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In the initial episodes of this podcast of the 1969 unsolved murder of 14-year-old Teresa Martin, many of you wrote to me or commented that the prime suspect in the case must be a one-time Satan’s Choice biker member named Michael French, and that the tattoo inscription found on her stomach, “F.L. FRENCHY I LOVE YOU” must be a reference to French, either inscribed by him as some sort of sick joke, or possibly implicating him, as a way to throw authorities off the trail of the real killer. Montreal writer Kristian Gravenor guessed this on the Facebook page for this podcast. A listener with some affiliation with Montreal’s West End Gang also guessed this. I also considered it early on before deciding that it seemed too obvious.
From this press release, which must be from 1970 – probably just after February 1970 when the Surete du Quebec took over the case – we can now see that the inscription carved on Teresa Martin read, or the SQ wanted the public to believe read, “F.L. FRENCHY I LOVE YOU”. The notice summarizes that Martin was a young student, that she was found dead on the 13th of September, 1969, near a tavern on Henri Bourassa Blvd. in Montreal North, and that any cooperation on the part of the public would be considered an act of civic duty aiding the justice system.
What I can tell you now is that Mike French as a suspect is one of the theories that current cold case investigators with the Surete du Quebec maintain as a possible explanation for Martin’s bizarre and puzzling murder. Specifically I was told that the one time head of the cold case unit, Marc Lepine developed this theory in his early work in criminal profiling. According to Lepine, the F. stood for French, the L. stood for a second biker named Lennon, and they were both members of Satan’s Choice, with “no attachment to Montreal North”. Apparently Lepine came to this conclusion in 2007, given the date I think it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. From what I know of Lepine – and I know a fair bit, he made his bones on the Guy Croteau case, he’s currently in charge of major crimes with the SQ – in 2007 he had just barely completed his profiler training with the FBI, coming up with Teresa Martin’s offender would have been one of his first profiles. My thoughts were, I hope he’s got more information to go on than simply the word, “French”. My confidence didn’t increase when I was told that Lepine also believed that Martin’s murderer must have “cared for her” because “she wasn’t dumped but gently put down to be found.” Lepine must have forgotten about the knocks to the back of her head.
And anyway, when did Mike French ever care about anyone but himself? The one other murder that we’ve covered where he is a suspect is the abduction and brutal killing of 16-year-old Sharron Prior. Prior was found raped, beaten, possibly gagged, and held and tortured for several days… then strangled – then dumped – in a field in Longueuil, April 1, 1975. Prior disappeared after leaving her Congregation street home on her way to a Pointe Saint Charles pizza joint. At the time bikers – presumably Satan’s Choice – had a club one block north of her home on Sebastopol.
The best source for what we know of Mike French comes from Kristian Gravenor’s website about Montreal sub-culture, Coolopolis. Allegedly French grew up a the Weredale House, a home for “troubled boys” located in Westmount. At an early age French joined the Satan’s Choice biker club from Saint-Henri, which is just across the Lachine Canal from Pointe Saint Charles. Satan’s Choice was one of the clubs targeted by Montreal community outreach officer, John Dalzell in the late 1960s in establishing his federation of motorcycle gang’s Le MUC (for more on Le MUC read here).
In the early 1970s, French was possibly living for a period in Beaconsfield, at 67 Portland Place, possibly with a relative named Thalon French. And we know this because they were listed as defendants in a property dispute in the Quebec provincial courts in February 1974. The Portland Place apartment was right along the Lakeshore, not far from the Maples and Edgewater, clubs French was known to frequent. My sister Theresa also went to those places on weekends – well, everyone did – so it is quite possible that she encountered Mike French on some occasions. Though I wouldn’t read too much into this. Yes, French was known to be an erratic, violent man, but there are many people who encountered him in the day and observed that he was often inclined to simply sit at a bar, drink his beer then leave a place with little notice.
Except when he wasn’t. In 1977 Michael French was charged along with five others in an incident involving “injuring with intent to maim or mutilate.” John O’Donnell described to the court how a peaceful evening out in Montreal with a group of friends turned into a nightmare of violence:
“It only took about 15 seconds… one of them stabbed my two friends in the stomach… then somebody hit me in the face with a heavy object like a beer stein. I was knocked on the ground , had one tooth broken and another knocked out…”Nigel Gibson, “Knifings took ’15 seconds,’ court told”, The Gazette, January, 29, 1977
French’s long-time partner in crime Bobby Chou was singled out as the guy who did the stabbing. Rounding out this crew were Brian Powers, Kevin O’Brien, and Tom and Ed O’Neill. O’Donnell required 12 stitches to close the gash to his face ( Kristian Gravenor goes into great, great detail about Chou and this incident over at his website, Coolopolis). The fight occurred at the old Moustache Club on Closse street across from the Montreal Forum.
