PREVIOUS PODCAST: Qu’est-ce que tu entends par Splashs? – Teresa Martin #5 / WKT5
I visited the Surete du Quebec’s cold case website this week. They now have over 230 unsolved homicides posted, of the 700 cases for which they are responsible. That’s impressive, but the same 10 stale-dated “solved” cases hasn’t changed much since 2014, when they stared the unit. This has really become something of a Vietnam memorial of ineptitude. All those names, very little to show for it. I have a theory about cold case squads. You’ll notice they always come about after decades of neglect, it’s almost like they’ve got to wait 30 years until the last active investigator is out the door and collecting his pension:
“Hey guys, can we start da cold case unit now?”
“No wait, Jean-Guy’s still working parking enforcement. Remember? He got demoted.”
“Ok, the coast is clear, everyone’s out the door, we can start da cold case now!”
This is part six of the podcast investigating the 1969 murder of 14-year-old Theresa Martin, found asphyxiated in a Montreal North tavern parking lot. Last time we heard an interrogation that took place in May 1970 of two young women by the Montreal coroner and a Crown prosecutor. The circumstances around that interrogation are unique and should be explored.
In February 1970 – five months after the murder of Teresa Martin – the Surete du Quebec took over the investigation from the Montreal North police (reasons to be discussed later). In the spring of 1970 the mother of one of the girls, Huguette D, overheard a conversation between her daughter and one of her friends, Johanne H in which Johanne H stated that she knew who killed Teresa Martin. The mother of Huguette D then narced on her daughter and went to the police, resulting in the May 21 interrogation. These interviews were conducted by Laurin Lapointe and Roch Heroux, but they were under the authority of the Surete du Quebec homicide investigator, Sergent Marcel Ste-Marie. Before going any further we should know more about these men – and they were all men – who interrogated two teenage girls for well over an hour.
Coroner Laurin Lapointe
The role of the coroner is a political appointment in Quebec. Laurin Lapointe was made corner in 1965 by then Justice Minister, Claude Wagner, and resigned in a letter to Justice Minister Jerome Choquette in 1973. In his eight years with the Montreal coroner’s office, Lapointe handled inquests into many FLQ bombing deaths, and the Blue Bird fire, an infamous nightclub arson case that resulted in the deaths of 37 patrons.
The coroner’s influence, their inquests, their interviews were essential tools to police investigation. Determining the cause of death – whether accidental, from natural causes or unnatural – was key information that could help investigators build a murder case. In 1969, the coroner’s warrant was the most powerful warrant in Canada, giving police the power to hold a suspect for extended periods. Unlike a criminal trial where a witness can refuse to testify, in the coroner’s proceedings a witness such as Huguette D or Johanne H would have had no choice but to submit to interrogation by Lapointe and Crown prosecutor Heroux :
“He has no choice, if the Crown prosecutor or myself insist… If he doesn’t testify he can be held in contempt of court.”Laurin Lapointe, “Coroner an essential link for police”, The Gazette, February 15, 1972
When five Murray Hill bus employees were brought to testify into the shooting death of Surete du Quebec undercover officer Robert Dumas after the October 1969 Murray Hill riot, it was before Laurin Lapointe’s court they appeared, after undergoing Montreal police interrogation. Lapointe later determined “no blame” could be found in the matter, even though Dumas was most likely killed by off duty police working as Murray Hill security guards. It was Coroner Lapointe who found Devil’s Disciples, Claude “Tattoo” Carrier, 18, Paul “Paulo” Prince, 19, and Andre “Benneville” Bureau, 20 criminally responsible for stabbing to death 58 times Pierre Boucher in a North End park, May 21, 1969 – one year to the date of the Huguette D and Johanne H interrogation.
