From the dashboard of his car Claude Larouche stalked the 7-year-old girl on her way to school. Larouche parks the car in front of École Philippe Labarre. He then approaches the girl and tells her he is looking for some money he dropped on the sidewalk. It’s an old trick, Guy Croteau used it when he assaulted a girl in St. Jean sur Richelieu. The day she disappeared in 1997 Cedrika Provencher was said to have been seen with a strange man who had lost his puppy.
The girl stops walking and dutifully begins searching the sidewalk for the lost money. Larouche takes advantage and shoves the girl into his Chevrolet Cavalier. When she puts up a struggle Larouche hits the girl on the head to subdue her – shades of Ursula Schulze here.
Eventually the girl escapes. She is able to identify the man by a rosary hanging from his rear view mirror of the Chevy. In June 2005 43-year-old Claude Larouche is sentenced to 40 months in prison for that October 10th, 2003 kidnapping and assault in that Montreal Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood.
By 2007 Claude Larouche is released from prison. In 2009 he will repeat virtually the same scenario, this time with fatal results.
When he was arrested on November 6, 2009 for the first-degree murder of 37-year-old Natasha Cournoyer, Claude Larouche’s neighbors described him as a “nice family guy”.
Larouche worked as a carpenter. He was short and stocky, by 2009, the 47-year-old Larouche was balding. Larouche was living with a woman in an Ahuntsic duplex, Caroline Bastien, and her two teenage boys. He had a criminal record that extended across the province and all the way back to 1984, including Repentigny, Jonquiere, St. Eustache, Chicoutimi, Trois Rivieres, Joliette, and Montreal. He was due in court in February 2010 for theft charges extending from an arrest in Quebec City.
Caroline Bastien was living with Larouche at the time of the kidnapping of the 7-year-old girl. In the 5 years since that trial the details of that case changed. The girl was walking toward a friends house, not school. It was 7 a.m.. She helped him search for the money, he shoved her into the front seat of his car. The girl fled to a nearby house. Larouche chased her but stopped and fled when the resident opened the front door. Larouche was caught, not from the rosary, but because the occupant was able to i.d. his license plate.
Natasha Cournoyer worked for The Correctional Services of Canada. She was last seen alive the evening on October 1st, 2009 when she left her office in Laval and headed for the staff parking lot around 8 p.m..
She was reported missing the following day around 5 p.m.. When police arrived at the corrections office they found Cournoyer’s boyfriend, Michel Trottier, in a panic in the employee parking lot. Cournoyer’s grey Mazda 3 was still there. A crime scene technician noticed odd marks and streaks on the vehicle, suggesting signs of a struggle. Police found discarded articles of women’s clothing in the nearby bushes. Constable Celine Cecile, the first to arrive at the scene, was convinced they’s find Cournoyer’s body in the trunk of her car. All they found was a pair of inline skates.
The investigators begin to focus on the surveillance videos from the corrections facility. Around 6:35 p.m. a van pulls into the parking lot and parks in the rear adjacent to where Cournoyer’s Mazda was parked. Around 8 p.m. Natasha Cournoyer is observed leaving the Place Laval facility. She crosses the empty parking lot, disappearing into the abyss and darkness. Shortly thereafter the headlights of the van suddenly turn on. The van later moved to another spot in the parking lot.
Technicians recover Cournoyer’s identification and credit cards along the embankment of northbound highway 19 leading out of Laval. Detectives seize the registers of two motels overlooking the Laval parking lot, the Motel Lido and the Motel Ideal. Police later discover the name and driver’s license number of Claude Larouche in the register of the Motel Lido. Larouche also wrote down the make and model of his vehicle, a Ford Windstar van.
Police put a trace on Cournoyer’s cellphone. They discover it had been receiving calls and texts at the Motel Lido on October 1st, 2009.
On October 6th, 2009 the body of Natasha Cournoyer is found in a field next to a dirt road in the Montreal east end neighborhood of Pointe aux Trembles. The dirt road lead to a boat launch on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, in a brush-covered area near the intersection of Notre Dame St. E. and 36th Ave. A local resident commented that the road was often used by drug dealers, and that stolen cars were often abandoned there. The resident commented,
“It’s like hell, a real garbage dump. I’m not surprised at all that a dead body was found there.”
Later the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Natasha Counroyer’s body, Andre Bourgault determined that she died of strangulation, and that a series of marks on her neck were signs that she struggled and tried to pull the killer’s hands off her neck before she died. She also suffered eight or nine impacts to her head made by a blunt object or surface. Bourgault finds evidence that Cournoyer’s wrists and ankles had been bound, and that linear marks stretching from both ends of her mouth were signs she had been gagged.
On October 16th, 10 days after Cournoyer’s body was discovered, police bring Claude Larouche in for questioning. He denied any involvement in Cournoyer’s disappearance and death.
At a second meeting at Larouche’s home at 1490 Prieur Ste. E. in Ahuntsic he tells police he didn’t know Cournoyer except for what he read in the newspapers. Larouche admits that often used the Motel Lido, as well as one other in Laval, because he found them affordable, but couldn’t recall if he stayed at the Lido on October 1st. By now police already know that blood found in the Lido Motel room, and in Larouche’s Windstar van match Cournoyer’s DNA.
On November 6th, 2009 Claude Larouche is arrested and charged for the first-degree murder of Natasha Cournoyer.
At his trial in the Spring of 2011, Larouche admits to the killing, but claims it was an accident. In Larouche’s version of events he was waiting for a drug dealer in the corrections facility parking lot on October 1st, 2009 when suddenly Cournoyer appeared and ended up in his van:
“She hit me and got in the van… I don’t know why. Maybe she fell… 50 per cent I put her in and 50 per cent, she got in herself.”
Larouche continued, claiming Cournoyer agreed to go with him to the Motel Lido. Once there Larouche claimed she showed him her breasts, removed her pants and said she would give him a blowjob if they could leave right after. Larouche had consumed large amounts of crack and cocaine, and continued to do so in the Motel room, which he had rented for $45 for the night. After the blowjob Larouche claimed that Cournoyer threw her shoe at him. A struggled ensued, and they both found themselves on the floor. Larouche continued to the jury,
“I had both hands around her neck”
Larouche then claimed he cleaned up the blood, cleaned up the room, put Cournoyer’s body in his van and drove back to his home in Ahuntsic.
The next morning, when Larouche opened the van door and saw Cournoyer’s body sprawled out is the back of the van covered with the motel bedspread, he was surprised,
“Tabernacle, she didn’t leave!”
Larouche then drove to the boat launch location in Pointe aux Trembles, dumped the body and disposed of the bedspread. Returning to Ahuntsic, he cut up all of Cournoyer’s credit cards, and threw them out his van window as he drove.
Now, in an already bizarre tale, this next part is truly surreal. Larouche told the jury he returned to the dump site the next day to cover Cournoyer’s body with a blanket because he was afraid she would freeze. He returned two days later on October 4th to remove the blanket. At the beginning of the day’s testimony, Larouche’s lawyer, Richard Rougeau told the jury that his client never meant to harm or kill Natasha Cournoyer.
As the trial continued, the prosecution offered a very different version of events. Claude Larouche was on the hunt the night of October 1st, 2009, but the hunting ground wasn’t the parking lot of Corrections Canada, but a bike path that ran adjacent to the rear of the lot. A man walking a dog testified that he observed a man who was stalking a female jogger approximately one hour before Cournoyer exited her office. The man quickly disappeared when he spotted the witness with his dog. Natasha Cournoyer became Claude Larouche’s Plan B.
In late June 2011, Claude Larouche is convicted of the First Degree murder of Cournoyer. Through the course of the trial it is revealed that Larouche attempted to murder an escort in a Montreal motel just weeks after Cournoyer’s death, and that police suspect him in the unsolved murders of three other women, one of the cases dating back to the early 1990s.
Which brings us back, full circle to Melanie Cabay, the unsolved murder in Ahuntsic from 1994. This is a transcript of an email I received in late November 2009, just weeks after Claude Larouche was arrested for Cournoyer’s murder:
“My story is complicated and mixed with weird synchronicities that I don’t feel comfortable explaining to others, especially the police.
When I was 19 years old, I lived in Ahuntsic with my parents. A quiet residential area that felt unsafe to me, as a teenage girl (there were a lot of weirdos roaming around). One night after celebrating St-Jean Baptiste day at my brother’s place, Friday, June 24, 1994, I came back home late. My parents were gone for the weekend. As I went up the front stairs of the house, I saw a man standing about 20 feet from me, in a park entrance (behind some bushes and small trees), right beside my house. At first I noticed he was barefoot and only wearing something resembling a diaper (stay with me here). He had a “crew cut” and the first thought that came to mind was that it was some sort of student initiation. But I quickly noticed he was alone and didn’t look like a student. As I was trying to comprehend what I was seeing, he started undoing what he was wearing while staring at me. I hurriedly opened the door and got inside. I ran up the stairs and I went straight to the window to see if he was there, but he was gone.
He really gave me the creeps. That night I slept with a knife under my pillow.
The next day, my brother called me to tell me that the girlfriend of his friend’s brother had disappeared. She had left her boyfriend’s house, a block away from my parent’s, two night before, Wednesday, June 22nd, and never came home. It was Mélanie Cabay. I then told him about the man I had seen and how bizarre the scene was.
Posters of Mélanie were put up everywhere in the city and my neighbour told me that the night of her disappearance she saw a girl resembling Mélanie sitting on a bench in that same park entrance (I hadn’t told her about what I had seen).
Two weeks later Mélanie’s body was found in Mascouche. A woman then went to the police to report that she had been attacked in the same area where Mélanie’s body was found, by a man who had hired her services as a prostitute. She said she thought the guy was going to kill her. She made a composite picture of the man that was published in the papers. The resemblance with the man I had seen was striking.
Eventually, about a month later, the police came to the neighborhood, door to door to ask for information about Mélanie’s disappearance. I told them what I had seen, they left with my copy of the composite picture of the man.
As you may have guessed by now, the man looked a lot like Claude Larouche.
I still have a composite picture I made 4 years later with a computer software, of the man I had seen that night. As I compare it with Larouche’s picture, again the resemblance is striking.
Now I wonder if I should tell the police. I called Mélanie’s mother a week ago but she didn’t call me back. I haven’t talked to her in 10 years and I don’t want to insist considering the pain she has been through. I’m reluctant to call the police because there are events that happened ‘around’ Mélanie’s disappearance and is not directly connected. You know how bad the police are about making “links” especially if they seem “farfetched”. But I think they should check out a possible link between Larouche and Mélanie’s murder.
Like Nathasha Cournoyer, Mélanie had been hit on the head and was strangled. She was found naked with only her socks on. So I guess I’m asking for your advice as to what I should do? Should I show the composite picture I made to the police? (If you’d like to see it, I can send it to you). Or should I just assume Mélanie’s mother will (if she didn’t already) contact the police to make sure they look into a possible link between Larouche and her daughter’s murder? “
The first matter we should address is Larouche’s location in the summer of 1994. In April 1993 he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman he knew. He was sentenced to a one year prison term and two years of probation. Given time served, etc… it is conceivable that Larouche was released into the community and serving probation in May of 1994, one month prior to Melanie Cabay’s disappearance.
We already know that Larouche lived in Ahuntsic at the time of his 2009 arrest, at 1490 Prieur Ste. east. This location is about 9 blocks from the north face of Ahuntsic park, the same park where Cabay would have walked along the park side on her way to the bus stop in 1994. That’s still a long way in distance. It’s an even longer distance in years, 15 years from 1994 to 2009.
But wait. Larouche lived in a lot of places in the decades leading up to his 2009 arrest; St Eustache, Jonquiere, Repentigny, and… even a second address in Ahuntsic.
In 2000 Claude Larouche was living at 10458 rue Peloquin, this is one block from Ahuntsic park, two blocks from Rachel’s stalking event at that home on rue Fleury. The stalking event is exactly one block from where Cabay borrowed the grey sweater from the former boyfriend, Fleury and Basile Routhier.
So was this Claude Larouche? Is Cabay and Rachel some sort of double event where Larouche did not get the type of gratification he expected from Cabay, and went right back on the hunt two nights later on the Ste Jean Baptist holiday?
Click here to visit the interactive map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1J_3WrD0X_IyGkM29Kqq_v8MyExFRL46V&ll=45.55800082967871%2C-73.66598662551883&z=16
There are problems with this theory. Rachel’s composite does look like Larouche, but the 2009 Larouche, what did he look like 15 years earlier in 1994? Did he look the same? Those squinty eyes with the close cropped hair?
Also recall that there was a second composite made in the Melanie Cabay affaire, the picture drawn of the attacker from the Cabay Mascouche dump site, this does not look like Larouche. Or does it? It doesn’t look like 2009 Larouche, but again, what did he look like in 1994? Some have said that if you cut the hair and shave the moustache, you get Larouche: inset eyes, broad jaw.
Maybe, maybe not. Would Larouche have violated his parole and committed the brazen abduction of Melanie Cabay? Back then to the Rachel composite; so did Larouche cut his hair, shave his moustache the day after killing Cabay? Maybe. Maybe that’s exactly what he did. Difficult to say.
Some might say the locations are too close. You don’t hunt that close to where you live. To which I say? It depends. The problem always is making sweeping generalizations based on criminal theory then using them as a catch-all for every occasion, while ignoring at the same time that we are talking about people here, with behaviors, and behavior is unpredictable. If you could predict economics based on behavior ( and there are those who say you can, they make lots of money from consulting) we’d all be millionaires. But we’re not. Because… behavior is unpredictable. Sometimes people do the opposite of what we think they will do. Sometimes people improvise.
And recall the 1988 disappearance of Melanie Temperton, last registered at the Metro Motel, a block and a half from Ahuntsic park. A motel used by escorts, very similar to the ones frequently used by Larouche. Claude Larouche had a long history of taking escorts to cheap motels and abusing them. His psychiatrist described him as “a sadist who likes inflicting pain.” Did then 27-year-old Claude Larouche abduct Melanie Temperton, using an M.O. similar to the Natasha Cournoyer murder? Did he also abduct Melanie Cabay 6 years later, pushed her in his van, then driving her to the Metro motel, before disposing of her body north of Montreal in Mascouche?
Larouche was a carpenter. Cabay’s body was found beneath a pile of detritus, construction materials… This is important. If you’re a construction worker, and your working a job, and the job ends… you’re asked to get rid of a bunch of surplus shit. So you dump it in the woods. Then later you return to those woods. Because that’s where you dump shit? So you dumb a body there. Because it’s familiar. Because it’s what you know. Repigney?
You have to believe Quebec police have considered all this. And if any of it were true, they would have acted. But with all cases it comes down to the burden of proof. In the case of Temperton, there is no body. Melanie Temperton was never seen again. With Cabay, you would have to believe there was dna, and that police tested that dna against Larouche. Unless there was no dna, or they destroyed the dna, or they somehow contaminated it.
So that would leave an eye witness or Larouche’s confession. Even with a life sentence, even with the declaration of dangerous offender, there is always the chance of rehabilitation and release. I highly doubt Claude Larouche would admit to anything in the affair of Melanie Cabay.
Some things to ponder as we observe the 25 anniversary of Melanie Cabay’s unsolved murder.