For a time French had also been living at 5870 Sherbrooke West, in an apartment in NDG, and we know this because on November 11, 1970, it’s reported French was charged with armed robbery over an argument about the purchase of some hash. 1970 is closer to our target, 1969 and Teresa Martin, and what’s also interesting here is that NDG is inching closer to Pointe Saint Charles, the neighborhood where Sharron Prior lived. Then in 1982 there is a simple obit in the Montreal paper informing us that Michael French died on November 12th. He had several brothers and sisters, Patrick, Geraldine, Peter, Paul, Frances, Wendy living in Montreal, Calgary and Port Coquitlam, BC – and apparently a wife named Madonna.
How and why did French die? The rumor goes like this. French was murdered because he boasted once too often about raping and killing Sharron Prior in the spring of 1975. According to Gravenor, police suspected West End Gang hitman Jackie McLaughlin killed French, chopped him into pieces, and deposited the remains across the Saint Lawrence river in Kahnawake as “a sort of community service.” Other versions say he was killed for raping the daughter of a cop, or possibly a Mafia boss.
What grabbed my attention most in all this was Mike French being a member of Satan’s Choice, and a gang rape that took place in 1968 by 12 to 23 Satan’s Choice members. On October 24, 1968 a 15-year-old girl was taken by Satan’s Choice gang leader, Richard “Bernie” Guindon to a clubhouse at 22 Willow Street in Ottawa. She first had voluntary sex with Guindon. Then after being beaten she was forced to have sex with the rest of the members.
“… [ he ]took her to “an old shack” where a guy called “Wheeler” said, “Splash!” When she refused the group aberration, she was beaten, stripped and forced to undergo “intercourse” with all the males there, about 23.”“Woman tells court girl’s account of indecent acts”, The Ottawa Citizen, May 1, 1969
There are several things of interest her for our purposes; a clubhouse that is an old shack, the use of the word, “Splash”, but further still, there was a young woman involved in tormenting the 15-year-old victim. A 19-year-old female member of the Ottawa chapter named Lorraine Cotty participated in the assault, kicking her in the face with steel-tipped cowboy boots. Initially the 19-year-old as also charged with rape, but the sentence was reduced to assault causing bodily harm when she agreed to testify against the men.
Cotty described how she travelled to the clubhouse from Toronto with Bernie Guindon, who was her husband. Once there, Guindon’s plan was to prostitute his wife for club members. On the witness stand Cotty was asked to describe the role woman play in Satan’s Choice:
“They have no status, they’re pigs. They are treated just like pigs. We have no say, nothing to say about anything. You’re just there. If you’re ordered to do something? You do it. “
Cotty went on to describe how she was forced by Guindon, “to hit her more than once. I hit her with my fists and with my boots…. Then they forced her to do just about everything.”
Other witnesses testified how they saw the 15-year-old girl at the clubhouse sweeping up the living room, a club member describing her as, “our new Splasher”. The horrific scene only came to light when the brave girl finally decided to tell a neighbor of her ordeal the day after her assault.
On May 25, 1969, five members of the Ottawa Satan’s Choice motorcycle club, including Guindon were found guilty of indecent assault on the 15-year-old girl (they had initially been charged with the more severe offense of rape). The judge handed down the maximum sentence of five years, and commented that he would have imposed the lash if such a penalty were permitted.
Richard “Bernie” Guindon was no so-and-so biker stooge. He founded Satan’s Choice in Toronto in 1965. If you check any biker or Wikipedia page you will find little about Bernie’s orchestrated gang rape of a 15-year-old girl, it’s explained away as a police frame-up operation, and anyway, Bernie thought she was 18. There are paragraphs devoted to the biker code, and wars with rival gangs. According to biker author Mick Lowe, “To be around Bernie Guindon was to feel utterly and irrepressibly alive, living for the moment and yet moving towards some grand and glorious future.” Is that how that raped and beaten 15-year-old girl felt? Irrepressibly alive? Canadian film director, Donald Shebib further glorified Guindon in his 1965 biker documentary, Satan’s Choice. Today Bernie’s still out there, living the dream, probably holed-up in some cottage in Muskoka or Sainte Agathe.
Lorraine Cotty’s account of the gang rape raises the possibility that girls and women may have participated, or at least witnessed the ritualistic tattooing of Teresa Martin and her asphyxiation. Whether that participation was willing or unwilling is a matter of further speculation, but it raises the prospect that the girl, Johanne H who was interrogated by Quebec Coroner Laurin Lapointe and Crown prosecutor Roch Heroux may have known much more than she revealed in that interrogation. What Cotty describes is more graphic version of what Johanne H alludes to in her testimony. Where the term “splash” is used vaguely by Johanne H, we are given the full extent of its meaning by Cotty – a “splasher” is a sex slave.
