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.