From her high school graduation photo Melanie Cabay looks tall and statuesque, maybe even a bit stiff and stuffy. She wasn’t. Cabay stood 5 feet tall, barely weighed 100 pounds. If you look at candid photos of her, the picture changes. She appears casual, confident, mischievous.
Melanie was independent. On the early morning of her disappearance – June 22nd, 1994 – she was at a friends watching a Robert Altman movie. Around 1:45 a.m. she left with a former boyfriend. At the corner of rue Fleury and Basile Routhier, along the eastern face of park Ahuntsic, she asks for his sweater – it was cold that June morning – before walking south west to catch a late night bus at the corner of Fleury and Berri back to her mother’s place. In July she planned to move in with her father in Pointe Aux Trembles. She was going to travel with a friend to Virginia that summer. She had purchased tickets to the July Montreal jazz festival.
“Melanie is 19 years old,” said her father, Phillipe Cabay, “She could go where she wanted whenever she wanted.”
Standing there at the bus stop at Berri and Fleury, across from Ahuntsic park, in her Yes t-shirt and former bo’s grey sweater, at age 19, she was every inch a young 1990s version of Theresa Allore – star voyager, the last of the independents.
Melanie Cabay was found 2 weeks later in a wooded area by an off-road motorcyclist near Mascouche, about 25 kilometres northeast of Montreal. She was found naked, the body too decomposed to make a positive identification on a Tuesday afternoon, July 5th, 1994. The motorcyclist, Michel Chartier said he was on a dirt road when he detected a foul odor around 1 p.m. The smell lead him to a pile of roofing shingles.
“I noticed a white piece of material sticking out from under a pile and i thought it might be a dog or a big raccoon.”
He lifted up the shingles with a stick and discovered a body lying face down, clad only in a pair of white socks. The body was found about half a kilometre from a road near highway 640 at Montée Dumais, and surrounded by other construction materials like bricks and wood.
Cabay was strangled and had been struck on the head with an object. Due to the state of decomposition, it was not possible to determine whether she had been sexually assaulted.
Later it is reported that Mascouche police are investigating another assault in the area. On June 23, the day after Cabay disappeared, a man sexually assaulted a Montreal woman at the same location. The woman got a lift from a man headed toward Mascouche around 11:30 p.m. A verbal fight ensued and the man abandoned her on the highway. She tried to hitchhike home, but was picked up by a second man. He took her to the same wooded area where Cabay was found and sexually assaulted her. It is noted that this is an area in Mascouche known as a “lovers lane”.
The woman provided a detailed description of her assailant and the police drew up a sketch. The man was described as between 30 and 40 years old, standing 5’7″ and weighing between 200 and 240 pounds. He had blue-green eyes, medium length light brown hair and big hands with short fingers:
On September 21, 1988 Melanie Temperton went to visit a friend in Ahuntsic. She vanished and has not been seen since. Melanie – who was 20 at the time and had just started work as a secretary – had called home to say she was spending the night at her friend’s apartment.
When Melanie failed to show us the next night at the family’s home in St. Laurent, a neighboring community near Cartierville, her mother, Gwen Temperton called the police . In some accounts she was supposed to return to the family’s summer cottage in Mascouche, about 10 minutes from where Cabay’s body was found. The family sometimes stayed here, though in some seasons they rented the place out for extended periods.
It was only later that the family learned that on the night she disappeared Melanie didn’t stay with her friend, but at the Metro Motel at 9925 rue Lajeanesse in Ahunsic, two blocks from the bus stop where Melanie Cabay was last seen. The Metro was known as the sort of place where prostitutes frequented with clients. This is not to suggest Melanie Temperton fell into prostitution, she just may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her mother always suspected Melanie’s ex-boyfriend, though there has always been something in Gwen’s retelling of the events over the years to suggest she was holding back something, and not appearing completely forthcoming.
Go here to view an interactive map of the Cabay / Temperton geographic points: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1DkeL1T9nL-Nya7fe4aAjXK-H8Zc3subZ&ll=45.554364403115315%2C-73.6625844765324&z=17
On July 20th, a “concerned Montrealer” offers a $15,000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murder of Melanie Cabay.
On July 27th another reward notice is published, this time in the amount of $10,000. It’s not known why the amount was reduced, nevertheless the poster states that the reward expires December 31, 1994.
The same day, The Montreal Gazette publishes an article titled, “Rewards don’t help nab murder suspects”
Though I agree with the sentiment, I question the timing of the article, at the peak of when public assistance could have benefited the case.
“It’s becoming a familiar pattern. A young woman or girl is killed, her body found a few weeks later by the police. Then reward posters spring up on telephone poles across the city.”
Now stop there for a moment, because I think any community should begin to question itself at the complacency of such a statement. In my community, if such a thing were to happen, it would not be familiar, it would be jarring and disturbing. But this has been the norm in Montreal for at least half a century. The article continues,
“But a Montreal Urban Community police homicide detective and a Montreal criminologist say they doubt the reward system works in cases of sex slayings or killings of young woman and girls.”
The article goes on to say that in the case of, say bank robberies, reward posters are libel to work because their are witnesses. Also, a robber might likely boast of their holdup to a friend or someone in a bar. Not so with a sexual murderer who is by nature introverted. Their crime stems from a personal pathology where it is unlikely they would brag about it at the local tavern. The exception might be a gang member, where members share a similar pathology, but it would be rare where a loner would divulge the details of such a crime.
The article mentions the offering of rewards by the Sun Youth organization for information leading to arrests in the cases of Melanie Cabay, Marie-Chantal Desjardins (who went missing and was found murdered in Sainte Therese at this time) , Tara Manning (murdered in her home earlier that year). Sun Youth, criminologists and the police acknowledged it was rare for rewards to lead to arrests in such cases.
While I admit it is unlikely for a sex killer to boast and brag, it is still possible for a concerned citizen to respond with critical information. They might observe a neighbor with odd proclivities. Perhaps strange odors emanating from an adjacent apartment. If you tell the public rewards don’t work, the message they will receive is, ” why bother to engage in the matter?”
I think by this point in the process – three weeks into the investigation the Cabay family probably felt that the forces that were supposed to help were working against them. If the english press wasn’t helping matters, neither was the french media.
I often praise Allo Police for their coverage in this era, but I should clarify this praise has nothing they deliberately did or intended on behalf of victims. In taking a very pro law enforcement stance in their coverage of crimes, we are grateful in retrospect of the attention to detail in the documentation of these crimes. Allo Police often provide the names of investigators, of medical legal professionals, of others involved at the time in the Quebec justice system. They provided precise addresses – intrusive at the time to publish the addresses of families – but very helpful 30 to 40 years later in trying to establish a geographic imprint of criminology / victimology.
But to grasp the full impact of their indifference to the families and friends of victims, you need go no further than to the stories published when Cabay went missing, and later found.
On July 10th, Allo Police publishes an in depth story on the disappearance of Melanie Cabay, “Disparition Fort Mysterieuse”. At the top of the article are three photo booth pictures of Melanie. At the bottom of the page? Two advertisements for phone sex line services, one, highly pornographic:
Imagine how Melanie’s family felt seeing such a thing. Imagine the subliminal message it sent to readers: there’s something unseemly about sex workers, therefore there’s also something inappropriate about Melanie Cabay. Now take a look at the July 17th edition of Allo Police:
The headline reads, “Naked, face down on the ground!” We see a photo of Melanie’s mother holding a picture of her daughter with the heading, “She believed her daughter was alive right up to the last minute.” Beneath the headline? It’s a picture of a topless woman in a corset, another ad for phone sex line – 514-976-4400.
Allo Police is a useful tool today, never forget in it’s day Allo Police typified the sort of yellow journalism found in American publications like William Randolph Hearst’s New York World, the clickbait of its era.
A real #MeToo moment
On Saturday September 17th 1994, 1,000 women take to Montreal’s downtown streets in the 14th annual Take Back The Night march. The marchers formed a quarter-mile stream, waving banners and chanting slogans to protest violence against women.
A few weeks ago we talked a little about the Chantal Brochu case, and the Quebec serial killers Serge Archambault and Agostino Ferreira. It’s important to remember that all of this was playing out in within the contexts of these other events.
The crowd marched with placards of Brochu, and Melanie Cabay, Marie Chantal Desjardins and Tara Manning.
“Tonight, with the crowd, we will feel safe walking in the streets and I just wished it felt like this the other 364-days of the year,” said Michelle Issa who had participated in the event for the prior 8 years.
March organizer Mary Ann Davis added, “We are people who are fed up with not being able to go out at night to the corner store without being afraid of being sexually or physically abused.”
Early December, a glimmer of hope for some of the murdered young women. Robert Leblanc had been charged with the murder of Chantal Brochu, an arrest was imminent in the Tara Manning case.
Late December, more bad news. Reports of three missing women in the Montreal area; Angelique Desjardins, Nancy Dufour, and Sonia Fitzack.
On the first anniversary of the discovery of Melanie Cabay’s remains people march to denounce violence. The event is repeated a year later when 130 march in silent protest. Joining Melanie’s mother, Mireille is the family of 9-year-old Joleil Campeau, murdered in Laval the previous summer. A fundraising car wash is held to raise money for a non profit foundation in Melanie’s honor to support families and friends of victims of violence, an early precursor of Quebec’s AFPAD foundation.
By July 1997 the marches are becoming a familiar, if diminishing pattern. 50 people gather in Ahuntsic parc to remember Melanie Cabay. By the end of the decade the event would all but cease, taken up in the early 2000s by some other march remembering some other woman who was the victim of violence.
Women’s March, January, 2019: Marchers gathered at Place Émilie Gamelin in the bitter cold as they did in Berlin, Washington, New York, Los Angeles and beyond: https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-womens-march-to-be-held-downtown-saturday
Music for the episode: Quite simply, this is what Melanie Cabay would have heard had she lived and attended the 1994 Montreal Jazz Festival. The line up from June 30th through July 8th included Cassandra Wilson, Charlie Haden, Kind Sunny Ade, Holly Cole, Dr. John, Joshua Redman.
Next time, Who Killed Melanie Cabay?
(Translation by John Allore)
A secret fund escaping accountability, which even paid for the septic tank at the residence of a Quebec premier. A former director of the intelligence demoted who threatened to vent disturbing secrets in a letter addressed to Jean Charest. And a shredding session worthy of a spy novel in the head of the staff’s bathroom. The recent trial of three senior officers of the Sûreté du Québec has uncovered several embarrassing secrets of the national police.
The surprise box of secret expenses
They have been used over the years to pay money to informants or to rent premises to spy on criminals. Escaping all accountability, the SQ’s Secret Operating Expenses (DSO) also served more amazing purposes … like paying for the emptying of the septic tank at Premier Bernard Landry’s residence.
Called DSO in SQ jargon, these secret expenditures, described as indispensable tools for “not compromising the effectiveness of the police operation,” are currently at the heart of a criminal trial against three former senior officers accused of to be used to improve their pensions.
Ex-executives Alfred Tremblay and Steven Chabot acknowledge having benefited from it, but deny any criminal intent in their use, just like the former managing director Richard Deschesnes, who authorized them. The court has not yet ruled on this matter. The verdict is expected in the fall.
Their testimonies, as well as the documents made public in this trial, shed light on the mechanics of these ultra-discretionary disbursements.
1500 times a year
Good year, bad year, about 1500 of these DSO funds were authorized by the SQ. They could reach up to $ 100,000 each but escaped any provincial level of control. Neither the Treasury Board, nor the Public Administration Commission, nor parliamentarians were aware of the nature of these expenditures, nor did they have access to the associated documents that supported them. Even the accounting department of the SQ was not aware of it. Since May 2000, the SQ did not even have to authorize the maximum level of secret expenses allowed.
No government department or agency had such latitude.
Since their inception in 1975, DSOs have been used both to pay overtime to municipal police forces providing troops for the fight against bikers, and to purchase floppy disk boxes for the computer needs of a police officer.
But over the years, many inappropriate uses have been made, either by “desire to avoid delays”, “to avoid facing a refusal” or “hide the expense easily,” says the Crown in its written argument. An internal report commissioned by the SQ found a “general lack of rigor” and a “laxity in place for a number of years” in their management.
For example, the DSOs were used to purchase SQ-style pins for participants at an annual biker conference in 1995, or to pay fees to the College of Psychologists for certain professionals, because the administration refused to reimburse SQ employees.
The evidence shows that they were also used to pay for golf tournaments, flowers, alcoholic beverages, a crate of beer, cigarettes, a meal at the Hélène-de-Champlain restaurant and the purchase of a technical manual for a kayak and an air conditioner. DSOs were also used to commission surveys conducted by a major marketing firm and to pay advisory fees for the transformation of heritage buildings, alarm system fees for dignitaries, and even for subscriptions to the daily newspapers La Presse and Le Soleil.
The septic tank
In 2001, a DSO of $ 4,601 was used to pay part of the installation of a “750 gallons concrete septic tank” at the personal residence of Premier Bernard Landry in Verchères. The expense, approved by Robert Lafrenière while he was director of the Directorate for the Protection of Persons of the SQ, was justified during the trial by the fact that the Primier’s bodyguards permanently occupied a “local faction” of his residence and used the septic tank. Other secret expenses were used to pay for “supreme handkerchiefs”, paper towels and soap necessary for the maintenance of the warden’s quarters at the same residence.
One of the trial’s co-defendants, Alfred Tremblay, questioned the propriety of another covert expenditure that would have been used to empty the septic tank, in a letter he sent to Public Safety Minister Jacques Dupuis in 2009:
“Some people will find it normal to use the secret expenses of an organization to pay for the emptying of the septic tank of a political figure, while for others the gesture is immoral. It’s all about perception, “he wrote.
This expense should have been “spent differently”, he later said in his testimony.
This writing is at the heart of the evidence presented in court. It is part of a batch of letters containing a lot of information that Mr. Tremblay sent at the time to Premier Jean Charest, his Minister of Public Safety and Richard Deschesnes, Director General of the SQ from May 2008. Alfred Tremblay terminated this correspondence after negotiating with management a “secret agreement” of termination of employment, granting him $ 79,877 from the secret spending fund, according to the Crown.
Neither the Sûreté du Québec nor the office of the Minister of Public Security wanted to comment on the news, citing the ongoing trial. At most, we were informed that the Department of Public Safety has since appointed an auditor to ensure better accountability. During the trial, former Director General Martin Prud’homme stated that he revised the procedures during his tenure.
Disappearance of two “clandestine” agreements
In the form of a cash advance to the police, these extraordinary expenses had to be summarized at the time in a form that the investigators know as “042-042”. The only complete carbon copy of this form that the SQ kept was kept locked in a “secure and locked binder” in the exhibit room at SQ headquarters on Parthenais Street. Only one person, called “controller”, had access at the time.
From 2000 to 2012, of all the DSOs authorized by the SQ, only two were never found in the controller’s archives. These are the payments made to the accused Steven Chabot ($167,931) and Alfred Tremblay ($79,877), as part of what the Crown describes as “clandestine agreements” negotiated in a “circle of convenience” by which undue advantages were granted to certain former SQ executives “.
The fall of a former intelligence boss
Alfred Tremblay had a successful career at the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). Appointed director of investigations and security intelligence in 1996, he had access to the most delicate secrets of the state. As such, it was he who investigated the probity of people approached for the judiciary or positions of senior officials.