Cotty’s participation in all of this is unclear. At one moment we are told she was a gang member, then by her account she was forced into prostitution and the beating of the 15-year-old. There is an account from May 1970 where an 18-year-old girl, who is identified as a member of Satan’s Choice, participated in the “ritual beating” of another gang member. While 19-year-old Bobby Anderson endured three hours of “whipping, beating and torture”, the girl laughed and cheered on his two tormentors. One of these gang members is identified as 21-year-old Yvon Robert of 6422 rue Beaucourt in Montreal North. Curiously Yvon Robert’s residence was nestled right between boulevards Leger and Henri Bourassa; a 3 minute drive from the tavern where Teresa Martin was found, and a 4 minute drive from Teresa Martin’s home.
All of this inevitably leads to questions about Teresa Martin’s possible socialization and involvement with the biker world. Despite everything we are told to the contrary that she was a good Catholic school girl with no biker gang associations, doubts always linger in the mind. And I would suggest to you that a lot of this bias lies in some of the myths we have been told about gang and biker culture. One such myth is that gangs keep to their own. The circle of violence is committed within their own sub-culture. Civilians don’t get hurt. To which me and everyone in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood would scream, “Tell that to 11-year-old biker bomb victim, Daniel Desrochers.”
Death of Christiane Malo
In August 1968, three Popeyes motorcycle gang members, crowbars in hand, stood outside the Kimberly and Ontario metro exit, waiting for a female victim – any female victim – to rob. The three struck 16-year-old CEGEB student, Christiane Malo repeatedly about the head. They ran off with Malo’s umbrella, her perfume and 43 cents from her purse. Christiane Malo died two days later in a Montreal hospital. On October 15th, 1969 – a month after Teresa Martin’s murder – 16-year-old Michel Perrault was sentenced to life in prison. The judge commented:
“the police needn’t be reticent in their handling of these motorcyclists who have ganged up together into criminal bands. They needn’t wait until exhibits disappear or witnesses are threatened before moving to stop them.”Youth to trial in purse-snatch death of girl”, The Gazette, April 11, 1969
As early as 1969, Judge Jacques Anetil could see what was coming, and like Chrstiane Malo, I believe Teresa Martin was chosen at random by her biker attackers.
Language has everything to do with this story. In the Coroner testimony from the Martin case, at one point one of the girls says they hung out at a restaurant that served “french fries”. Except if you’re French, it’s pretty obvious that’s not what she said. In French she said a place that served patates frites. But no one in English would know what I meant if I said fried potatoes, so I took some liberties and called them french fries ( I could have used, chips, but that might have been more confusing).
So too with “splash”. The word “splash” is used much more in the testimony. I changed some language to “rape” or “fuck” so people would know what I was talking about. I had a hard time tracking down its meaning. I went to several French friends in Quebec and none of them had heard the term before. We all guessed it might have a sexual inference – it doesn’t take much of an imagination to draw that conclusion – but as to its origin and specific meaning we came up empty. The story of the Ottawa gang rape gets us closer to the meaning, splasher as sex slave, but there may be something more precise here. Lorraine Cotty also testified how before the gang rape a bitches brew concoction of wine and beer was poured over the young victim, so I would suggest that “splashing” was a sort of biker gang rape ritual, with any assault beginning with a full body dousing of alcohol.
Finally, a social awareness piece from 1967 in the Windsor Star spells out what “splasher” meant in biker culture. In 1967 a woman writer named Nanci Lugsdin interviewed women and girls affiliated with the Windsor, Ontario chapter of the Satan’s Choice motorcycle club. This is a biker-wife named Rebel’s account of how women functioned in the biker world:
“Club members call married women “old ladies.” and the term also applies to girls who are going steady. If “old ladies” want, they can wear the club colors with the words, “Property of Satan’s Choice” and their boyfriend’s name on it. This means “private property, hands off,” to the other club members.
Some of the girls, however, don’t go with any one member of the club, and they are called “Mommas” or “splashers.” A splasher wears just the words “Property of the Satan’s Choice” on her jacket.
But you’re ignorant if you do,” said an “old lady,” explaining that this meant you were the club prostitute.”“‘You’re really free, the wind in your hair'”, Nancy Lugsdin, The Windsor Star, August 12, 1967, page 5B
Rebel goes on to say that when the boys threw parties where there was drinking involved – like the one that allegedly took place at the MUC clubhouse – they usually left their “old ladies” behind because they didn’t want anyone messing with their property, “Usually just splashers go to parties.” Rebel also states that the public’s perception of bikers through movies is “pretty phony“:
“All that rape and murder business, I’ve never heard of stuff like that.”