Crown Prosecutor Roch Heroux
At the time of his death in 2002, Roch Heroux’s name barely registered in the Quebec newspapers, yet he was one of the most influential figures in Quebec justice in the 60s, 70s and 80s. After Laurin Lapointe’s retirement in 1973, Heroux succeeded him and presided for nearly twenty years. His name appears in the medical-legal records of many of the cases we have covered including Johanne Dorion, Francine Da Siva and Sharon Prior. Most notably he cleared police of any wrong doing in the 1978 shooting death of Marc Patenaude by six Montreal SWAT team officers.
Roch Heroux famously abandoned his duties as coroner in 1994 after he publicly expressed his frustrations of the diminished power and responsibilities of the Quebec coroner’s office. Speaking to La Presse about the work of coroners, Heroux stated, “I wouldn’t say our work is completely useless.” He resigned shortly thereafter, leaving his cases in limbo, including the controversial inquest into the death of Canadian champion swimmer and Olympic gold medalist, Victor Davis. After an altercation in a Montreal nightclub, Davis was run down by bar patron Glen Crossley. The 25-year-old swimmer later died of a brain hemorrhage. Crossley served four months in prison for manslaughter. In 2016 Crossley did it again, killing a patron after an altercation in another Montreal bar. That’s Montreal.
Don’t get me wrong, for 17 years Roch Heroux had established a well earned reputation as a tough and tenacious coroner. It’s not the man, but the office and the politics where I have issues.
Surete du Quebec Sergent Marcel Ste-Marie
What we know most about Marcel Ste-Marie is that he would later become a key figure in the October Crisis – the 1970 kidnapping of Quebec minister of Labor Pierre Laporte, and British trade minister James Cross by the terrorist group, Front de libération du Québec / FLQ which would lead to the death of Laporte.
Ste-Marie oversaw the arrest of Laporte’s kidnappers, the members of the Chénier Cell – Francis Simard, Bernard Lortie, and Paul and Jacques Rose – who were found in December 1970 hiding at a farm house in Saint Luc. Ste-Marie supervised the search of the farm house premises, and headed the investigation into Laporte’s death. He was the last witness to testify for the Crown when it closed its case in December 1972 in the Laporte Kidnapping trial. Paul Rose’s defense attorneys later accused Ste-Marie of fabricating Rose’s statement, claiming it had actually been written by a fellow police officer. In 1978 after many of the FLQ kidnappers were granted leniency by the Quebec government, Marcel Ste-Marie flew to Paris to escort Jacques and Louise Cossette-Trudel – two former members of the Liberation cell responsible for the Cross kidnapping – back to Dorval airport thus ending their eight-year Canadian exile. In the 1980s Ste-Marie retired quietly from law enforcement and was working as a security advisor for the Desjardins insurance firm.
It’s unlikely the two girls were the only witnesses interrogated by the coroner and the police. But these are the only statements we have, so that’s all we have to inform us of the direction of the investigation into the death of Teresa Martin. Was Sergent Ste-Marie in the interrogation room, but chose not to say anything? Did he observe the proceedings through the two-way glass? Or did he simply read stenographer Andre Gauthier’s notes when the report was later placed on his desk? We don’t know (Note that Gauthier was also the stenographer for a brief corner’s interrogation in the Sharon Prior murder investigation).
What were the true motivations of investigators in hauling in two teenaged girls – who had been ratted out by one of their parents – then having one of them admit to being repeatedly gang-raped? The window into 14-year-old Johanne D’s existence in Montreal North is chilling. In exchange for probably a dipped soft-serve and the occasional ride on the back of a chopper, she was forced to act as an indentured servant to these boys and men, to clean up after them and to have sex with them at their will. A listener remarked, ‘didn’t the police care that a sexual assault had occurred?‘, and one could argue, no, that those were the harden optics of that era. But I would go further and suggest that the police, the coroner, and Crown prosecutor did not appear even that interested in the matter of Teresa Martin’s murder let alone the allegation of sexual exploitation of minors.