Alfred Tremblay also played a key role during the 2001 Summit of the Americas, preparing for 13 months the security component of the event, alongside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). This summit brought together in Quebec City heads of state from some thirty countries, including US President George W. Bush.
But at the beginning of 2009, when he took the role of Chief Inspector (third rank in the SQ) at the Montérégie Regional Office of Investigation, Alfred Tremblay suffered a demotion. He learned of it on his return from sick leave.
The reprimands that are made to him – internal tensions within his team, difficulties of management – are rather vague.
Alfred Tremblay later acknowledged in a letter to Public Safety Minister Jacques Dupuis that “significant management challenges” to his team had come forward: “We have been able to see that some of our members were found in booths of some dancers’ clubs on their hours of work “and others bought“ alcoholic beverages at the corner store for consumption at work “and participated in” organized card games “during their shifts. Two shop stewards were sanctioned for these discrepancies.
Alfred Tremblay was then transferred to a much lower position as District Commander’s Advisor at the Candiac Highway Patrol. His mandate is vague. Claiming to be the victim of a “huge prejudice” which makes him look like a “vulgar thug who has committed serious acts“, he complains to his professional association. He complained that he had been left in an empty office, where he did not have access to a printer or a private telephone line. He complained that he was provided with an old company vehicle with “a poorly lit interior”.
“At this rate, I will not stay long. I think I’ll goo see a doctor to have me assigned to the CSST given this constant harassment. Or I’ll speak to the director or even the minister to stop these unfair practices that continue to destroy me with these people I’ve been around, “he wrote.
In the following months, Tremblay protests his transfer and files a complaint for psychological harassment. The director general of the police force, Richard Deschesnes, fearing that the situation would “degenerate and grow”, responded by assuring him that he was handling his complaint.
“Mr. Deschesnes wanted to prevent the case from being litigated, that many senior SQ officers would be called to testify in court. He was of the opinion that the SQ would not come out “with congratulations,” write the lawyers of the Director General in their testimony.
Alfred Tremblay nevertheless began a correspondence that contained information that “may be embarrassing, even compromising, for the general direction of the SQ and the government in place,” according to Crown filings.
Infiltrate “all layers of society”
On September 21, 2009, dissatisfied with the staff’s response to his complaint, Tremblay wrote his first letter to the Minister of Public Safety in which he called for an external investigation into his case. Alfred Tremblay says he has, throughout his career, accepted “to accomplish certain missions that went against [his] personal values”.
“On behalf of the Sûreté du Québec, I have agreed to infiltrate all layers of our democratic society, such as unions, lobby groups, religious sect, certain political groups, the Aboriginal communities of Quebec, and so on“, he writes.
Later, during the trial, he explains: “We do infiltration, we’ve always done, and I guess I can not say today, but maybe we still do, but still, it’s the bread and butter of these people [the security intelligence service]. “
In his letter to Minister Dupuis, he adds: “During my career, I have repeatedly informed the Sûreté du Québec staff of the commission of criminal acts. This is particularly true in Aboriginal communities where, by way of example, our undercover agents had purchased automatic weapons directly from certain suppliers inside the reserves, without any police intervention being carried out in the area. the goal of neutralizing these crimes. “
These facts, he explained during the trial, go back to 1996 and 1997. “Inaction and decisions not to follow suit went against my personal values,” writes Alfred Tremblay.
Letters to Jean Charest
In October and November, Alfred Tremblay wrote two letters to Premier Jean Charest to tell him about his situation. In one of them, he claims to have been “repeatedly witness to voluntary blindness” on the part of the SQ staff in the face of sensitive issues affecting politicians.
“I have seen multiple requests for information from some senior officers on sensitive cases involving high-profile political figures connected to prostitution rings or the relationship between criminal biker groups and certain members of the National Assembly as well as some very thorny issues related to state security.” – From the letter from Alfred Tremblay to Premier Jean Charest
At the trial, Alfred Tremblay explained that investigations of this kind were frequent, but will not provide more details. “For years, my bread and butter was informing the government” of this kind of information, he testified. “Every day, I had requests. We answered, there were encrypted networks, there are special communications. So, that was it. That was my mission to the Sûreté du Québec. “
The trial also showed that Alfred Tremblay kept a record of confidential information collected at his office, which the Crown claims he kept “seeking to obtain advantage”.
From the beginning of Alfred Tremblay’s correspondence with the Premier, and his Minister of Public Security, the SQ’s internal affairs department was involved in the file.
The director at the time, Jocelyn Latulippe, obtained a legal opinion from an external firm which concluded that there was serious disciplinary misconduct. “Mr. Tremblay has betrayed his oath of secrecy by disclosing confidential information acquired in the exercise of his duties, without being duly authorized,” says lawyer Ariane Pasquier, who wrote the opinion.
“Given the content and tone employed by Mr. Tremblay” in these letters, “we recommend he be disciplined”. Mr. Pasquier adds that Mr. Tremblay attempted to “undermine the credibility of the Sûreté” and “to question the integrity of the organization”.
At the trial, however, Chief Executive Officer Richard Deschesnes said the investigation into Alfred Tremblay’s allegations did not go further. “Mr. Latulippe [has] checked [and informed me] that there is nothing criminal. “
As for the allegations made by Mr. Tremblay of willful blindness, infiltration and morally questionable acts, it is impossible to know whether they have been the subject of further examination. Contacted by La Presse, the communications department of the Sûreté du Québec did not want to comment, nor did the cabinet of the Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, invoking the trial still being in progress.
“We had the impression that it was more of a blackmail on his part,” summed up the boss of internal affairs, Jocelyn Latulippe, in a sworn affidavit on file.
In his written argument, the Crown believes that Alfred Tremblay has “no credibility, both on the periphery and the elements that are at the heart of the case.” “He has been lying shamelessly and repeatedly in court,” say prosecutors Antoine Piché and Pascal Grimard.
Alfred Tremblay’s lawyers, however, urge the court to be cautious in assessing credibility. The letters he wrote “are private” and “do not involve any threat or demand for money, or anything other than the frustration of a fallen policeman,” they point out.
A “strange denouement”
The last letter from Alfred Tremblay to Jean Charest, which was first sent to the staff, was never sent to the Premier. On November 25, 2009, the Director of Internal Affairs informed Alfred Tremblay that his mailing would violate his oath of allegiance and discretion.
Two weeks later, however, Alfred Tremblay’s correspondance has “a strange and surprising outcome,” says the Crown in its argument. SQ Deputy Director General Steven Chabot summons Alfred Tremblay to a restaurant. “He wants to discuss with me the letter I sent to Jean Charest, there is a line in the letter that is problematic,” wrote Alfred Tremblay in his electronic diary, which was filed in evidence.
In the days following this meeting, the two police officers negotiate and conclude a termination agreement for Alfred Tremblay. It provides for the payment of $79,877 in return for his retirement. The money will come from the secret operating expenses fund (DSO). According to the Crown, Mr. Tremblay did not declare it to the tax department.
Driven to retirement by a reorganization of the staff, Steven Chabot negotiates for himself a similar retirement agreement, by which he receives $167,931 from the secret fund. In his argument, Mr. Chabot asserts that this agreement, concluded “as indemnities for damages recognized by the SQ”, was legal and negotiated in good faith.
Without the vigilance of SQ accountant Denis Rivest and other police officers and civilian employees, traces of these agreements may never have been found. Suspecting that they were severance pay rather than secret expenses, the latter kept copies of the forms at home.
“The only time in his career at the SQ that Rivest doubted DSO, and brought copies back to his home,” says the Crown in his argument.
The shredders of the estate
It’s getting late, October 10, 2012. The 11th floor of the headquarters of the Sûreté du Québec is practically deserted. Only three people are there: the former director general Richard Deschesnes, who was fired the day before by the government, his administrative assistant and his bodyguard.
The atmosphere is sad. Replaced without notice by Mario Laprise, Richard Deschesnes picked up his personal belongings earlier: photos, notes, medals he had received, plants, which he and his assistant put in brown boxes with the Quebec logo of the fleur de lis. The bodyguard, Stéphane Desrochers, helps him down to his car parked in the basement, a black leather briefcase in hand.
At the middle of the staff floor, from a small printing room right in front of the Director General’s office comes the humming of a shredder.
Administrative Assistant Danielle Bouchard is busy destroying a stack of documents that Richard Deschesnes has sorted out of his archives and given to him in a recycling bin.
The boss is in the “vault”, the director general’s archive room, located right next to his office. Locked electronically and monitored by an alarm system, it contains many ultra-confidential documents. Only the DG and she have the code to access it.
In a small bathroom adjacent to the “vault” is another smaller shredder, which was installed right next to the sink. But Ms. Bouchard does not witness what happens there.
“Anyway, I would not have been in the … in the DG’s bathroom,” she will later testify during the trial.
The bodyguard is also put to use. Richard Deschesnes gives him a “package of documents” six or seven centimeters thick. “He asked me that I take the documents and shred them,” the bodyguard said in court. He will leave the office “closer to midnight” than “seven in the evening,” he recalls.
Neither the bodyguard nor the assistant have detailed memories of the documents they destroyed during the evening. But the assistant, Danielle Bouchard, remembers having shredded a “big binder” containing a very precise file of which there were several duplicates: that of Richard St-Denis.
Former deputy director of criminal investigations who retired in 2006 after filing a complaint for constructive dismissal and psychological harassment, Richard St-Denis is part of what senior management calls the “red files”, senior officers with whom ‘we wanted to break the employment relationship’ since they no longer matched the management model of management ‘. According to the Crown, management negotiated with them, “in the greatest secrecy and without the knowledge of any other intervenor“, agreements providing for amounts from the general expenses of the SQ (rather than secret expenses).
The parties agree that documents dealing with six similar “red files” should in principle be in the “vault” of the Director General. They have never been found there.
The secret spending agreements confirming the payment of $79,877 and $167,931 to the accused Alfred Tremblay and Steven Chabot were also to be kept there. They “have never been found either,” says the Crown in its argument.
The alarm system log however reveals that “Richard Deschesnes has accessed it every time the documents relating to the agreements of Chabot and Tremblay have been classified,” says the Crown. The day the special expense forms were completed, March 17, 2010, is “the day that Richard Deschesnes most often accessed the records of the CEO of all his mandate,” adds the pleading.
“Only Richard Deschesnes knows what happened to these documents,” says the Crown.
Richard Deschesnes says in his own argument that he shredded only protected documents specifically addressed to him that day, “such as reports from the Security Intelligence Branch, threat assessments, reports on the protection of the State, Confidential Information Reports “, as well as documents relating to the Summit of the Americas.
“These papers could not be thrown in the trash,” he defends himself.
That evening, Richard Deschesnes handed over his service gun to Martin Lévesque, the director of financial resources, who is among those who will denounce, a few days later, the irregularities surrounding the secret agreements to the new director general, Mario Laprise.
“The disappearance of documents is not the work of the Holy Spirit,” Crown attorneys say.
The “Red Files” of the Surete du Quebec
It is not easy to slay a senior officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). With guaranteed job security up to age 65, a dozen of them have negotiated very specific clauses over the years before agreeing to retire.
These termination agreements, known as “red files”, mainly benefited Deputy Directors General and Chief Inspectors, the two highest ranks in the police force. They “were certainly not” common practice “at the SQ,” but were generally concluded “in the greatest secrecy and without the knowledge of any other intervener,” says the Crown in its argument.
One of the 12 examples cited during the trial is that of former Director General Normand Proulx. After concluding his five-year term in 2008, he and his successor, Richard Deschesnes, signed an agreement allowing him to retain his executive director salary of approximately $190,000 for 17 months.
During this period, Mr. Proulx was to help establish Francopol, an international network of French-language police training, as a special advisor.
However, “Normand Proulx has never been offered work services since the appointment of Richard Deschesnes on May 21, 2008, neither to the SQ nor to Francopol,” says the Crown in its argument.
“Mr. Proulx was available, but Francopol did no work,” said Richard Deschesnes during his testimony in the trial. Mr. Deschesnes said he had said so at the time to the deputy minister responsible for senior government jobs. “Discussions I had with [him], I understood that it was correct like that. “
Joined by La Presse, Normand Proulx’s lawyer, Rachel Risi, refused to comment on behalf of his client.
After his dismissal, which he described as an “improper dismissal,” Richard Deschesnes also attempted to negotiate a similar severance package with his successor, Mario Laprise. A draft agreement in evidence suggests that he tried to maintain his employment relationship for 19 months after leaving, as well as his 30-month CEO salary, says the Crown.
Mr. Deschesnes states in his argument that the agreement was “in the interest of the SQ since it was difficult” to relocate “within the organization.
Such an agreement would, he pleads, ensure “his departure from the SQ with dignity”.
Faced with Mario Laprise’s refusal to grant him these benefits, Mr. Deschesnes tried to “put pressure” by saying he was going to address the Premier Pauline Marois and her Minister of Public Security, Stéphane Bergeron , to ask for their intervention, indicates the Crown. M. Deschesnes intended to mention in his draft letter that he contested his dismissal as illegal.
“Ironically, although Mario Laprise never followed up on the agreement that Richard Deschesnes was looking for, he did not send the letter to the Premier or the Minister of the MSP,” notes the Crown.
- With the collaboration of Daniel Renaud and Louis-Samuel Perron
Publié le 08 juin 2019 à 05h00 | Mis à jour à 05h00
Le siège de la Sûreté du Québec, rue Parthenais, à Montréal
Un fonds secret échappant à toute reddition de comptes, qui a même servi à payer la fosse septique de la résidence d’un premier ministre. Un ex-directeur du renseignement rétrogradé qui menace d’éventer des secrets troublants dans une lettre adressée à Jean Charest. Et une séance de déchiquetage digne d’un roman d’espionnage dans les toilettes du chef de l’état-major. Le récent procès de trois officiers supérieurs de la Sûreté du Québec a levé le voile sur plusieurs secrets embarrassants de la police nationale.
La boîte à surprises des dépenses secrètes
Elles ont servi au fil des ans à verser de l’argent à des informateurs ou à louer des locaux pour espionner des criminels. Échappant à toute reddition de comptes, les Dépenses secrètes d’opération (DSO) de la Sûreté du Québec (SQ) ont aussi servi à des fins plus étonnantes… comme payer la vidange de la fosse septique de la résidence du premier ministre Bernard Landry.
Appelées DSO dans le jargon de la SQ, ces dépenses secrètes, qualifiées d’outil indispensable pour « ne pas compromettre l’efficacité de l’opération policière », sont actuellement au coeur d’un procès criminel visant trois anciens officiers supérieurs, accusés de s’en être servis pour bonifier leurs retraites.
Les ex-cadres Alfred Tremblay et Steven Chabot reconnaissent en avoir bénéficié, mais nient toute intention criminelle dans leur utilisation, tout comme l’ancien directeur général Richard Deschesnes, qui les a autorisées. La cour n’a pas encore tranché le débat. Le verdict est attendu à l’automne.
Leurs témoignages, ainsi que les documents rendus publics dans le cadre de ce procès, permettent de mieux comprendre la mécanique de ces débours ultra-discrétionnaires.
