)
In the matter of Christine Lepage, undercover officers from the RCMP lead her to believe she was being recruited for a high powered criminal organization.
The sting started very simply. In 2002 Lepage was struggling to make ends meet and working as a cook at Nortel Networks in St. Laurent. In a reversal of the Derome murder ruse, undercover police now visited Lepage’s home pretending to sell cosmetics. A female undercover officer left samples with a questionnaire asking Lepage how she liked the products. For her efforts, Lepage was entered into a contest with the grand prize being an all expenses paid weekend at the Chateau Montebello resort, which of course she won.
In April 2002 Lepage travelled to the resort located on the Ottawa river between Quebec and Ontario. After gaining the confidence of several cosmetic sales associates, Lepage confessed that she wasn’t really a cook, but worked as a prostitute for a Montreal escort agency. Lepage is alleged to have stated “… she would do anything for money”.
The seduction started slowly, with Lepage doing money drops and collections around the Montreal area. She moved up to doing what she thought was a stolen jewelry pick up in Vancouver for which she was paid $50,000 – and a job in B.C. always seems to be a stop along the progression in these operations. One time she traveled with a partner to the Motel Sainte Catherine, a real shit-hole outside Kahnawake to collect money from a “biker”. While Lepage waited outside the room police staged a scuffle indoors with plates flying and eventually the front window shattering in full view of Lepage. Her partner then emerged from the room saying he got the money.
The operation culminated when officers posing as crime bosses staged a tony cocktail party at the downtown Montreal Delta Marriott where a “big boss” dubbed “Dan” pretended to be intrigued by Lepage but needed to know more about her before deciding she could be trusted further. Eager to be accepted in the outfit, Christine Lepage then confessed to the murder of Germain Derome, disclosing she had received a contract and murder weapon from her then boyfriend Benoit Baillargeon. Baillargeon paid her for the contract on Derome but did not tell her why Derome had been marked for a contract killing. Police arrested Lepage on the spot and charged her with first-degree murder.
In preliminary court proceedings, defense attorney Gilles Daudelin was having none of it, arguing that the sting operation amounted to provocation and entrapment. He noted that the RCMP had spent thousands of dollars on fine wines, hotel suites and elaborate costumes to trick a woman who had for the most part been a law abiding citizen for over two decades.
While awaiting trail Christine Lepage – who from all appearances had been a contract killer – was granted bail, Justice Lise Cote ruling she posed no threat to society.
The trial, which commenced in 2005, lead to even more troubling information. On the witness stand Denis Brunet, the technician who had submitted the fingerprint sample to the RCMP, revealed that in fact fingerprint samples had been submitted earlier both in 1981 and 1982, and then again every four months thereafter, but the SQ and RCMP failed to make a match. The RCMP later disclosed that they had only checked the fingerprint database for men, even though Brunet explicitly had stated that the suspect was a woman. It wasn’t until 1994 that the RCMP merged their male and female databases.
The point here is had the police made the match – as the could have – back in the 1980s, there would have been no need to spend thousands of taxpayers dollars on an elaborate sting operation, and the only witness to the crime, Derome’s partner Julien Bessette, would have been able to ID Lepage ( Bessette died of throat cancer in 1999).
In the RCMP taped confession played at trial, Lepage stated that she didn’t know the victim, Derome. She didn’t even know his name. “I didn’t want to know his name or anything about him. I just needed to know enough to do my job.”
Sure sounds like a contract killer.
She stated that she couldn’t recall a motive, “usually if a contract is out ( on someone) it’s deserved”. She went on to state that Derome offered her a glass of water:
“I went into the bathroom, put on gloves, came out and shot him twice. I didn’t know someone else was there. I shot at him once, then left.”
Her boyfriend, Benoit Baillargeon was waiting for her outside. She drove off, threw the .22 calibre pistol in the St. Lawrence and made their way back to Montreal. Once home she discarded her clothing and burned them, including a blonde wig she had been wearing.