Last week I was granted an interview with the Surete du Quebec to question them on the Teresa Martin case. When I asked why the Surete du Quebec assumed control of the investigation in February, 1970 – a mere five months after Martin was found asphyxiated – I was told that they knew the reason but could not tell me, and that it had nothing to do with the Montreal Nord police’s investigative capacities. I pressed and suggested that the logical agency t take control would have been Montreal’s Metropolitan police force, the MUC (now known as the SPVM). This tactic was met with silence so I pressed further, that the real reason was La MUC. That the Montreal Police had created the biker club, it was funded by the Quebec government, and now that they had a crisis on their hands and the possibility that a murder had been committed by MUC members at the MUC cabane on the premises of the property given to La MUC by British Petroleum and the town of Anjou, that they needed distance, a buffer between the case and the investigation force to quell any suspicions and questions. From this I was told, “No, no, no” a little too emphatically.
In the interrogation of Huguette D and Johanne H, La MUC is mentioned over fifty times. If you consider the world the two girls describe, it mainly unfolds at their schools and at the restaurant, Varietes, in the Charlesroi / Lamoureux area – not far from where Teresa Martin lived and was found. It is mainly the coroner who leads the discussion to the location of La MUQ. It is the coroner who comes back repeatedly to the Cabane at 9000 Henri Bourassa east. We are never taken to to the bus stop on Gouin blvd. where Teresa Martin was last seen. The girls are never asked about the Taverne Vieux Cypres where her body was found. So is the line of questioning about determining who killed Teresa Martin, or is it really about damage control, who knew what and when about La MUC? I would suggest to you that it’s a bit of both.
Unlike 1969, La MUQ is never mentioned in the press in 1970 or thereafter. There are no interviews with John Dazell. There are no photo ops with Quebec tourism ministers on motorbikes. When Dazell retired in the 1990s he talked about his exploits back in the day working with dangerous bikers, but he never mentioned his founding of La MUQ.
As it is to this day, in 1970 the coroner’s office was located in the same building as the Surete du Quebec, working on the sixth floor and the basement morgue at 1701 Parthenais, too close a proximity to a police force it was supposed to hold at arms length (there was an article in this week’s La Presse cataloguing the 60 year association between the SQ and Quebec politics, a relationship writer Denis Lessard deemed too close). Also recall that we have spoken before about Quebec’s president of the John Howard Society, Jean-Claude Bernheim. When I asked Jean-Claude in 2019 if it would be possible for a coroner to lie in the interest of the police his response was immediate, “fully”.
So I would argue that when all the investigative leads in the Martin case started leading back to La MUQ – back to a Frankenstein monster Quebec justice authorities had spawned – they needed to execute a plan of damage control. They placed the case under the authority of the Surete du Quebec, they tried to assess the level of damage, their possible risk and exposure, and they nervously waited for the public to get distracted again, as they always do.
They didn’t have to wait long. The October Crisis was the perfect moment, an opportunity to turn people’s focus toward a common goal of seeking justice. And the SQ’s Sergent Marcel Ste-Marie wasn’t the only one who later became caught up in matters of the October Crisis. It was Coroner Laurin Lapointe who made the official determination that Pierre Laporte had been strangled to death by a thin chain – probably his own that had held a religious medal such as a crucifix. After the trials, Lapointe quietly retired due to “declining health” and Roch Heroux assumed his responsibilities as Montreal’s new coroner.
The Confines of Memory
In July 1970 Margaret Coleman and her traveling companion, Margaret Jones took a Greyhound bus from New York City to Montreal. The two California college students planned to spend the summer on a cross-country vacation. They briefly visited Man and his World, site of the 1967 World’s fair. Carrying little more than sleeping rolls, Coleman and Jones were last seen at a traffic circle in Saint Hubert, about 10 miles East of Montreal. Their bodies were found by a farmer the morning of July 9, 1970 on the side of the road near Saint Jean sur Richelieu. 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 suffering from a severe concussion and loss of memory.