1500 fois par an
Bon an, mal an, environ 1500 de ces DSO étaient autorisées par la SQ. Elles pouvaient atteindre jusqu’à 100 000 $ chacune, mais échappaient à tout mécanisme de contrôle de l’État. Ni le Conseil du trésor, ni la Commission de l’administration publique, ni les parlementaires n’étaient informés de la nature de ces dépenses, pas plus qu’ils n’avaient accès aux pièces justificatives qui les soutenaient. Même le service de comptabilité de la SQ n’en avait pas connaissance. Depuis mai 2000, la SQ n’avait même plus à faire autoriser le niveau maximum de dépenses secrètes permises.
Aucun ministère ou organisme gouvernemental ne bénéficiait d’une telle latitude.
Depuis leur apparition en 1975, les DSO ont servi tant à rembourser des heures supplémentaires à des corps de police municipaux qui fournissaient des troupes dans le cadre de la lutte contre les motards qu’à acheter des boîtes de disquettes pour les besoins informatiques d’une enquête visant le crime organisé.
Mais au fil des ans, de nombreuses utilisations dérogatoires ont été faites, soit par « désir d’éviter des délais », « afin d’éviter de faire face à un refus » ou encore pour « cacher la dépense facilement », affirme la Couronne dans son argumentation écrite. Un rapport interne commandé par la SQ a conclu à un « manque de rigueur généralisé » et à un « laxisme en place depuis un certain nombre d’années » dans leur gestion.
C’est ainsi que les DSO ont notamment servi à acheter des épinglettes à l’effigie de la SQ offertes aux participants d’un congrès annuel sur les motards en 1995, ou encore à payer la cotisation à l’Ordre des psychologues de certains professionnels employés de la SQ parce que l’administration refusait de la leur rembourser.
La preuve démontre qu’elles ont aussi servi à payer des tournois de golf, des fleurs, des boissons alcoolisées, une caisse de bière, des cigarettes, un repas au restaurant Hélène-de-Champlain, ainsi qu’à l’achat d’un manuel technique de kayak et d’un climatiseur. Les DSO ont également servi à commander des sondages menés par une grande firme de marketing et à régler des frais de conseiller pour la transformation de bâtiments patrimoniaux, des frais de système d’alarme pour des dignitaires, d’un constat d’infraction pour alarme non fondée… même pour des abonnements aux quotidiens La Presse et Le Soleil.
La fosse septique
En 2001, une DSO de 4601 $ a notamment servi à payer une partie de l’installation d’une « fosse septique en béton de 750 gallons » à la résidence personnelle du premier ministre Bernard Landry, à Verchères. La dépense, approuvée par Robert Lafrenière alors qu’il dirigeait la Direction de la protection des personnalités de la SQ, a été justifiée lors du procès par le fait que les gardes du corps du premier ministre occupaient en permanence un « local de faction » à sa résidence et utilisaient la fosse septique. D’autres dépenses secrètes ont servi à payer des « mouchoirs suprêmes », des essuie-tout et du savon nécessaires à l’entretien du local des factionnaires à la même résidence.
Un des coaccusés du procès, Alfred Tremblay, a remis en question la moralité d’une autre dépense secrète qui aurait servi à faire vidanger la fosse septique, dans une lettre qu’il a adressée au ministre de la Sécurité publique, Jacques Dupuis, en 2009 :
« Certaines personnes trouveront normal qu’on utilise les dépenses secrètes d’une organisation pour défrayer la vidange de la fosse septique d’une personnalité politique alors que pour d’autres le geste est immoral. Tout étant question de perception », a-t-il écrit.
Cette dépense aurait dû être « passée autrement », a-t-il plus tard précisé lors de son témoignage.
Cette missive se trouve au coeur de la preuve présentée en cour. Elle fait partie d’un lot de lettres contenant de nombreuses informations que M. Tremblay a adressées à l’époque au premier ministre Jean Charest, à son ministre de la Sécurité publique ainsi qu’à Richard Deschesnes, directeur général de la SQ à partir de mai 2008. Alfred Tremblay a mis fin à cette correspondance après avoir négocié avec la direction une « entente clandestine » de fin d’emploi, lui accordant un versement de 79 877 $ provenant du fonds de dépenses secrètes, selon la Couronne.
Ni la Sûreté du Québec ni le bureau de la ministre de la Sécurité publique n’ont voulu commenter les informations de ce reportage, invoquant le procès toujours en cours. Tout au plus nous a-t-on informés que le ministère de la Sécurité publique avait depuis nommé un vérificateur pour assurer une meilleure reddition de comptes. Pendant le procès, l’ex-directeur général Martin Prud’homme a affirmé avoir révisé les façons de faire au cours de son mandat.
Disparition de deux ententes « clandestines »
Versées sous forme d’avance en argent aux policiers, ces dépenses extraordinaires devaient à l’époque être résumées dans un formulaire que les enquêteurs connaissent sous le nom de « 042-042 ». La seule copie carbone complète de ce formulaire que la SQ conserve était gardée sous clé dans un « classeur sécurisé et verrouillé » de la salle des pièces à conviction, au quartier général de la SQ, rue Parthenais. Une seule personne, appelée « contrôleur », y avait à l’époque accès.
De 2000 à 2012, de toutes les DSO autorisées par la SQ, deux seulement n’ont jamais été retrouvées dans les archives du contrôleur. Il s’agit des paiements versés aux accusés Steven Chabot (167 931 $) et Alfred Tremblay (79 877 $), dans le cadre de ce que la Couronne décrit comme des « ententes clandestines » négociées dans un « cercle de complaisance par lequel des avantages indus ont été octroyés à certains anciens dirigeants de la SQ ».
La chute d’un ex-patron du renseignement
Alfred Tremblay a eu une carrière florissante à la Sûreté du Québec (SQ). Nommé directeur des enquêtes et du renseignement de sécurité en 1996, il a eu accès aux secrets les plus délicats de l’État. À ce titre, c’est lui qui enquêtait sur la probité des personnes pressenties pour la magistrature ou les postes de hauts fonctionnaires.
Alfred Tremblay a également joué un rôle clé au cours du Sommet des Amériques de 2001, préparant pendant 13 mois le volet sécuritaire de l’événement, aux côtés du Service canadien du renseignement de sécurité (SCRS). Ce sommet réunissait à Québec les chefs d’État d’une trentaine de pays, dont le président américain George W. Bush.
Mais au début de 2009, alors qu’il occupe le rôle d’inspecteur-chef (troisième grade en importance à la SQ) au Bureau régional d’enquête de la Montérégie, Alfred Tremblay subit une rétrogradation. Il l’apprend à son retour d’un congé de maladie.
Les reproches qui lui sont faits – tensions internes au sein de son équipe, difficultés de gestion – sont plutôt vagues.
Alfred Tremblay reconnaîtra plus tard, dans une lettre au ministre de la Sécurité publique Jacques Dupuis, que des « défis de gestion importants » à propos de son équipe s’étaient présentés : « Nous avons été à même de constater que certains de nos membres se sont retrouvés dans des isoloirs de certains clubs de danseuses sur leurs heures de travail » et que d’autres achetaient « des boissons alcooliques au dépanneur du coin pour consommation au travail » et participaient « à des parties de cartes organisées » pendant leurs quarts. Deux délégués syndicaux ont été sanctionnés pour ces écarts.
Alfred Tremblay est alors muté à un poste très inférieur de conseiller du commandant de district au poste autoroutier de Candiac. Son mandat est flou. Se disant victime d’un « énorme préjudice » qui le fait passer pour un « vulgaire voyou qui aurait commis des gestes graves », il se plaint à son association professionnelle. Il déplore qu’on l’ait installé dans un bureau vide, où il n’a pas accès à une imprimante ou à une ligne téléphonique privée. Il se plaint qu’on lui ait fourni un véhicule de fonction ayant 70 000 km au compteur et « dont l’intérieur laisse à désirer au niveau de la propreté ».
« À ce rythme, je ne tiendrai pas longtemps. Je songe à aller voir un médecin pour me mettre sur la CSST compte tenu de ce harassement constant. Ou de m’adresser au directeur ou même au ministre afin que cessent ces pratiques déloyales qui ne cessent de me détruire auprès des gens que j’ai côtoyés », écrit-il.
Dans les mois qui suivent, il conteste sa mutation et porte plainte pour harcèlement psychologique. Le directeur général du corps de police, Richard Deschesnes, craignant que la situation ne « dégénère et [ne] prenne de l’ampleur », y répond en lui assurant qu’il s’occupe de sa plainte.
« M. Deschesnes voulait éviter que le dossier se judiciarise, que de nombreux hauts gradés de la SQ soient amenés à témoigner à la Cour. Il était d’avis que la SQ ne s’en sortirait pas “avec des félicitations” », écrivent les avocats du directeur général dans leur plaidoirie.
Alfred Tremblay amorce néanmoins une correspondance qui contient des informations « pouvant être embarrassantes, voire compromettantes, pour la direction générale de la SQ et le gouvernement en place », lit-on dans la plaidoirie de la Couronne.
Infiltrer « toutes les couches de la société »
Le 21 septembre 2009, insatisfait de la réponse de l’état-major à sa plainte, il écrit une première lettre au ministre de la Sécurité publique, dans laquelle il réclame une enquête externe sur son cas. Alfred Tremblay y affirme avoir, tout au long de sa carrière, accepté « d’accomplir certaines missions qui allaient à l’encontre de [ses] valeurs personnelles ».
« Pour le compte de la Sûreté du Québec, j’ai accepté d’infiltrer toutes les couches de notre société démocratique telles que syndicats, groupes de pression, secte religieuse, certains regroupements politiques, les communautés autochtones du Québec, etc. », écrit-il.
Plus tard, lors du procès, il expliquera : « On fait de l’infiltration, on en a toujours fait, et j’imagine, je peux pas dire aujourd’hui, mais peut-être qu’on en fait encore, mais il reste que quand même, c’est le pain puis le beurre de ces gens-là [le service du renseignement de sécurité]. »
Toujours dans sa lettre au ministre Dupuis, il ajoute : « Au cours de ma carrière, j’ai à de maintes reprises informé l’état-major de la Sûreté du Québec de la commission d’actes criminels. C’est particulièrement vrai en milieu autochtone où à titre d’exemple nos agents d’infiltration avaient fait l’achat d’armes automatiques directement de certains fournisseurs à l’intérieur des réserves, sans pour autant qu’une intervention policière soit effectuée dans le but de neutraliser ces crimes. »
Ces faits, a-t-il expliqué lors du procès, remontent à 1996 et 1997. « L’inaction et les décisions de ne pas donner suite allaient à l’encontre de mes valeurs personnelles », écrit Alfred Tremblay.
Lettres à Jean Charest
En octobre et en novembre, Alfred Tremblay écrit deux lettres au premier ministre Jean Charest pour lui faire part de sa situation. Dans l’une d’elles, il affirme avoir été « à maintes reprises témoin d’aveuglement volontaire » de la part de l’état-major de la SQ face à des dossiers délicats touchant des politiciens.
« J’ai assisté à de multiples requêtes d’informations de la part de certains officiers supérieurs sur des dossiers sensibles impliquant des personnalités politiques bien en vue reliées à des réseaux de prostitution ou sur les relations entre les groupes de motards criminalisés et certains membres de l’Assemblée nationale ainsi que certains dossiers très épineux reliés à la sécurité d’État. » – Extrait d’une lettre d’Alfred Tremblay adressée au premier ministre Jean Charest
Lors du procès, Alfred Tremblay a expliqué que les enquêtes de ce genre étaient fréquentes, mais ne fournira pas plus de détails. « Pendant des années, mon pain puis mon beurre étaient d’informer le gouvernement » de ce genre de renseignements, a-t-il témoigné. « Tous les jours, j’avais des demandes. On répondait, il y avait des réseaux cryptés, il y a des communications particulières. Alors, c’était ça. C’était ça, ma mission à la Sûreté du Québec. »
Le procès a aussi démontré qu’Alfred Tremblay conservait chez lui un registre d’informations confidentielles récoltées dans le cadre de ses fonctions, dont la Couronne affirme qu’il « cherchait à obtenir avantage ».
Dès le début de la correspondance d’Alfred Tremblay avec le premier ministre et son ministre de la Sécurité publique, la direction des affaires internes de la SQ a été impliquée dans le dossier.
Le directeur de l’époque, Jocelyn Latulippe, a obtenu un avis juridique d’un cabinet externe qui concluait à une faute disciplinaire grave. « M. Tremblay a trahi son serment de discrétion en divulguant de l’information confidentielle acquise dans l’exercice de ses fonctions, sans y être dûment autorisé », tranche l’avocate Ariane Pasquier, qui a rédigé l’avis.
« Compte tenu du contenu et du ton employé par M. Tremblay » dans ces lettres, « nous recommandons [sa] citation en discipline ». Me Pasquier ajoute que M. Tremblay a tenté de « nuire à la crédibilité de la Sûreté » et de « mettre en doute l’intégrité de l’organisation ».
Lors du procès, le directeur général Richard Deschesnes a cependant indiqué que l’enquête entourant les allégations d’Alfred Tremblay n’était pas allée plus loin. « Monsieur Latulippe [a] fait des vérifications [et m’a informé] qu’il n’y a rien de criminel. »
Quant aux allégations faites par M. Tremblay d’aveuglement volontaire, d’infiltration et de gestes moralement discutables, impossible de savoir si elles ont fait l’objet d’un examen plus poussé. Jointe par La Presse, la direction des communications de la Sûreté du Québec n’a pas voulu faire de commentaire, pas plus que le cabinet de la ministre de la Sécurité publique, Geneviève Guilbault, invoquant le procès toujours en cours.
« Aucune crédibilité »
« Nous avons eu l’impression qu’il s’agissait plus d’un chantage de sa part », a résumé le grand patron des affaires internes, Jocelyn Latulippe, dans une déclaration sous serment versée au dossier.
Dans son argumentation écrite, la Couronne estime pour sa part qu’Alfred Tremblay n’a « aucune crédibilité, tant sur les éléments périphériques que sur les éléments qui sont au coeur de l’affaire ». « Il a menti de façon éhontée et répétée au tribunal », affirment les procureurs Antoine Piché et Pascal Grimard.
Les avocats d’Alfred Tremblay invitent toutefois le tribunal à la prudence dans l’évaluation de sa crédibilité. Les lettres qu’il a écrites « sont privées » et « ne comportent ni menace, ni demande d’argent, ni quoi que ce soit autre que la frustration d’un policier tombé de haut », soulignent-ils.
Un « étrange dénouement »
La dernière lettre d’Alfred Tremblay adressée à Jean Charest, qui a d’abord été envoyée à l’état-major, ne sera jamais transmise au premier ministre. Le 25 novembre 2009, le directeur des affaires internes informe Alfred Tremblay que son envoi constituerait une violation de son serment d’allégeance et de discrétion.
Deux semaines plus tard, le dossier d’Alfred Tremblay connaît néanmoins un « étrange et étonnant dénouement », affirme la Couronne dans son argumentation. Le directeur général adjoint de la SQ, Steven Chabot, convoque Alfred Tremblay dans un restaurant. « Il veut discuter avec moi de la lettre que j’ai fait parvenir à Jean Charest, il y aurait une ligne dans cette lettre qui fait problème », écrit Alfred Tremblay dans son agenda électronique, qui a été déposé en preuve.