I Love You French – I know it’s important to you
Did Michael French murder Teresa Martin? That’s hard to justify if the only thing we have to go on is an inscription on the body using the word, “French”. And as the SQ profiler, Marc Lepine suggested, what would French have been doing in Montreal North, he was a West End thug, usually operating in NDG, Pointe Saint Charles, and the Lachine area. Still, a biker goes where the action is, and the week of Martin’s murder, Montreal North saw some action.
On Wednesday, September 10, 1969 there was a language riot in the neighboring community of Saint Leonard. This is from the morning edition of The Montreal Gazette:
“Last night – for the first time since 1949 – the Riot Act was read as militant French unilingualists went on a wild window-smashing rampage along Jean Talon St. in suburban St. leonard.”“St. Leonard: Riot Act Read”, Derek Hill, The Gazette, September 11, 1969
As would be the case with the Murray Hill riot which would take place later the following month, in Saint Leonard the protests began as a focused demonstration then quickly spiraled out of control into shop looting and the burning of businesses and vehicles. Police made 50 arrests. A detachment of 500 Surete du Quebec officers were called in to assist the local Saint Leonard force. The Gazette’s Hal Winter described the scene:
“At a corner, one of these young men grabbed a passer-by and asked him “Parlez-vous francais?”
“Mais oui…” replied the shocked passerby. “Then” said his questioner, in an angry outburst of Italian, “This is for you.”
With that he punched him in the mouth.”
Bad blood simmered for days, the situation did not settle down until after the weekend. And I would note that you would have needed to travel through Saint Leonard in order to get to Les Galeries d’Anjou, the mall where Teresa Martin went to see a movie the night she died. So what might a Satan’s Choice member like Mike French be doing in Montreal North at that time? The same thing as any biker, going to the scene of some chaos to see how to exploit and profit from it. Further, Johanne H described parties with the Montreal North bikers where splashers participated and splashing took place. The only biker group we know who used the term spashers – whether in Ottawa or Windsor… or Montreal – were the Satan’s Choice members, and Mike French was a member of Satan’s Choice.
Viewed in this light, “French I Love You” could be interpreted as a puzzling riddle with multiple meanings. It could be a reference to the victim, who was fluent in both French and English. It could be referring directly to the murderer, Michael French, or a murderer who wished to frame Michael French. It may have a broader, ironic meaning and be commenting on the cultural environment at that time, the frustrations and anger that were boiling over in late 1969.
IRONY: BOOGALOO BOYS. WHY DID HE SAY I LOVE YOU IF HE KILLED HER? BIKERS KISS. MILITARY JACKET. SQ BIKER JERSEY
My personal belief is that “French I Love You” was a warning. Teresa Martin was chosen at random, plucked off the streets as an innocent, and killed by bikers; the tattoo, “F.L. Frenchie I Love You” left as a bleak warning to other young women in the neighborhood – who were not so innocent and served as gang prostitutes and drug runners – of what happens to girls who talk too much. And this would apply whether or not Mike French was the murderer. Different biker, same outcome, with the possibility that others, including gang girls, participated in the event.
I freely admit there are problems with this theory. Chiefly, how does Teresa Martin get from the point where she is last seen – a bus stop in a secluded, you might even call it rural at that time, part of Gouin boulevard to the tavern parking lot on Henri Bourassa? Someone didn’t follow her off the bus, it’s not that kind of murder. So a vehicle followed her and the bus from the Anjou mall to the bus stop? That seems improbable. Maybe the bus driver who said he saw her got it wrong. There’s a lot that is wrong with this case. Martin was found without identification. In the spring of 1970 detectives showed up at the Martin’s door with Teresa’s wallet. We don’t know where the wallet was found. Did someone find it on Henri Bourassa between Taverne Vieux Cypres and the MUC hangout in Anjou, or in a field along Gouin Boulevard, then turn it in to police? Knowing that would be helpful. Just as knowing where my sister’s wallet was found eventually led to, not some random college campus killing, but a sexual predator known at that time to the local police.
In 2017 a made a FOIA request to the Montreal police for any correspondence concerning Michael French. I’ve forgotten why I was interested in French at that time, but I suspect it had to do with the Sharron Prior case. The SPVM had the audacity to respond that they didn’t have any information concerning Michael French, such are the abuses of ‘freedom of information’.
A final thought. In that coroner interrogation of Johanne H, her questioners try to get her to name names. “You don’t have a name in your head?” she is asked. And she responds, “Maybe I had one”. Earlier in her testimony she stated, “I know this is important to you”, and the coroner asks, “What is important?”. Johanne H responds, “I love you French”. She doesn’t say Frenchie, she says French.
Is it possible police missed that Johanne H secretly named Teresa Martin’s murderer?