Margaret Jones recovered from her injuries and returned to California. The matter was soon forgotten. Margaret Coleman’s death has never been solved. Much more could have been done by authorities, but Quebec police quickly lost interest in the fall of 1970s with the emergence of The October Crisis, and police focused all their energies on hunting the responsible parties. The matter of a young women found dead along a country road was soon forgotten. Given the urgency of the crisis, some of this was warranted, but it soon became the modus operandi of Quebec law enforcement. As a colleague and former Ontario police officer put it to me, “… the SQ is obsessed with bikers and financial crimes and the city cops obsessed with nothing.”
In the Fall of 1970, Surete du Quebec officers traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Margaret Jones and assist her in developing a composite sketch of her friend, Margaret Coleman’s possible killer. One might think this demonstrated some diligence, but the SQ’s journey had more to do with their ongoing obsessions. The Saint Hubert traffic circle where they were last seen was less than a mile from the house in Saint Hubert where Chenier cell members held Pierre Laporte. The county road where their bodies were found was close to a tunnel where Paul and Jacques Rose were eventually found hiding. If Jones’ information helped to build the case against the Rose brothers, the trip to Los Angeles was a worthy investment, otherwise it held little purpose for the investigators. To this day, the Surete du Quebec have not posted Margaret Coleman’s case on their unsolved website.
Where Are They Now?
There was Zipper and Gazou, Crazy Horse and Chopper and Ti-Me. So what became of these bikers and alleged aggressors… possibly murderers? Listeners have found some of them on social media, older and grizzled, still a passion for bikes. Marcel “Mars” Servant married a topless dancer and had a child. In 1974 he was convicted of armed robbery. Later he kidnapped his daughter and was on the run for 3 1/2 years before the law caught up with him hiding out in Hare Krishna communities in the United States and Western Canada. In 1984 he was given a year in prison and three years probation. Paul-Emile Simard, also known as Shifter, died in a house fire in Rockland in 2014. The El Rebel, Jean-Guy Cossette became a semi-professional motorbike racer, working the Quebec circuit. Yves Palardy was shot to death in the East-End of Montreal in 1976. Devils Disciples member, Richard Vaillancourt appeared to have been burnt out of his home and was living in his garage for 10 weeks in 1982, though it’s a common name.
Coco Langevin, Gaetan Renaud, Raymond Borosco, Jean-Guy’s brother, the other El Rebel, Mick Cossette? We don’t know. Was Teresa Martin tattooed and asphyxiated at the MUQ cabane in the shadow of the British Petroleum refinery, or perhaps back at Sylvie’s apartment where the boys occasionally stayed along Charlesroi? We don’t know. But someone knows.
I asked the Surete du Quebec about tracking down some of these people and questioning them, but before we get to that, I asked them, what are some of the tools a cold case investigator uses for clearing unsolved murders. This is a summary of the response:
- They review the case files.
- If there is case evidence, they resubmit the samples for laboratory testing.
- If someone calls the cold case hotline ( 1-800-659-4264) they follow up on the call, or any emailed information.
I suggested that – given so much evidence in these cases has been destroyed by the police – that this didn’t leave much to do. How do the 25 cold case investigators occupy their time? The math doesn’t work. We returned to an old question, one I had asked many years ago in the matter of my sister’s murder, shouldn’t investigators go out to the public, knock on doors, and re-interview some of the witnesses. At the time that I originally asked this question over a decade ago I was met with the surprisingly incredulous response, “Surely you don’t expect us to go door to door?!”.
Yes. Yes I do. And I put the same question to the Surete du Quebec last week in the matter of Teresa Martin. In fact, I asked the question three times; Shouldn’t the police go back and question these people, the ones still alive? Someone may have had a change of heart, a change of life circumstances. Where once they were silent, they may be ready to talk now. They’re not going to voluntarily call you up on your 800 number, you have to go to them.
‘Well that would take too much effort. We don’t have the time, we aren’t resources for that.’
Then what is your purpose? Did Johanne H have a name in her head? Would she speak that name now? Shouldn’t the Surete du Quebec be talking to Johanne H, and her then boyfriend, the former Hells Rebel, Richard “Pepilo” Sears?