Dans les jours qui suivent cette rencontre, les deux policiers négocient et concluent une entente de fin d’emploi pour Alfred Tremblay. Celle-ci prévoit le versement de 79 877 $ en contrepartie de son départ à la retraite. L’argent proviendra du fonds des dépenses secrètes d’opération (DSO). Selon la Couronne, M. Tremblay ne l’a pas déclaré au fisc.
Poussé à la retraite par une réorganisation de l’état-major, Steven Chabot négocie parallèlement pour lui-même une semblable entente de départ à la retraite, par laquelle il reçoit 167 931 $ du fonds secret. Dans sa plaidoirie, M. Chabot affirme que cette entente, conclue « à titre d’indemnités pour des dommages reconnus par la SQ », était légale et négociée de bonne foi.
N’eût été la vigilance du comptable de la SQ Denis Rivest et d’autres policiers et employés civils, les traces de ces ententes n’auraient peut-être jamais été trouvées. Soupçonnant qu’elles constituaient des indemnités de départ plutôt que des dépenses secrètes, ce dernier a conservé des copies des formulaires à son domicile.
« La seule fois de sa carrière à la SQ qu’il a douté de DSO au point d’en ramener des copies à sa résidence », affirme la Couronne dans son argumentation.
Les déchiqueteuses de l’état-major
Il se fait tard, le 10 octobre 2012. Le 11e étage du quartier général de la Sûreté du Québec est pratiquement désert. Seules trois personnes s’y trouvent : l’ex-directeur général Richard Deschesnes, limogé la veille par le gouvernement, son adjointe administrative et son garde du corps.
L’ambiance est triste. Remplacé sans préavis par Mario Laprise, Richard Deschesnes a ramassé plus tôt ses affaires personnelles : des photos, des notes, des médailles qu’il avait reçues, des plantes, que lui et son adjointe mettent dans des boîtes brunes avec le logo du Québec et un fleurdelisé. Le garde du corps, Stéphane Desrochers, l’aide à descendre le tout à sa voiture garée au sous-sol, avec des housses de vêtements et un porte-documents en cuir noir.
Du milieu de l’étage de l’état-major, d’une petite salle d’impression située juste en face du cabinet du DG, provient le bourdonnement d’une déchiqueteuse.
L’adjointe administrative, Danielle Bouchard, s’affaire à détruire une pile de documents que Richard Deschesnes a triés de ses archives et lui a donnés dans un bac de recyclage.
Le patron se trouve dans la « voûte », la salle d’archives du directeur général, située juste à côté de son bureau. Verrouillée électroniquement et surveillée par un système d’alarme, elle contient de nombreux documents ultraconfidentiels. Seuls le DG et elle ont le code pour y accéder.
Dans une petite salle de bains adjacente à la « voûte » se trouve une autre déchiqueteuse, plus petite, qui a été installée juste à côté de l’évier. Mais Mme Bouchard n’est pas témoin de ce qui s’y passe.
« De toute façon, j’aurais pas été dans le… dans la salle de bains du DG », témoignera-t-elle pendant le procès.
Le garde du corps est aussi mis à contribution. Richard Deschesnes lui remet un « paquet de documents » faisant six ou sept centimètres d’épaisseur. « Il m’a demandé ça comme ça, de prendre les documents puis de [les] déchiqueter », témoignera le garde du corps devant la cour. Il quittera le bureau « plus près de minuit » que de « sept heures le soir », se rappelle-t-il.
Ni le garde du corps ni l’adjointe n’ont de souvenir détaillé des documents qu’ils ont détruits pendant la soirée. Mais l’adjointe, Danielle Bouchard, se souvient d’avoir déchiqueté un « gros cartable » contenant un dossier très précis dont il y avait plusieurs doublons : celui de Richard St-Denis.
Ex-directeur adjoint aux enquêtes criminelles parti à la retraite en 2006 après avoir porté plainte pour congédiement déguisé et harcèlement psychologique, Richard St-Denis fait partie de ce que la haute direction appelle les « dossiers rouges », soit des officiers supérieurs avec qui l’on a voulu rompre le lien d’emploi « puisqu’ils ne concordaient plus avec le modèle de gestion de la direction ». Selon la Couronne, la direction a négocié avec eux, « dans le plus grand secret et à l’insu de tout autre intervenant », des ententes prévoyant des sommes provenant des dépenses générales de la SQ (plutôt que des dépenses secrètes).
Les parties admettent que les documents traitant de six « dossiers rouges » semblables devaient en principe se trouver dans la « voûte » du directeur général. Ils n’y ont jamais été trouvés.
Les ententes de dépenses secrètes confirmant le versement de 79 877 $ et 167 931 $ aux accusés Alfred Tremblay et Steven Chabot devaient aussi y être conservées. Elles « n’y ont jamais été retrouvées non plus », affirme la Couronne dans son argumentaire.
Le registre du système d’alarme révèle pourtant que « Richard Deschesnes y a accédé chaque fois que les documents relatifs aux ententes de Chabot et Tremblay ont été à classer », affirme la Couronne. Le jour où les formulaires de dépenses spéciales ont été remplis, le 17 mars 2010, est d’ailleurs « la journée où Richard Deschesnes a accédé le plus souvent aux archives du DG de tout son mandat », ajoute la plaidoirie.
« Seul Richard Deschesnes sait ce qu’il est advenu de ces documents », soutient la Couronne.
Richard Deschesnes affirme dans sa propre plaidoirie qu’il n’a déchiqueté ce jour-là que des documents protégés adressés précisément à lui, « tels des rapports de la Direction des renseignements de sécurité, évaluations de menaces, rapports sur la protection de l’État, rapports de renseignements confidentiels », ainsi que des documents relatifs au Sommet des Amériques.
« Ces papiers ne pouvaient être jetés à la poubelle », se défend-il.
Ce soir-là, Richard Deschesnes remet son arme de service à Martin Lévesque, le directeur des ressources financières, qui fait partie de ceux qui dénonceront, quelques jours plus tard, les irrégularités entourant les ententes secrètes au nouveau directeur général, Mario Laprise.
« La disparition des documents n’est pas l’oeuvre du Saint-Esprit », avancent les procureurs de la Couronne.
Les «dossiers rouges» de la SQ
Limoger un officier supérieur de la Sûreté du Québec (SQ) n’est pas chose facile. Bénéficiant de la sécurité d’emploi garantie jusqu’à 65 ans, une douzaine d’entre eux se sont négocié au fil des ans des clauses très particulières avant d’accepter de prendre leur retraite.
Ces ententes de cessation d’emploi, appelées « dossiers rouges », ont principalement bénéficié à des directeurs généraux adjoints et à des inspecteurs-chefs, les deux plus hauts rangs au sein du corps policier. Elles « n’étaient certainement pas une “pratique courante” à la SQ », mais étaient généralement conclues « dans le plus grand secret et à l’insu de tout autre intervenant », affirme la Couronne dans sa plaidoirie.
Un des 12 exemples cités pendant le procès est celui de l’ancien directeur général Normand Proulx. Après avoir conclu son mandat de cinq ans en 2008, il a conclu avec son successeur, Richard Deschesnes, une entente lui permettant de conserver pendant 17 mois son salaire de directeur général d’environ 190 000 $.
M. Proulx devait pendant cette période contribuer à mettre sur pied Francopol, réseau international de formation policière francophone, à titre de conseiller spécial.
Or, « Normand Proulx n’a jamais offert de prestation de travail à compter de la nomination de Richard Deschesnes le 21 mai 2008, ni à la SQ ni à Francopol », affirme la Couronne dans sa plaidoirie.
« M. Proulx était disponible, mais Francopol n’a pas fonctionné », a expliqué Richard Deschesnes lors de son témoignage dans le cadre du procès. M. Deschesnes a dit l’avoir souligné à l’époque au sous-ministre responsable des Emplois supérieurs du gouvernement. « Des discussions que j’ai eues avec [lui], j’ai compris que c’était correct comme ça. »
Jointe par La Presse, l’avocate de Normand Proulx, Me Rachel Risi, a refusé de faire des commentaires au nom de son client.
Après son limogeage qu’il a qualifié de « destitution non conforme », Richard Deschesnes a lui aussi tenté de négocier une indemnité de départ semblable avec son successeur, Mario Laprise. Un projet d’entente déposé en preuve suggère qu’il a tenté d’obtenir le maintien de son lien d’emploi pendant 19 mois après son départ, ainsi que son salaire de directeur général pendant 30 mois, affirme la Couronne.
M. Deschesnes affirme dans sa plaidoirie que l’entente était « dans l’intérêt de la SQ puisqu’il était difficilement “relocalisable” au sein de l’organisme ».
Une telle entente aurait, plaide-t-il, assuré « son départ de la SQ en toute dignité ».
Devant le refus de Mario Laprise de lui accorder ces avantages, M. Deschesnes a tenté de « mettre de la pression » en affirmant qu’il allait s’adresser à la première ministre Pauline Marois et à son ministre de la Sécurité publique, Stéphane Bergeron, pour réclamer leur intervention, indique la Couronne. M. Deschesnes comptait mentionner dans son projet de lettre qu’il contestait sa destitution, la jugeant illégale.
« Ironiquement, bien que Mario Laprise n’ait jamais donné suite à l’entente que recherchait Richard Deschesnes, il n’a pas envoyé la lettre à la première ministre ni au ministre du MSP », note la Couronne.
– Avec la collaboration de Daniel Renaud et de Louis-Samuel Perron
30-year-old Anna-Maria Codina-Leva was a single mother of three working at a food-processing plant in Montreal when she met a traveling salesman at the plant offices in the city’s east end. On June 19th, 1992 the man asked her out on a date. Codina-Leva left her three children in the charge of her brother, then departed her Verdun apartment. Before leaving she wrote the name and phone number of the traveling salesman on a piece of paper: Serge Archambault.
Anna-Maria disappeared that evening. Montreal Urban Community police investigators questioned Archambault about the disappearance, but they concluded Archambault had never seen Codina-Leva on the evening in question.
Serge Archambault: one of Quebec’s first known serial killers.
Although Serge Archambault may have been active as a sexual predator in Quebec as early as the late 1970s, the first that we learn of him is in November of 1992 when he’s arrested for the murders of Chantale Briere and Rolande Asselin-Beaucage. In the first media filings it is revealed that Archambault worked as a traveling salesman, and I believe he worked for a company called H. Belanger Plumbing Ltd. An ad in the Montreal Gazette in September 1990 lists the position of “inside sales representative” and asks all interested parties to contact “Mr. Serge Archembault” at their offices on de Maisonneuve in Montreal. Now the fact that he was possibly a plumbing salesman may bear some significance later.
The 36-year-old Archambeault – a twice-married father of two living with his second wife in St. Eustache, northwest off the island of Montreal – is charged with the slayings of Chantale Briere, 24, found strangled in her house in Deux Montagnes in late November 1992, and Rolande Asselin-Beaucage, 47, shot dead in her home in Ste. Calixte, January 6th, 1992.
After Archambault’s arrest, police begin searching for the remains of a missing 30-year-old woman who disappeared from her Verdun home in June of 1989. Archambault leads police to a wooded area in St. Hubert near the intersections of Moise Vincent and Mariecourt streets. There they find bones scattered in the woods. The bones are sent to the medical laboratory for further analysis.
Police reveal that some police officers with 26 years’ experience had “never seen this type of crime”, but hesitate when asked if they consider the crimes serial killings. “There are two killings, possibly three. We consider them multiple murders”, remarks Lucie Boult, Surete du Quebec spokesman. When asked what the difference was, Boult shrugged, “The numbers… I don’t know.” The Gazette article notes that “Serial killings have been defined as multiple murders that are fantasy or ritually driven.”
Police confirm that they drew up a psychological profile of the suspect as part of their investigation. The Gazette notes that “…the technique was pioneered by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in the ’70s and has become known for its use in the tracking of serial killers.”
Police play up the amount of detective work it took to crack the case, but the real break came from the careless actions of Archambault. Shortly after the strangulation and sexual assault of Chantale Briere in her Deux Montagnes home, Archambault used her ATM card to withdraw $300 from a local Boni Soir depanneur. The Surveillance camera caught the whole thing on tape, including the store’s elevator music, Roch Voisine’s hit Helene which a Laval radio DJ would later testify he played at 12:58 pm on November 26th, within an hour of Briere’s murder. Neighbors of Archambault comment that “… he looked like a nice guy, very faithful to his wife.”
On November 30th, 1992 Serge Archambault is charged with the first-degree murders of all three women. He is immediately ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation at the Pinel psychiatric institute located not far from where Anna Maria Codina-Leva lived in Montreal’s east end. The assessment is to determine if Archambault is mentally fit to stand trial.
Archambault is charged with Codina-Leva’s murder even though technically her remains have not been recovered. Surete du Quebec police are still waiting for the results from analysis on the bones recovered from St. Hubert. Montreal police are repeatedly asked whether they questioned Archambault three years earlier in 1989 about Codina-Leva’s disappearance. They continue to be evasive:
“It’s a file that goes back three years and the investigator who handled the case is on vacation.”
The father of Anna Maria, Rosendo Codina reveals that in 1989 police told him Archambault had an alibi:
“They said he had been on vacation, or something like that.”
On December 1st, Montreal police finally confirm that they did in fact question Serge Archambault about the disappearance of Anna Maria Codina-Leva, but quickly punt the matter to the provincial police:
“At no time was he treated as a suspect… He was asked some questions, he answered, and that was it,” says Detective Michel Quintal of the MUC police. In any event, Quintal states, the case is now in the hands of the Surete du Quebec.
The family of Codina-Leva were not the only ones sounding the alarm about Serge Archambault. Dr. Paul-Andre Lafleur, assistant director of the Pinel psychiatric institute comes forward to disclose that in 1982 Archambault checked himself into the Pinel institute and remained there for 30 months after attacking a woman with a crowbar to her face.
On December 12th the Pinel institute rules that Archambault is mentally fit to stand trial. Police also reveal that the bones recovered in the St. Hubert wooded area – including a skull – are the remains of Anna Maria Codina-Leva.
La Presse reports that after his arrest police found in his home a list of three houses for sale in the St. Eustache neighborhood where Archambault lived, along with a box of jewelry and underwear not belonging to his wife.
Police now begin to investigated Archambault in the unsolved murders of other women including Louise Blanc-Poupart, raped and stabbed 17 times in 1987 at her home in Ste Adele, Pauline Laplante, sexually assaulted and stabbed in 1989 in Piedmont, Johanne Beaudoin murdered in her Mount-Royal home in 1990, and the murders of Danielle Laplante and Claire Samson, murdered in a boutique in Outremont, also in 1990.
At the close of the year, December 31, 1992, in a lengthy piece in Le Devoir, Rollande Parent reveals that the Surete du Quebec have added to the list of suspected murders the names of Marie Claude Cote, a Breboeuf college student who disappeared from club Barina in October 1991, and 22-year-old Chantal Brochu who was strangled in Outremont in September 1992.
