I grew up on the island of Montreal in a neighborhood very similar to Chateauguay. New suburbs right on the frontier of development. Mixed neighborhoods, French and English. Pierrefonds was bound by Riviere du Prairies to the north and to the west, and highways to the east and to the south. We would venture out on our bikes and explore areas like Roxboro and Dollard Des Ormeaux. The worst thing I ever saw was a dead dog. In something right out of a Stephen King novel a bunch of us heard there was a dead dog next to the rail tracks down in Roxboro. One Saturday we all set out on foot on those tracks. I remember it took forever and eventually we saw it, resting far down an embankment. Its eye was oozing yellow puss. The whole thing left me feeling sad and empty.
We would hear rumors of kids getting kidnapped or killed, but it was all school yard talk. I never heard of a Chateauguay killer. Though I knew Chateauguay and Laval and Longueuil were to the south and north and east, I had never been there. I would occasionally take the train into downtown, but I never left the island of Montreal unless it was on a vacation with my parents. I suppose my parents knew about these things because they read the newspapers. My dad probably knew about Sharon Prior because he worked in Lachine. I didn’t read papers. The only books I took out of the library were about UFOs, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.
The murder of 16-year-old Sharron Prior happened after the July 9th, 1974 murder of 12-year-old Norma O’Brien, and a little before the June 23, 1975 murder of 14-year-old Debbie Fisher. In an erie twist of fate, Sharron Prior had been following the O’Brien case in the newspapers (If you’re reading this cold, you may want to go back to Part 1 of this piece which is all about O’Brien and Fisher).
Sharron disappeared on Saturday evening, March 29th, 1975. She had been at her home at 445 Congregation street in Pointe Saint Charles with friends and family when she decided to go out to meet friends (including her boyfriend) at a local pizza parlor. She left her house around 7:30 pm. She leaves behind her bus pass and money, and declines the offer of a friend to accompany her. Her destination is 5 blocks away, Marina’s Pizza at 2050 Wellington street at the corner of Avenue Ash. She never made it to her destination.
During the initial phase of the disappearance the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Montreal Police, the MUC (Montreal Urban Community). When the body is found off the island of Montreal in Longueuil, the case quickly transfers to the Longueuil police. To the best of my knowledge, Quebec’s provincial police, the Surete du Quebec are never involved.
Discovery of Sharron Prior
Prior’s body was found just three days later, April 1st, 1975. Prior was found in a field at Chemin du Lac and Guimond blvd. in Longueuil by Jacques Bertrand, a beekeeper. Bertrand, who kept bees on the property, had been told to go check the lock on the gate, someone had observed that it was open.
The first investigators to process the scene were Jean Brais and Guy Alarie, wtih Constable J Leo Gagnon providing a crime scene map. Other investigators to work the case were Pierre Lambert, Louis Lasurre, Raymond Trotier, Pierre Robidas and Pierre Robidoux. The Longueuil police who would continue investigations into the next decade were Renault Lacomb, Pierre Robidoux and Jacques Dutrisac.
Prior had been badly beaten. She had choke marks on her neck. She had choked on her blood. Her nose was broken. The assailant had crushed her chest with his knee.
Prior was dressed in her suede coat, sweater, shoes and socks. Her pants were about 6 feet away from the body. Her underwear was hanging from a tree. A branch was clutched in her hand. There was blood and branches in her hair. A man’s shirt was found at the scene, detectives concluded that this was used to bind her. A receipt was found at the scene with Sharon’s name on it. A tire mark was observed along with a footprint of a man thought to have weighed about 200 lbs. It was concluded that the loose items were thrown from the window of a vehicle.
The autopsy was performed by Jean Hould. Longueuil police Renault Lacomb and Jacques Dutrisac were both present at the autopsy. Among other things the autopsy concluded:
- Sharron Prior had been raped.
- the blows to her head were most likely caused by a pointed instrument, maybe a ring.
- The partially chewed tape found in her hair meant that Prior was most likely gagged.
- Sharon most likely died Tuesday afternoon which would mean she was held captive from Saturday evening through Tuesday morning.
Early on Investigators focused on Frank Daly (aka Gerry Moore) as a suspect. Daly managed Marina’s Pizza. Persons interviewed in relation to Daly were Ronnie McQuire, Richard Cassive, Maie Anne and Dolores Boucher, the owners of Marina’s Nick and Marina Chionidis, Claude Laporte, John Beaubien, Audry Payne, Anne Benoit, Caroline Smith and Harold Regan.