Christine Lepage took the stand in her defense. She admitted having been at the funeral director’s home the night he was murdered, but not for the reasons presented by the prosecution. Lepage stated she had been hired by Germain Derome as an escort, and had been paid to have sex with him. She went on to say she “did two clients” that night, and had been to Derome’s house before. After offered a glass of water, Julien Bessette entered the room, surprising Derome who apparently did not know he was home. An argument ensued between the two men and Lepage stated that she quickly left. The implication being that it was actually Bessette that shot his partner, Derome, with Bessette conveniently no longer alive to share his version of events.
When asked why nearly twenty years later she would confess to a murder, she said she feared for her life and thought the group of RCMP agents posing as a criminal organization would kill her if she didn’t give up a compromising story.
On March 10, 2005 the jury found 49-year old Christine Lepage guilty of the 1981 murder of Germain Derome. Justice Claude Decarie handed down an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Lepage’s lawyer, Claude Olivier said he intended to file an appeal largely based on the evidence gathered through the Mr. Big sting operation. Indeed the case became one more argument for the abolishment of the controversial RCMP tactic, but then in 2019, a surprise.
At a parole board hearing to determine if she should be granted escorted leaves from prison, Christine Lepage admitted that her statements to police in the undercover police operation were not false statements but the truth: she did in fact carry out the murder for hire of 56-year-old Germain Derome. The decision registry states that she told the parole board that,
“influenced by your spouse at the time, you decided to help him in his crimes. You have said that ( the crimes) weren’t committed for money, even though you received $10,000 after the fact. You have said you ignored your values, notably because of your drug use (at the time of the murder).”
Lepage went on to state she had suffered abuse as a young girl that later generated “murder fantasies” when she was an adult.
The parole board noted that, “recent years have been marked by a change in your openness toward your crimes after initially maintaining your denial at the start of your incarceration.”
Christine Lepage will be eligible for full parole in 2030.
If a contract is out on someone it’s deserved
I shouldn’t feel sympathy for Lepage. I doubt I would have empathy for a man in similar circumstances, abused as a child, under financial and emotional strains and stressors. But I feel some sympathy for Christine Lepage.
I never knew this, but the term cherchez la femme comes from the French novelist, Alexandre Dumas, and in film noir, in detective fiction, is general used to imply that whenever there is a problem – somehow, someway – a woman is to blame.
What was the motive for the contract killing? Lepage says that she never knew. The one person who might know, her boyfriend / spouse Benoit Baillargeon died of a cocaine overdose in the 1990s. Lepage stated, “if a contract is out ( on someone) it’s deserved”. Who would put a contract on a middle-aged funeral director? My guess is debts. Perhaps financial stress. Derome had been let go from Dupuis Frères – Dupuis Frères was a department store chain, as beloved by the Montreal French as Eaton’s was by the English Montrealers. Did he incur debt while unemployed before his employment as a funeral director? For a while I confused Lepage’s partner with a man with the same name, Benoit Baillargeon who was a trainer at the Blue Bonnet horse racing track. Still, did Germain Derome have gambling debts?
I want to thank everyone for their outreach so far in supporting the book launch of Wish You Were Here. But I didn’t want to write a book to check off a bucket list. I wanted to write a book so people would read it. I appreciate the messages of sympathy. Many of you knew Theresa much better than I did, you just didn’t know this story. It’s a shock for you too.
I don’t need a big hug. I am light years beyond “grieving brother’s search for the truth”. What I need is to activate you.
Read this book. If you like it; tell a friend, write a review. If you know a good journalist, tell them too. There are questions raised here about the media and journalism, about the justice system that need more discussion. This isn’t some ’70s artifact. Women and girls went missing off the streets of Quebec in this era just as they did in Western Canada / #MMIWG. As they did again in Quebec in the late ’80s and early ’90s. As they are going missing now in Quebec in the COVID months since March from Longueuil, Saint Jerome, Saint Philippe de Neri, Val d’Or, Laval, La Prairie, Montreal, Granby, Arthabaska, Shawinigan, and Magog. In most cases these disappearances are not being reported in the media. They are the next wave of missing women and girls.
Far from wanting to take a break from these matters, I am happy to engage in a discussion with you, your local newspaper, your book club. It’s too important problem to ignore.