Serge Archambault’s trial begins on October of 1993. One of the first witnesses is Chantal Briere’s husband, Raymond Latour. He breaks down at the sight of articles of clothing belonging to his wife he is asked to identify. He recalls kissing his wife Chantal goodbye at 5:30 a.m. on November 26th, 1992, and reminding her that a man interested in buying their home was going to drop by around 10 a.m. Chantal’s mother testifies that she spoke to her daughter at 11 a.m. and was told that a man was there with her. When she tried calling back at 12:45 p.m. there was no answer. Francine Briere testifies that she found her sister’s body around 5 p.m. on the kitchen floor of her home. Chantal was lying on her stomach, naked from the waist down, with her hands tied behind her back. Pathologist Jean Hould testifies that Briere died of asphyxiation from swallowing her tongue. A sock had been shoved in her mouth and was held there by a bra tied around her neck. He ankles and wrists were tied with electrical cords. The handle of a bathroom plunger had been inserted into Briere’s rectum.
[I’m going to say this repeatedly: Briere did not have to die had Montreal police done their job in the Codova-Leva investigation]
Surete du Quebec investigator Michel Tanguay testifies that the Briere home at 62 de la 9e avenue in Deux Montagnes was a 10-minute drive from where Archambault later used Chantal’s ATM card to withdraw $300 in cash from a local depanneur.
At the end of the first week of the trial, police reveal statements given by Archambault when first taken into custody. He confessed that he killed and mutilated three woman to get back at an aunt who sexually molested him as a child:
“I did it because of her… I wanted revenge but I didn’t want to do it to my aunt because it would have been too hard on my mother… she did all kinds of things to me. She put her fingers in my rectum.”
In his confession of the murder of Chantal Briere, Archambault said that on the pretext of wanting to buy the house, he made his way into the home and hit her on the head from behind with the back of an ax. He then retrained her with electrical cords. When she regained consciousness, he demanded money, taking $200 and two bank cards from her wallet,
“I hit her again pulled down her pants and panties then stuck a bathroom plunger in her rear.”
Archambault’s other victims had knives inserted in their rectums after they were killed.
The murder of 47-year-old St. Calixte resident Rollande Asselin was a crime of opportunity. Archambault was driving around the Laurentians when he saw Asselin in her front yard at 400 Montee Mongeau. He asked for directions and a glass of water.
Once inside a similar scenario unfolded. He tied her wrists and ankles with electrical cord, then shot her in the back of the head. After she was dead Archambault mutilated her body with a knife.
In the case of Anna Maria Codova-Leva, Archambault said that they worked together in Pointe aux Trembles and that he was paying her to sleep with him. “When I stopped paying, she called my wife.” In June 1989, Archambault slit her throat, decapitated her, and cut her into pieces, “you wouldn’t have recognized her”, he told police.
In late November 1993, almost a year since his arrest, Serge Archambault is found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a 25 year life sentence without the possibility of parole. Chantal Briere’s husband says that Archambault is “incurable and deserves the death penalty,” but there is no death penalty in Canada. Superior Court Justice Robert Flahiff calls Archambault “diabolically perverted… a despicable, manipulative coward of society.”
Now dubbed “The Butcher of St. Eustache” police confirm that Archambault is still a suspect in a number of unsolved murders, including the deaths of a half dozen prostitutes. Dr. Louis Morissette compares Archambault to Clifford Olson, describing him as a “sexually sadistic serial killer”.
After the trial it is revealed that Archambault kept a rape kit in his car consisting of knives, a rope and sometimes a loaded shotgun. His first known intended assault may have been as early as 1979 when he visited a woman in Quebec City with the intention of killing and dismembering her. Instead, he hit her on the head with a hammer, then fled in panic when she began screaming. Police also disclose that Archambault is now being considered as a suspect in the 1989 murder and dismemberment of 13-year-old Valerie Dalpe.
And further, police were aware that starting in 1991 Archambault was responsible for a series of break-ins where he would place women’s underwear and lingerie on beds as if being worn, then cut them with a knife, sometimes leaving the knife behind sticking out of the garments.
A shout out to Kristian Grevenor from Coolopolis, I didn’t lift this from him, but going back I noticed that in 2012 he wrote an account of Serge Archambault that is virtually identical to mine, although i didn’t read it until after I wrote this.
On that post someone named Ariane, claiming to be the daughter of Serge Archambault wrote the following:
“Thanks for posting this. I’m Mr. Archambault’s daughter and I’m terrified that he will be let out later this year. He is not a sane man and shouldn’t be left out to roam the streets. I haven’t had any contact with him in over 2 decades.”
As it turned out, Archambault was not responsible for the deaths of Danielle Laplante and Claire Samson, murdered in that boutique in Outremont.
In 1995 Agostino Ferreira is charged with these 1990 slayings, and the rape of two other women in his East Ontario street apartment.
Ferreira tells Quebec Court Judge Maurice Johnson, “I don’t need a lawyer” and chooses to represent himself, setting up the noxious potential for Ferreira to cross-examine his surviving rape victims.
Ferreira kidnapped the two women from a boutique on St. Denis St. the morning of January 4th, 1995, armed with a handgun and a stick of dynamite. They were taken by taxi to an apartment on Ontario St. near Berri, where they were tied up and sexually assaulted. At the apartment Ferreira told the women he was responsible for the 1990 stabbing deaths of two women at the boutique Haarlem / Harlem on Laurier Ave. in Outremont.
34-year-old Claire Samson and 24-year-old Danielle Laplante were stabbed repeatedly, terrifying area shopkeepers for years. Ferreira was later faced with 17 additional charges stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred in Montreal clothing boutiques from 1989 to 1991.
Ferreira almost didn’t stand trial for the murders and assaults due to the bunglings and mishandlings of the Montreal police and prosecution.
When the cases eventually came to trial late in 1995 Ferreira did cross-examine his own rape victims. In a bizarre and unsettling process, Ferreira, flanked by two guards in the prisoner’s box, rambled on with questions such as what the word cranberries meant to the woman, and had he not committed gestures of love rather than malice?
Starring straight ahead and answering in a low monotone voice the woman described how she and a colleague were abducted by a man in a long, black leather coat who claimed he was suicidal. He showed them an object which he claimed was a bomb and said that the detonator was in a small box attached to his shoulder. Forced into the taxi, the women were taken to an apartment at Ontario and Berri where the man dictated a suicide note. At one point he went to a closet and brought out a gun which he waved at them while talking.
After taping their ankles and wrists together he used a carving knife to cut the clothes off their bodies. Starting at about 2 p.m. he sexually assaulted them over a period of about two hours. He injected himself with three syringes he said contained cocaine. Ferreira then decided to go out and get more.
After he left, the women, who were no longer restrained, left the apartment, flagged down a taxi and went to a nearby police station.
Throughout the trial Ferreira would only refer to himself in the third person testifying of pentagrams, crucifixes, mauve auras and telekinesis:
“Did he restrain you in the shape of a cross, whip you, or place a crown of thorns on your head?”
Ferreira stood trial and was found guilty for assault, rape, kidnapping, confinement , attempted murder and armed robbery. Before trail commenced for the two boutique murders of Samson and Laplante, Ferreira surprised everyone and pleaded guilty saying he recognized his guilt and that he regretted killing the two clerks. Ferreira was declared a dangerous offender and jailed indefinitely, the first person in Quebec to receive the designation.
The dangerous offender provision was adopted in Canada in 1977. By 1999 there were 220 dangerous offenders in Canada, but only a handful in Quebec. Experts said that was likely to change. In a profile of two Quebec dangerous offenders at that time, Eric Dupuy and Daniel Coxen, serial rapist Dupuy was quoted as saying, “I was attracked by all of the big crimes of a sexual nature – Paul Bernardo, Ferreira, Archambault. They allowed me to reactivate my fantasies, I found that exciting.”
Dupuy wasn’t caught, he turned himself in to the Pinel Institute when he started having fantasies about murdering 12-year-old girls. Dupuy himself suggested he should receive the dangerous offender designation because he felt he posed a significant threat to society.
In theory, the dangerous offender label is supposed to mean the offender will never be let out of prison. This isn’t true. Of the 220 in 1990, 10 have been set free for good.
There is one other case I will mention, because I believe it to be largely forgotten and the M.O. sounds very much like Serge Archambault.
The battered body of 19-year-old Linda Flood was found on Mount Royal on May 7th, 1989. Her parents last saw her on March 7th when she came to their St. Sauveur home and shot some pool for her 19th birthday. She called her mother on April 15th, but all she said was “Hi Mum” before the phone went dead. Linda was found in May. Her face was so badly disfigured it took until August to positively identify her through dental records, and a distinctive horseshoe-shaped ring she wore.
Police believed Linda was murdered elsewhere, then taken to the spot on Mount Royal. A trail of dropped items – a cigarette, a shoe, a comb – lead police to believe the the offender wanted her to be found, and that it was someone she knew. Linda “was a little flirty” said her step-father, Ronald McDowell, “the boyfriends weren’t always the cream of society.”
Initially police said that Linda was not raped, though police said the offender tried to make it look that way. She was naked from the waist down, but was beaten and murdered, not sexually assaulted. A stocking had been stuffed in her mouth.
A year after her unsolved murder, police changed the story. Now they said Linda had choked to death on the pantyhose after being raped and beaten about the head, possibly with a rock. The assailant stuffing the undergarments in her mouth to silence her. Police believed now that Linda was dragged into the bushes on Mount Royal from an automobile.
In the summer of 1976, friends Jocelyne Beaudoin and Renee Lessard planned a glorious camping excursion. The two would set out from their homes in Montreal to explore the north shore region of the Saguenay. They set out on foot, July 4th, 1976; packs and sleeping rolls, freedom and the open road, each carrying $250 in American Express travelers cheques. Their means of transportation was the thumb, they would hitchhike.
The plan was to head north to Quebec City, then on to Ile-d’Orleans. At the mouth of the Saguenay river at Tadoussac they would turn inland, following the river into the interior of Quebec.
On July 7th, 1976 – six years to the day that the parents of Margaret Coleman received her last postcard – Renee Lessard sent postcards to her parents and grandparents. “We are presently on a boat along the Sanguenay near Chicoutimi. … the weather is excellent… see you soon.”
There last sighting was on July 10th at a campground at Saint-Felicien, along Lac Saint Jean, where the Saguenay river comes to an end. It would be over a month before the newspapers picked up the story.
Montreal Gazette – August 17, 1976 / Search continues for campers
The Quebec Police Force is searching for two Montreal women missing since July 10 when they left a campsite in St. Felicien, 164 miles northwest of Quebec City. Jocelyne Beaudoin 20, is 5’2″ tall, 115 lbs, has blue eyes and long dark brown hair and Renee Lessard, 23, is 5’2″ tall, 115 lbs, has brown eyes, long brown hair and a scar on her right knee. Anyone with information is asked to contact the QPF at 395-9120 or MUC police at 872-1313.
Renee and Jocelyne had known each other for two years, and were described as inseparable. Renee was older, and had a degree in education. She lived in an apartment not far from her parents. She had a boyfriend named Yvon Charest. In 1973, Yvon and Renee won a contest on the Radio Canada television program, Sprint. Sprint was a quiz show in which young people had to answer questions about the Olympics – recall that the summer games were held in Montreal in 1976. Their prize was an all-expenses paid trip to Greece.
Jocelyne lived with her brother, Claude. On weekends she worked at the Simpsons department store in downtown Montreal. She was saving money for college. Jocelyne had completed studies at the CEGEP in Old Montreal, and was planning to start a degree in education in the Fall of 1976.
In late August the Saguenay paper, Progres-Dimanche made one of the first accounts of the missing travelers. They reported that Joceylyne and Renee had exemplary reputations, and everyone the paper talked to that knew them were unanimous on this subject.
Despite this, Progres-Dimanche planted seeds of doubt. The newspaper suggested they could have been runaways. Or maybe they wandered into the woods and got eaten by a wild animal. They were hitchhikers? Perhaps they met with a “bad opportunity”:
“Are the two young girls alive? If yes, why are there no signs of them? If they are dead, what happened, and where are the bodies?”
Renee’s boyfriend, Yvon Charest was having none of it. They weren’t runaways. While everyone did nothing, Charest rented a small airplane – twice – and began to search the rugged interior of the Saguenay region. He found nothing.
On August 29th, it is reported that Jocelyne and Renee had been spotted in a restaurant at Hebertville-Station one week after the campground siting at Saint Felicien. Jean Fortin – chef and owner of Chez Loulou – says he saw the two girls in his establishment around July 17th, drinking coffee and writing postcards. He describes camping equipment that matched the description of equipment the two girls were carrying. They tell him they are hitchhiking through the region, and ask where they may find a post office to send the postcards to their parents.
The siting seems credible because it is consistent with their travel plans. You see, with the help of Renee’s boyfriend, Yvon Charest, the girls had meticulously written out their journey. Everything had been mapped to the last detail. From Montreal they would travel along the North shore of the Saint Lawrence river to Quebec City, cross into the island of Orleans, through Baie Saint Paul, la Malbaie, then Tadoussac, where the Saguenay river meets the great Saint Lawrence. From Tadoussac they would follow the Saguenay inland, visit Port Alfred, Grande Baie, Chicoutimi, Arvida, Jonquiere, Kenogami, until they reached Alma. Alma is near where the Saguenay ends, and Lac Saint Jean begins. It is the last point to cross the Sanguenay if you want to visit the North shore of Lac Saint Jean, which they did. Jocelyne and Renee crossed the Saguenay and head to Peribonka, on the northeast side of Lac Saint Jean. From here they headed for the very far reaches of the Lake, through Mistassini, Dolbeau to Saint Felicien, where they were sighted on July 10th at the campground. Once at the back of the Lake, the rounded back along the southwest edges through Roberval and Val-Jalbert.
The plan was to end the vacation around July 20th. They would return to Montreal via La Toque, along an inland route that follows highway 155. Jocelyne had tickets to attend the Junior Olympics in Montreal in late July. Renee planned to vacation with her family around July 21st at Ile aux Coudres, a town along the Saint Lawrence South of Tadoussac. The siting at Hebertville Station around July 17th is at the right place, at the right time; between the previous last siting at Saint Felicien and their intended destination, home in Montreal via La Tuque. They would have four days to get to that final destination, a reasonable amount of time.
Although Jocelyne and Renee were reported missing in early August, it took the Surete du Quebec until August 31st to broadcast a press release requesting public assistance. On September 5, 1976 police announce that they will organize a search party to find the two missing women.
The affaire is under the command of caporal Yvon Martel of the Chicoutimi detachment of the Surete du Quebec. Martel had traveled to Montreal to get his orders from the SQ’s central headquarters. One of the objectives of his trip was to verify the usage of the travelers cheques the two girls had with them. Martel confirms that none of the cheques had been used since the girls’ departure from Montreal on July 4th. Now Martel was back in the Saguenay with instructions to find the two missing Montrealers.
Also in September, some additional information comes to light:
A motorists says that he gave Jocelyne and Renee a ride from Saint Felicien to Mistassini around July 11th. The date and location is consistent with what is known, or thought to have been known, but it has them moving in the wrong direction, backward toward Mistassini. Nevertheless, it’s a short trip, perhaps they had reason to go back.
M. Charles Arthur Tremblay comes forward to say he spotted Jocelyne and Renee at Desbiens around July 20th, Desbiens being between Saint Felicien and Hebertville Station, and back in the right / consistent direction.