Police also interviewed the co-owners of the Longueuil property, Jacques Bertrand and Roger Augry, as well as Raymond Amont who owned adjacent property. Police interviewed Prior’s boyfriend John McAleer, as well as friends Bryan Victor Morneau, Margaret Neil, Laury Derick and Debbie Cote.
Other initial police suspects included Daniel De Courval, Gerard Jubinville, Laurie Kenneth and Normand Hunt.
Police agents interviewed included Andre Charette, Bertrand Audet, Jacques St Mars (SPCUM), Agent Faucher of SCU St. Hyacinthe, and Sgt Detective Tetrault of Laval.
- About 1/2 hour before Sharon Prior left her home on March 29th, 1975, 23-year-old Cheryl Roy was attacked in Pointe Saint Charles by a man wielding a knife. The suspect has come to be known as “mustache man”: white, English, 6 feet tall, about 200 lbs with a mustache. The incident occurred on Wellington street, the same street as Marina’s Pizza.
- In 2004 police received a tip that Sharron Prior may have been held captive at a garage space at 2107 rue Favard, one block south of Marina’s Pizza. Police tested the site for DNA, but results were inconclusive. Sharron’s blood was not identified. (Yvonne Prior stated on April 3, 2016 that this later turned out to be a “bogus” tip)
- Hindering results on the above point is the fact that original evidence in the Prior case was destroyed by Longueuil police. This has been confirmed by the family of Sharon Prior.
Sharron Prior and the Chateauguay Killer
As you can see, there are some similarities between the cases of Sharron Prior and Norma O’Brien. To summarize:
- They died roughly 9 months apart, and in a fairly close vicinity. Prior on the Island of Montreal / Longueuil; both regions about a 30 minute drive from O’brien / Chateauguay.
- Both were adolescent girls: O’Brien 12, Prior 16.
- Both were raped, savagely beaten, and choked to death in a brutal manner.
- As late as 2010 some were still probing a connection between O’Brien and Prior (rather sloppily I might add).
So the question comes up, did the Chateauguay Killer (who we’ve dubbed MX), ever have cause to be in the vicinity of Sharron Prior?
The answer is yes. According to his confession, in June of 1975, MX was working at Record Tools, Ltd. an 5110 Fairway Ave. in Lachine, Quebec. His confession reads,
“The 23 of June 1975… I took my motorbike to go to Lachine, Record Tools, Ltd. in 5110 Fairway Ave, where I work.”
Before anyone gets too excited with this piece of information, there are several obstacles in considering MX as a serious suspect in the Sharron Prior murder:
- 5110 Fairway avenue is still a twenty minute drive to Pointe Saint Charles.
- That drive would have been made in the winter in late March 1975. You can see from the photos there is still snow on the ground.
- The drive would have been made on a Moped. I think everyone would agree that the assailant in the Prior case wasn’t driving a Moped.
- The level of violence inflicted on Norma O’Brien is very formidable for a then 16-year-old, but MX doesn’t quite fit the Prior profile. Simply put: he is too young, too skinny, and he doesn’t wear the jewelry that could cause the damage borne out by the Prior autopsy (remember the reference to the ring).
Here’s MX from the waist down (in the middle):
Contrasted with his beefy companions, MX doesn’t have any rings.
So hopefully this lays to rest any further questions of a connection between the Chateauguay Killer and Sharron Prior.
There is however one troubling piece of information concerning MX and another unsolved murder that needs mentioning. Record Tools, LTD where MX worked is about a 10 minute drive from 890 Lindsay street, where the body of 12-year-old Tammy Leaky was found strangled in 1981.
So where was MX in 1981? Not sure. According to some sources he served very little time for the O’Brien / Fisher murders, and in a minimum security facility. Lot’s of access to day-passes. It’s very conceivable he was let out by 1981.
I’m sure some of you may think, surely after all this time the police would have looked into this? I wouldn’t be too confident. Remember what I said in an earlier post about too much accountability leading to lapses in responsibility. There was already a crowded field in these cases with the Surete du Quebec, Chateauguay, Montreal and Longueuil police all having some involvement. Also remember the lesson of the Quebec Police Commission’s inquiry into Ursula Schulze: no one pursued the victim because everyone assumed someone else was taking care of it.
And where is the Chateauguay Killer today? He lives and works in the Montreal area.
Postscript: The night before Sharon Prior disappeared, March 28th, 1975, was a full moon.