And more information is disclosed about the Hebertville Station sighting at Chez LouLou. A waitress, Johanne Girard states that she also saw the two girls writing postcards at the restaurant around July 20th.
Despite now having two witnesses corroborating the sighting at Hebertville Station, caporal Martel decides to focus his search around the Saint Felicien – Mistassini area, where just one motorist claimed to have seen them, and at an earlier date and an early geographic point on their itinerary. Martel enlists the assistance of the public, local radio stations and a local hand-radio club to assist in his efforts.
On September 12, Progres-Dimanche does a profile piece on the families of Jocelyne Beaudoin and Renee Lessard. At the Beaudoin home, a heartbroken mother and father await the harmful news that their child has departed this world. Jocelyne’s bedroom is empty, a white bed with her dolls resting on the pillows. M. Rene Lessard states that he would like to aid in the search, but he cannot leave his home where he must attend to his ailing wife, and 14-year-old son.
“It’s not normal for a father of a disappeared girl to stay at home, but my wife is sick, and I have a child to take care of. Maybe Renee was seen for the last time at Mistassini or perhaps Peribonka. I hope the police find my girl. It’s possible they both got lost in the forest.
I understand the police, who at first, thought they were dealing with a simple matter of a runaway. But we insisted for a long time to the authorities to understand that these two girls were not the kind to runaway. We are simple people without the means to move the powers that be. One thing is certain, if I was a government minister, the army and all their resources would have been called in to assist in this matter… I call on the deputy minister, Marcel Leger to demand in the National Assembly to send the army into the Mistassini sector to assist in the search. “
In the same edition, Progres-Dimanche runs a small article where the Surete du Quebec tries to assure the public they are not abandoning the case:
“At the Surete du Quebec of Chicoutimi – the detachment responsible for the investigation into the disappearances of the two young girls from Montreal – we affirm that everything was done last weekend to search the area of Mistassini, the place where the two young girls were seen for the last time.
Under the direction of caporal Yvon Martel, more than 100 square miles were covered, but nothing was found, no new indication to point the way.
All the woods and valleys were searched, but in vain.
For our next searches, the representatives of the SQ cannot specify what kind of work will be undertaken. We want to emphasize that our research has not been abandoned!”
In early October 1976, Quebec police disclose that they now believe Beaudoin and Lessard had left the Chicoutimi – Saguenay region by July 12th, putting the sighting by the Saint Felicien – Mistassini motorist in question, and rendering their search of that region in early September a pointless effort.
Yvon Martel now states that the travelers cheques the girls had been carrying – the cheques Martel traveled to Montreal to verify had not been used since July 4th – had, in fact, been exchanged in Riviere-du-Loup on July 12th, a day after the last sighting at the St. Felicien campground.
The Surete du Quebec go on to state that the sightings in Heberville Station at the restaurant Chez LouLou were most likely false memories. Caporal Yvon Martel states that if further verification prove correct the case is no longer his responsibility and all search efforts in the Chicoutimi detachment region will be abandoned.
Montreal Gazette, October 6th, 1976
“One of two Montreal women missing since July 10 has been found dead in a wooded area at St. Jaques Le Mineur, 20 miles south of Montreal.
Police believe Jocelyne Beaudoin, 20, of 2208 St. Donat St., was murdered shortly after she was last seen.
The badly decomposed body has been sent to the Quebec Medico-Legal Institute where pathologists will try to establish the cause and time of death.
Meanwhile, the Quebec Police Force is searching the same area for Renee Lessard, 23, of 966 18th avenue, Pointe aux Trembles.
Investigators fear that Lessard was also slain as she was traveling with Beaudoin….
The Beaudoin woman’s body was found near the area where Margaret Peggy Coleman, 19-year-old California hitchhiker was murdered in July 1970.
Her traveling companion Margaret Jones, then 20, also of California, spent several weeks in hospital recovering from a concussion and other injuries after being pushed from a moving car.
Coleman’s killer has never been caught.”
On October 10th, the Surete du Quebec publishes a second notice reassuring the public they are not abandoning the case:
“We know that investigators discovered the body of the traveling companion of Renee Lessard – Jocelyne Beaudoin, victim of a murder – last week… we are lost in speculation at this discovery that places prior suspicions as much at the media as the police.”
I don’t know what that last quote really means, except to say that it is evident the Surete du Quebec was feeling extremely defensive, and questioning their efforts. I do know, when you want a straight answer, you go to Allo Police. Here’s what they reported:
The woods where Beaudoin was found were next to a hunting or gun club. They were skeletal remains and Beaudoin was fully clothed. This may lead you to think she had been there far a while, but I wouldn’t be too quick to conclude that. Quebec summers can be brutal. In July 1977, Johanne Dorion had been left outdoors for less than two weeks, and there was nothing left of her either.
Beaudoin’s purse was recovered in the area, containing her Vieux Montreal student CEGEP card.
She was wearing the shirt seen in the last photo of her taken with Renee by some tourists on a ferry crossing to Riviere du Loup. This is how police were quickly able to make a positive identification.
I have seen the crime scene photos. Jocelyne was shot in the back of the head, right behind the left ear. Professional… execution style.
It didn’t take long for police to come up with a theory. More and more, the police believed that Jocelyne Beaudoin – and most likely her friend, Renee Lessard, still missing – were murdered by bikers.
Where Allo Police speculated it, by January 1977 the police were publicly disclosing it in the local papers:
“The Two Montrealers: The answer is with bikers”
“… Renee Lessard and Jocelyne Beaudoin were probably abducted by bikers while in the area of Rivieres du Loup.”
Police reveal that bikers were in that area that summer attending an event in the Gaspe region, just east of Rivieres du Loup. As well, witnesses described seeing two young women matching the description of Beaudoin and Lessard in the company of these bikers, but could not make positive identification. The bikers in question were from a club from the LaPrairie region, where Beaudoin’s remains were found.
What no one could explain was what Beaudoin and Lessard were doing in Riviere du Loup in the first place; a town not on their planned itinerary, and on the other side of the Saint Lawrence river, the only bridge crossing two hours south at Quebec City, or a ferry ride across from the north to the south shore. A photo taken by tourists confirm that Jocelyne and Renee took that ferry to Riviere du Loup – the last photo ever taken of them – but why they deviated from their plan? No one can say.
Nevertheless, Quebec police were firm in their belief that the two young girls were in Riviere du Loup at that time, and that they used their travelers cheques to stay there in a local motel. The proprietor of the motel later stated that they checked in around 5:30 pm the evening of July 13th. Police also speculated in the newspapers that it was possible the two girls were brought to the motel by the ferry, against their will by bikers. If this is so, then why did the tourists who took the photograph not call attention to what would have been an unsettling passage? In the photo, Jocelyne and Renee appear to be just average travelers, nothing seems out of the ordinary.
Ten years after the gruesome events of the summer of 1976, Allo Police publishes an anniversary article:
Gerard Beaudoin describes the event as a “nightmare”:
” I am lost in sad memories. I do not want them to kill others. I want to know – finally – what happened. Did she suffer? I know nothing of these affaires except what I read in the newspapers at that time. If in that time the murderer had been caught, I would have bought a gun on rue Saint Laurent and shot him down in plain sight. Now I just want to know what happened. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.”
In the article – 10 years after the affairs of that summer – Allo Police reports that the remains of Renee Lessard still have not been found.
In May of 2019 – nearly 43 years since the events of that summer – the Surete du Quebec lists the cases of Jocelyne Beaudoin and Renee Lessard on their cold case website as unsolved murders.
Police disclose definitively that they were last seen on July 12th, 1976, and that the motel in question where they stayed was the motel d’Amour in Riviere du Loup, which still exists to this day. They also report that the two girls were not reported missing until August 2, 1976.
Police also reveal that Renee Lessard’s remains were found:
“The body of Renée Lessard was found by chance by passers-by who had stopped in Parc de La Vérendrye for a picnic. Some clothes were found. The bones were scattered over a rather large area, having likely been moved by animals. No jewelry or ID was found. The young woman was not formally identified until June 2018.”
If the remains were not identified until 2018, then when were the remains recovered? Up until a few years ago, people were still discussing Renee Lessard as a missing person on message boards. Some speculated that Renee could have been the female Jane Doe discovered in Sumter County, South Carolina in August 1976.
So I contacted the Surete du Quebec and asked them about this. I also asked them where Parc Verendrye is, because there is actually a a small Verendrye Park in Montreal along the Lachine canal, doubtful Lessard was found here, but I wanted to be sure.
The SQ confirmed that the Verendrye parc in question was the wildlife preserve 300 kilometers northwest of Montreal, but they ignored my question about when the remains were found.
No matter, I eventually found my answer – or rather I thought I found my answer:
” La Gatineau, July 29, 2005:
“A father and his son made a strange discovery while fishing at The Domaine in Parc Verendrye on July 22nd. The young boy was playing with some rocks when he found some bones. The father recovered the bones and gave them to investigators from the Surete du Quebec. They will be sent to the Parthenais laboratory to determine if they are human remains.”
So these must be Renee Lessard’s remains, right? How many sets of remains could possibly recovered in a remote region such as Parc Verendrye?
As it turns out? Two.
A Remarkable piece of Police Work
I wanted to be sure the 2005 remains were in fact Lessard, so I contacted the Quebec coroner’s office. Renee Lessard was actually recovered in the spring of 1977. It took 41 years for police to make a positive identification.
Now before you jump to a sense of outrage – as I initially did – consider the facts. It turns out – and this is one of the few times I can remember giving Quebec police a compliment – but it turns out, this was in fact a remarkable and tenacious piece of police investigation and forensics work.
The Coroner’s Investigation Report – which is dated a little over a month ago, April 12th 2019, 42 years after the date of recovery – reveals the following:
- On April 29, 1977 agents from the Surete du Quebec discovered human remains close to chemin du Lac Burt in Parc La Vérendrye.
- “In the absence of specific information”, the presumed date of death is noted as August 25th, 1976.
- An autopsy was performed on May 3, 1977 at the Laboratory of Forensic Sciences and Medicine in Montreal. Only skeletal portions and pieces of clothing were available. The autopsy could not determine the most likely cause of death.
- The remains were discarded on March 8, 1979, but bone samples were preserved.
- In 2010, a DNA search on the clothes and bone pieces was done, but
- the quantity and / or quality of the DNA from the samples analyzed was insufficient to obtain a genetic profile.
- In 2016, additional analyzes were performed on sliver bone pieces, and a valid DNA profile was obtained.
- In 2018, a DNA comparison of family members was able to establish a link between Ms. Lessard’s family members and the DNA of bones found. By deduction, it was concluded that the bones were those of Renée Lessard.
Getting back to the murders of Jocelyne Beaudoin and Renee Lessard. So who murdered these two young girls? First, consider the geography. That’s a vast amount of Quebec territory covered. From their departure from Montreal to Tadoussac, into Lac Sant Jean, back to Riviere du Loup, down to LaPrairie where Beaudoin is found… North to Parc Verendrye where Lessard is found…
I think Bikers is the best explanation, and I think the Surete du Quebec knows this to this day, and are hoping that someone will finally break and provide information. Consider some facts:
- Beaudoin is shot professionally behind the left ear. Bikers kill like this.
- Beaudoin is found fully clothed. This is not a sexual murder, she is dumped like trash. Bikers do this.
- For the entirety of their trip they stayed at campgrounds. Then suddenly they show up at the motel d’Amour in Riviere du Loup. I have visited there. It is not unlike the Paysanne motel in Lennoxville, where Hells Angels stayed the night before they were massacred at the bunker in 1985. Bikers stay at these kind of motels. They did then, and they still do to this day.
- Witnesses said they saw two girls matching the descriptions of Beaudoin and Lessard with bikers in the vicinity of Riviere du Loup in July 1976.
- There was a biker chapter in the vicinity of LaPrairie where Beaudoin was found. Most likely they were a chapter of the Popeyes who controlled the Montreal and Sorel region, and were eventually patched over into the Hells Angels in December of 1977.
- I don’t think because Jocelyne Beaudoin was found in the same area where Margaret Coleman was found in 1970 means that bikers murdered Margaret Coleman. I think it is most likely a clever trick played by the murderers of Jocelyne Beaudoin trying to make police believe that she was killed by the same person who killed Coleman.
There is one other piece of information. It may be nothing, but it is worth mentioning. In August of 1976 another witness came forward claiming to have seen only Renee Lessard. Police most likely discounted the information because at the time, I did not fit the theory they were pursuing: that Lessard and Beaudoin were in the vicinity of St. Felicien and Mistassini.
Mmn Leger Turcotte, a server at Brasserie du Sportif, claimed to have seen Renee Lessard at her establishment in Saint Jerome, Quebec. Saint Jerome is far from Saint Felicien and Riviere du Loup. It is between where Beaudoin was found in LaPrairie and where Lessard’s remains were found at Parc Verendrye, 60 kilometers north of Montreal.
So what happened? I don’t know, but here are some areas where I speculate. Beaudoin was killed first, and shortly after being brought to the motel in Riviere du Loup in July 1976. Lessard was kept alive longer, possibly much longer than the police’s speculation of August 25th, 1976, which they note is, “in the absence of precise information”.
Unlike Jocelyne, who was shot in the head, there is no definitive cause of death for Renee. We know she – like Jocelyne – was found with clothing, but the remains were recovered much later, 9 months later. Jocelyne’s remains were skeletal, Renee would have decomposed to a much greater degree.
The second set of remains, the remains found in Parc Verendrye in 2005, who is that? We don’t know. I have made an inquiry to the Surete du Quebec, but they most likely won’t answer my question.
[Update: May 27, 2019: The Surete du Quebec confirmed that the bones found at Parc Verendrye in 2005 were animal bones.]
In the Allo Police file on Jocelyne Beaudoin there is a second photo of remains taken from the era of the late 1970s. It is not a photo of Jocelyne because the shoes are different, It is most likely a photo of Renee, but not identified as such because there would not be a positive identification until June 2018.
It is strange. The photos are almost identical. Bodies laid out on dead leaves and underbrush. You can see the remnants of clothing, the bleached bones, the shoes in both photos almost perfectly in tact. Two friends laid out 300 kilometers from each other. No one to shelter them.
So let’s talk about this photo:
Because it was brought to my attention over night that it is odd.
And it IS odd. We first learn of Renee Lessard and Jocelyne Beaudoin’s disappearance on August 8th, in the Saguenay paper, Progress Dimarche. The photo doesn’t appear until August 22nd, again in Progress Dimarche, but we are only told it is “the last photo of them”.
The police don’t get involved until August 31st when they send a press release asking for the public’s assistance.
As you can see, the photo is truncated. The middle has been cut out to bring the two subjects closer together, but clearly that is Renee’s hand extending into the frame of Jocelyne’s picture. They seem to be on a boat, you can see the guard rails and what appears to be water in the background.
Let’s first clear up the timing of when the photo was taken. The October 5th 1986 Allo Police article states that this is a photo of Jocelyne and Renee on the ferry from Saint Simion to Riviere du Loup. This is most certainly wrong. If authorities knew them to be in the Riviere du Loup area when the photo was first published in August 22nd, there would have been no need for the 100 square mile search of the St Felicien – Mastissini area in early September.
In the first Allo Police article from the era of the event the paper identifies the photo as being taken at a ferry crossing at Tadoussac. This is the correct identification. The Tadoussac crossing would have taken place earlier in their journey, between July 4th and July 10th.
And we would therefore need to say that Allo Police, unfortunately just got it wrong. There was no suspicion the girls crossed the Saint Lawrence in the company of bikers.
But that still leaves questions about the photo. Who takes a photo like this at random? It’s not a posed photo. Renee and Jocelyne may not have been aware it was being taken. Who takes a photo like this of two complete strangers? If the photographer even was a stranger to them. It’s the sort of a question you wish the boyfriend, Yvon Charest would weigh in on, because you know the police will never tell you. Maybe someone can contact Progress Dimarche and see if they know anything.
And it still leaves the question, why did Jocelyne and Renee go to Riviere du Loup?
Thursday evening, November 18th, 1976. Two young girls are forced into a car at knife-point outside a McDonald’s restaurant at the intersection of Sources road and Pierrefonds blvd. in Pierrefonds, Quebec, which is on the west side of Montreal (the West Island).
The assailant drives up to the Trans Canada Highway ( Route 40) and heads west toward Vaudreuil, just off the island of Montreal.
Along the way the man’s car stalls. When he gets out to check the engine, one of the girls, 17-year-old Pierrefonds resident Barbara Myers, jumps out of the car and tries to run away. The man catches her and stabs her in the chest and in the back. He throws the bleeding girl in the front seat of the car.
He then drives about a dozen miles along country roads into neighboring Saint Lazare. On the way Barbara Myers succumbs to her injuries and dies.
Along a dirt road in Rigaud the man stops. He orders the second girl to disrobe. The man attempts to rape the teenage girl, but is unable to. He takes her friend’s body out of the car and dumps her in the ditch. Around 1:45 a.m. he drops the second girl off at her home back in Pierrefonds. He tells her, “You’re lucky to be alive” and warns her not to tell the police. The girl immediately informs her parents, and they call the police.
The next morning, police dogs, helicopters and officers take part in a massive search for Barbara Myers. They scour the Trans Canada Highway and back roads all the way west to the Ontario border. At 11 a.m. a 55-year-old construction worker, Roger Leduc finds the body:
“I spotted something blue in the ditch… I stopped the car and took a closer look. It was a body dressed in blue jeans and a blue jacket. I drove home and called the police.”
The second girl provides a description of her abductor. He is a man in his twenties, about five feet and five inches tall, medium build with shoulder-length auburn hair. He has sideburns which widen at the chin and has missing teeth at the front of his mouth. He was wearing a tan colored suede jacket, a blue and white checkered shirt and blue jeans. He drove a green Buick, Oldsmobile or Chevrolet, with beige interior and electronically-operated windows. Also in the car was a young German Shepherd dog.
Later that day, Friday, November 19th, police arrest 21-year-old John Christopher Leclerc (Leclair) and hold him on a coroner’s warrant in connection with the stabbing death of Barbara Myers.
At the coroner’s inquest on November 25th, 1976 John Christopher Leclair is found criminally responsible for the death of Barbara Myers. Leclair is charged with the murder of Myers – who died of massive internal hemorrhaging to the liver and kidneys – and with the attempted rape of Myers’ companion.
At the inquest the second girl testifies that the two young woman initially refused Leclair’s invitation to get into his car several times, but eventually climbed in. Leclair drove around for a time claiming he was “looking for a friend.” When Myers realized he had drove onto the highway and was headed out of Montreal she began to insult him:
“You… bastard, let us get out.”
After the car stalled and Myers attempted to escape, Leclair stabbed her. Myers screamed, “He has a knife. Help me! Help me! All right, I’m dead… I’m dead… I’ll get in the car.”. The man then threw Myers in the front seat where she lay gasping, “I can’t see anything”, she cried.
Leclair then drove to a back road and stopped. While Myers bled to death in the front seat, Leclair tried unsuccessfully for about five to ten minutes to rape the second girl. Leclair then dumped Myers in the ditch and drove the second girl home. Along the way he kept telling her, “I shouldn’t have done it. I don’t know why I did it.” Once at her parents’ home he took her identification and warned her that if she spoke with the police he would give the card to a friend who would “fix” her.
On December 31, 1976 the french language newspaper, La Presse does a year-end summary of murders in the province that year. They conclude that, “More than ever in 1976, we kill for nothing”:
“Plus que jamais, en 1976, on a tué pour des riens!”
212 murders in Quebec in 1976. A record in the province that has never been matched.
On November 16, 1977 Superior Court Justice Claire Barrette-Joncas imposes a life sentence on John Christopher Leclair for the death of Barbara Myers.
May 4th, 2001 – Death of an inmate at the Federal Training Center
“John Christopher Leclair, an inmate of the Federal Training Center, a federal minimum security penitentiary in Laval, died this morning at Cité de la Santé Hospital. The death would be due to natural causes.
Aged 55, John Christopher LECLAIR was serving since 16 November 1977 life sentence for manslaughter.
The police and the coroner are notified of the death. The Correctional Service of Canada will also review the circumstances surrounding this event.”
On June 22, 1977, the two Yale students stop at Cline Falls State Park in Oregon to camp. That evening they are brutally attacked by a man who runs over their tent where they are sleeping and assaults them with an ax. Despite their injuries, both survive. The friend suffers partial blindness and memory loss. Jentz’ body is permanently scarred.
Fifteen years later Jentz decides to investigate the crime even though the statute of limitations on attempted murder have expired and she would never be able to see her attacker prosecuted. Her investigation leads to a man whom Oregon locals have always suspected was the perpetrator.
She learns that he, too, obsesses about the incident, frequently talking about the crime, and she even observes his polygraph session, in which he is asked about the attack on the two women. She attends his trial (which results in his conviction and sentencing for charges related to a different crime). However, she never speaks with the man.
Although never fully resolved, Jentz states the value of her investigation has been to break out of “the claustrophobic confines of [her] memories.”
In 2006 Jentz wrote a memoir of her experience, Strange Piece of Paradise: A Return to the American West to Investigate My Attempted Murder—And Solve the Mystery of Myself.
Alright, let’s back up to the part about a California student, Margaret Coleman being murdered while hitchhiking that summer. Turns out that’s probably not true, and plays into one of the cultural myths of the era. Before deconstructing that we need to know the story of Margret Coleman.
In the summer of 1970 18-year-olds Margaret Peggy Coleman and Margaret Jones flew from their homes in the Woodland Hills area of California to New York. From there they rode buses through New England to Montreal and began a cross-country vacation in the United States and Canada. Coleman was carrying $175 in cash, Jones $300. They had saved up the money working part-time jobs. They told their parents they would travel by bus.
Coleman was a recent graduate of a private girls school near her home in Canoga Park. She had just completed her junior year at a community college where she was on the dean’s list as “one of Pierce college’s outstanding students”. She was planning to transfer to UCLA to major in social studies. Coleman’s travelling companion, Margaret Jones was a native of Encino. The girls met at Pierce college, and Jones was intending to go on to UC Santa Cruz.
Stopping in Montreal for a few days, the girls visited Man and His World, site of the 1967 world’s fair. Every second day they would call home. Both girls had promised their parents they would travel by bus. In Jones’ last call she told her mother they were preparing to go to Detroit to visit Margaret Coleman’s grandmother. Carrying little more than sleeping rolls, Coleman and Jones were last seen at a traffic circle in St. Hubert, about 10 miles East of Montreal, adjacent to Longueuil. A motorist had given the girls a ride to the traffic circle. According to the motorist, the girls told him they were headed for a campsite near LaPrairie – about 10 miles South of St. Hubert – to meet other California hitchhikers from Quebec.
The girls were found Wednesday morning, July 9th, 1970 605 feet apart from each other by a farmer on Chemin du Grande Linge near highway 36, between l’Acadie and Saint Jean sur Richelieu. Their bedrolls and other belongings were found about six miles further down the road. They had either jumped or been pushed from a speeding car.
Margaret Coleman died of skull fractures. Margaret Jones was seriously injured. and rushed unconscious to Notre Dame hospital in Montreal where she was in deep shock.
Left for dead, Margaret Jones lay in a Montreal hospital with a severe concussion. A week later she developed a serious blood clot, doctors scheduled emergency surgery. When her condition unexpectedly improved the operation was cancelled. Eventually her condition improved. Slowly she began smiling and talking. Margaret sufficiently recovered to the point where Quebec Provincial police believed she could be interviewed. There was just one problem: Margaret Jones couldn’t remember what happened. She knew she was in a hospital, but she didn’t know how she got there. She thought she was still in Laprarie, not Montreal. She did not even recall she had been traveling with Margaret Coleman. She was not informed of her friend’s death.
In the days that followed it was disclosed – because it always is – that police had blundered. A South shore police constable saw something unusual and didn’t investigate. The constable was parked at the side of the road talking with a farmer when he saw a car zig-zagging down the highway, its horn blaring. The constable turned back to the farmer and resumed his conversation. He explained that he never attempted to to intercept the vehicle because it was not speeding and he thought it belonged to a local resident.
Coleman and Jones saw the police cruiser and attempted to signal him. Less than an hour later the girls were found about a mile down the road from the police cruiser. The tragic events could have been averted. When Coleman’s father, John Coleman heard about the incident he said, “the cop should turn in his badge.” Surete du Quebec investigators agreed.
On Wednesday, July 29th, three weeks after the tragic event, Margaret Jones boarded a plane at Dorval airport bound back to California. Wearing an eye patch to correct her double vision problem suffered from the ejection or fall from the moving vehicle, Jones still had not been told of the death of her traveling companion Margaret Peggy Coleman.
Up to this point the story had been predominately covered by the Montreal Gazette. Once Jones returned to California, The Los Angeles Times picked up the story, and they had a very different interpretation of events that took place in Quebec, July 1970.
The Gazette persistently hammered on the notion that Coleman and Jones allegedly were hitchhikers. Their headlines almost exclusively focus on this:
“No Operation For Hitchhiker”
“California Hitchhiker Victim Goes Home”
The Los Angeles Times has a very different approach:
“Coed Letter Weakens Hitchhiking Theory”
The parents of Margaret Coleman reveal to the Times that they received her last letter on July 7th, two days before her death. In the letter, mailed July 5th from Montreal, Margaret assured her parents “we are being real careful… and we pretend we are with our parents.” The Times goes on to say that the parents, “cited the statement to support their belief that their daughter and her companion were not hitchhiking, the theory of Montreal police.”
Now we know what’s going on here. It’s good old fashion victim stigmatization. Blame the victim, and police are relieved of the responsibility of solving the crime, right?
Wrong. And anyway, suppose they were hitchhiking. Suppose they lied to their parents because they didn’t want to overly concern them? What would that even matter? They were hitchhiking so they deserved to die? It is absurd and monstrous that any grieving parent should be forced and compelled to even offer such a defense in the wake of their child’s murder.
The letter went on to say that the two girls were sleeping in crowded camp sites near major highways because, “it’s probably safer that way.”
In an earlier postcard Margaret Coleman wrote:
“Don’t ever worry about us hitchhiking. You know, Mommy, I’d never do that. We have an emergency fund and can take a cab anywhere we have to go.”
In a later Los Angeles Times article, Margaret Jones says she cannot ever recall hitchhiking. Some Quebec men come forward and express that they remember seeing Coleman and Jones at a filling station, and that they turned down a couple of rides.
Montreal Gazette, September 9th 1971 / New facts found in girl’s murder
In the Fall of 1970, Montreal Surete du Quebec police traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Margaret Jones. There, assisted with their identification bureau, Jones developed a composite sketch of her friend Margaret Coleman’s killer.
Quebec police began to focus on personnel from the Canadian Forces Bases (CFB) in St. Hubert, St Jean sur Richelieu and Longue Point. Pictures of some 40 men on file bore some resemblance to the sketch. Police intended to either travel to California again or fly Jones to Montreal to review the photos. Police denied that any arrests were imminent.
From her parent’s home in Encino Margaret Coleman attempted to recall what she remembered about the incident 14 months prior:
“When I’ve thought about it afterwards, I get the feeling it was a military man, and I told the police that. When I see them around Los Angeles, they seem the same sort.”
The man she describes to Quebec police was wearing olive, khaki or brown fatigues and heavy boots.
“He had very short, dark hair and a thin body. The outfit he was wearing, it was heavy cloth – not the sort of thing you’d wear when going out in the evening.”
Once critical of the the way Quebec police were handling the investigation, charging they were “covering up” the case, Mrs. Coleman later changed her mind:
“I think they’re handling the case wonderfully.” Though she was unable to explain why police waited nearly a year before releasing news of the composite sketch of the suspected killer. “The sketch was drawn up around September of last year, “ she said.
And where were the Quebecois media in all this? While The English language Montreal Gazette began to focus on a military suspect, the French papers had a different approach. In March 1971 La Presse discloses that the location where Coleman and Jones were found is less than a mile from the St. Hubert hideout where FLQ members Paul and Jacques Rose had held former Quebec minister of labour, Pierre Laporte in the fall of 1970. Laporte was later found murdered in the trunk of a car at the St. Hubert airport. The event spawned Canada’s October Crisis.
[Post script: On thinking on this, I think this is wrong. Laporte was held in a suburban home in St. Hubert. So I think La Presse meant to say Coleman and Jones were last seen less than a mile from the FLQ hideout, which would have been the St. Hubert traffic circle.]
And this fact may answer Mrs. Coleman’s query about why it took police so long to publicly disclose the composite. The October Crisis was one of the most galvanizing social and political events in Quebec history. After Laporte’s murder all police resources would have been put to use catching the FLQ members, and building a case to bring them to trial. Margaret Coleman would have been forgotten in the wake of such a provincial crisis.
After the small flurry of activity in 1971 the cold case of Margaret Coleman is quickly forgotten. People stop writing about the matter. Margaret Coleman slips from memory.
At her funeral in Canoga Park Margaret Peggy Coleman was described as an avid poetry writer. Margaret was interned in a pale lavendar gown she had made herself. Her last poem was read at the ceremony:
Everytime someone in this world hurts another, my sunflower loses a petal.
Yesterday a little boy was mocked and scorned because his color is dark.
Today women and children are screaming in the jungles across the sea; their cries fall on deaf ears and injustice seems endless.
Tomorrow someone is bound to hurt his brother, it is the nature of man. My flower is suffering because of it.
Soon There will not be any petals on my sunflower. Someday men will realize God is love, love will conquer all and my sunflower will bloom again.
Life isn’t fair. Justice is blind and dysfunctional…
Heidi Illingworth was the full-time Executive Director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and was employed at the Centre since 1999. Heidi holds a B.A. Honours in Law with a concentration in Criminal Justice from Carleton University. She has assisted many victims and survivors at various stages of the criminal justice system, met with Federal Ministers on issues of importance to crime victims and made presentations before numerous Parliamentary committees. She was involved with curriculum development for the Victimology Graduate Certificate Program at Algonquin College, taught as a Part-Time Professor in the program and sat on the Program Advisory Committee. Heidi has also developed training materials for victim services staff and volunteers in Ontario. In 2012, Heidi was privileged to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in honour of her work for victims of crime.
The Heidi Illingworth CBC interview: