On Halloween night 1968, the manager of a King street Kentucky Fried Chicken store was gunned down outside his home in Sherbrooke Quebec. Rolland Giguere’s death was the only murder recorded in Sherbrooke in 1968, and the oldest unsolved murder on record in the city.
This is one of those ‘Great Mysteries of the Last Century’ we were just talking about, another one of Sherbrooke’s ‘indecipherable enigma”s that when you scratch the service, you find the mystery is quite penetrable, provided you have the will and guts to really take a hard look at what’s going on in small town Quebec.
It’s the story of three guys who tried to build a chicken empire like St-Hubert BBQ in the Townships but wound up grounded. (For a great read on St. Hubert see “Ring-Ring-Ring” – The Murder of Michelle Perron) It started in the ’50s when Lennoxville native, Douglas Patrick opened a canteen on Speid street near The Georgian Hotel. Business was good, in April 1963, Patrick expanded and moved the canteen to Queen street, called it Pat’s Kentucky Fried Chicken / Pat’s BBQ, and became one of Colonel Sanders’ first franchises in the province of Quebec. Business continued to be good, so Patrick took on partners; Yvon “Charlie ” Charland became vice-president, and Rolland Giguere, was now director of the firm. I know, it’s already too many names, but it’s easy, I’ll help you. Charland is the french guy, he looked like Sinatra in his toothpick-thin era, the other two looked like those chunky session musicians who backed up Elvis – Chicken Pat, Chicken Charles and Chicken Rollie.
In November, 1963 they opened what will become their flagship chicken operation, Pat’s KFC at 849 King Street West in downtown Sherbrooke. They opened a third chicken shack in Granby, and finally in 1965, they acquired a fine dining establishment across the street from Pat’s KFC, The Bifteck. The boys took out a half-page of advertisements in the local papers. We are told that the new company was registering “fascinating gains”. The boys had big dreams:
“Sherbrooke’s dignified dining rooms, like the Bifteck, have earned world wide renown for some of our country’s larger cities, like Montreal and Toronto, and centres of exquisite cuisine such as New York, Paris and London. Certainly those who come to Sherbrooke will leave with the fond memories of the Bifteck once they have dined in this attractive house of tempting meals.”Sherbrooke Record, February 25, 1965
With Chicken Charles running the Lennoxville location, and Chicken Rollie managing the King street KFC and Bifteck, that left Chicken Pat to do, what? Sit home and watch the profits soar? It didn’t happen.
1968 Sherbrooke was never going to become a restaurant destination. Whenever we passed through Sherbrooke, my parents spent a half-hour at Marie Antoinette‘s then got out of Dodge. Douglas Patrick was a victim of expanding too fast, and classic bad timing. By 1968, the biker era had begun. Within a year the merchants of King street would be complaining about the noise and disorderly conduct of clubs like the Atomes and Gitans up and down King and Wellington – no one would be fine dining at the Bifteck. Remember when I said Rolland Giguere was the only murder recorded in 1968? That wouldn’t last long, the Gitans would see to that.
On Halloween night, October 31, 1968 Rollie Giguere was managing the takeout and delivery of Pat’s Kentucky Fried Chicken at 849 King Street West. He worked late that evening, leaving the restaurant well after midnight. Around 2:30 am Rollie rolled into his driveway at 1060 rue Genest. Almost immediately he was confronted by two or three gunmen, and shot several times in the stomach. Neighbors heard his cries for help. Giguere’s wife ran from their home and found Rolland Giguere slouched behind the wheel of his car.
According to reports, the motive was robbery. At first, police believed nothing was stollen, and that Giguere had already deposited the daily receipts at a local bank drop box. That appears to be untrue, and Giguere was shot over a struggle with the money. Neighbors gave a description of the getaway vehicle. At the time of the shooting the QPF (Surete du Quebec) denied rumors that “Montreal hoodlums [were] trying to establish a protection racket in Sherbrooke.” Then why had they established road blocks all along the autoroute leading out of Sherbrooke and into Montreal?
Rolland Giguere died about a week later at Sherbrooke’s Hôtel-Dieu Hospital. He was thirty-five, and left behind a grieving wife and six children. His was the only murder recorded in 1968, and today the oldest cold case on the books in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Giguere’s business partner, Douglas Patrick was the first to offer a reward of $500 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits. The reward increased to $1,025 with contributions made by the Sherbrooke Daily Record, CRTS and CULT Radio, Au Bon Marche clothing store, Clarke Taylor Fuels, the Canadian Restaurant Association, and Léon Vaillancourt Jewelers. Giguere’s other business partner, Yvon “Charlie” Charland appears to have not made a contribution to the reward bursary. La Tribune newspaper noted that many residents of Sherbrooke wanted to make contributions, but withheld donations for fear of retributions from the assailants. So there was a strong implication here that everyone in town had a pretty good idea who had committed the robbery.
“People who knew him well“
Why kill a man over money? Police were beginning to suspect Rolland Giguere was shot because he knew the thieves, and would have been able to identify them had he survived. There were even some reports that the assailants wore Halloween masks to disguise their appearance. But why wear a mask? Unless you could be recognized. Would out-of-town hoodlums wear a mask? Would they care if Rollie Giguere saw their faces? Douglas Patrick made an impassioned plea in La Tribune “… to people’s good will… in the name of justice and M. Rolland Giguere to give the information they have in their possession.” ‘They have’: Which again sounds like everyone in town knew who did it. But the people of Sherbrooke refused to help. Captain Gaboriault of the Sherbrooke Police echoed, “We are ready to verify any new clue that can be brought to us”. No one came forward.
It always seems to be the case in these matters – Sherbrooke shortly rolled on into 1969, then quickly into a new decade, and Rolland Giguere was soon forgotten. But Giguere’s widow had some parting thoughts before the case went completely cold. Madame Giguere offered that her husband had not been killed by simple thieves, but by people who knew him well. “She even asserted that the murderers had been protected by certain individuals to the detriment of the investigators.”
36 years later in 2004, investigators made another crack at solving the Giguere case. A porte-parole for the Sherbrooke police explained:
“Our investigators have learned new elements that are important enough to relaunch the investigation. They corroborated these facts with several witnesses in the region… These are new facts that we could not verify at the time. It is extremely rare for us to relaunch investigations after so many years. An unresolved investigation is never closed. However, serious information must be communicated to us. We are not going back to the file from the beginning. The investigators are simply continuing the work begun in November 1968.”Michel Martin, Sherbrooke Police Force
Note the number of qualifications here: ‘The investigation is never closed, but we are never really doing anything to resolve it.’ So what were the new elements? Police disclosed for the first time that Giguere was hit with .22 caliber bullets. A .22 is a cheap weapon usually used by low-end criminals. Police even questioned, then released two people considered to be important witnesses in the matter. Two years later, in February, 2006 La Tribune reported that investigators met with a “potential suspect” in the case. In fact, police by then had two suspects,
“A potential suspect now in his late 60s was encountered in this case. We interrogated him and then released him. However, our investigation was able to move forward following this interrogation.”Michel Martin, Sherbrooke Police Force
The 2006 investigation appeared to be making progress. Police confirmed the second suspect, but stated they “cannot be met for the moment”, meaning they were probably either very ill or out of the country. Investigators even went so far as to suggest the progress could lead to an indictment for the then 38-year-old murder of Roland Giguere. But just when the case appeared to be gaining momentum it was shuttered. The last update on Giguere was in 2008 in a roundup of cold cases from the Townships that also mentioned the death of Manon Dubé, and the Diane Couture murder from 1997. La Tribune’s Rene-Charles Quirion reported that concerning Rolland Giguere, “the new elements of the investigation did however not permit to arrest the suspect”, while annoyingly reminding readers that “a murder case is always active.”
Finger Licking Dead
Here’s some things I never knew about Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. His real name was Harland David Sanders and he was born in Indiana, not Kentucky. For most of his life he was a failed businessmen and had tried several ventures. When he took over a Shell gas station in 1930 and started selling fried chicken as a side-hustle he struck gold. Harland Sanders was apparently a huge prick. He would often humiliate franchisees, a typical rant would involve calling out their gravy as “slop”. For the back-end of his years he lived on the Lakeshore in Mississauga, Ontario. He died there in 1980. Finally, my favorite; Sanders once shot a competitor over a gas station turf war:
“When Sanders discovered Stewart once again painting over [Sanders’] sign, he and two Shell officials ran to catch him red handed, heavily armed. In the resulting gun fight, the Shell manager was killed and Sanders shot Stewart in the shoulder. KFC currently has a purposefully poorly acted reenactment of the fight that gave Sanders complete control over the gas station market in the area after his competition was sent to jail for murder.”Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, Josh Ozersky, University of Texas Press, 2012
Now don’t that make you go hmmmmmm… Hey, I don’t want to bad-mouth the Colonel. I have fond memories of my grandfather bringing home a bucket of chicken after work on a Saturday. There was a Scott’s Chicken Villa (as it was called in Trenton, Ontario) right across the street from his business, Allore Lumber on Front Street. Who didn’t love those 11 herbs and spices? There’s even a photo of Rollie Giguere, the Colonel’s arm draped lovingly across his shoulder like a proud father. But I’ve also seen Breaking Bad. Chicken is dangerous business.
We’ve not talked a lot about the other partner, Yvon Charland, the one who didn’t offer a reward. Not long after Giguere’s murder, the business partnership with Douglas Patrick appears to have dissolved. Patrick kept control of the restaurants on King street. Until 1980 he served as president of Lennoxville’s Police Committee. He eventually retired to Orlando, Florida.
Yvon “Charlie” Charland (not to be confused with Yvan Charland, the murdered Brinks guard from the Rock Forest affair) kept control of the Lennoxville chicken stand. This eventually evolved into Charles’ Restaurant at 116 Queen Street (where Pizzaville is today). Above the restaurant, Charland had a nightclub called Chez Robert, AKA ‘Disco Bob’s”.
Yvon Charland had three sons who where in and out of trouble all their lives. Now it wasn’t the sons who killed Rolland Giguere, they would have been too young in 1968. But what’s bred in the bone will out in the flesh. In the 1970s the town of Lennoxville was in a constant battle with the owners of Disco Bob’s over noise complaints, drugs, and reports of drunk and disorderly behavior. Curiously, the name Yvon Charland is rarely mentioned in these complaints, though he was most certainly the owner (more on this later). Charland’s son, Robert – as you might imagine – managed Chez Robert. But it was the other two sons, Marc and Jean that caused the most trouble.
Marc Charland was the boyfriend of Carole Fecteau, the 18-year-old murdered in East Hereford in 1978, a sort of prelude to all the violence that would unfold that year. Jean Charland was a member of the Gitans motorcycle gang. He was tried and convicted for his participation in the July 1978 Lennoxville murders of Raymond Grimard and Manon Bergeron, but later – rather miraculously – had his conviction overturned in 1981 (this too we will address later, it will be the main focus of our destination).
It’s striking that local news would update the public in 2004, 2006, and 2008 on the cold case of local businessman Rolland Giguere, but never bother to ever mention that one of the victim’s business partners had a son who was implicated in one of the most high profile murders in the history of the region – a guy who eventually beat the charge with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. Maybe this had something to do with Madame Giguere’s suggestion that “the murderers had been protected by certain individuals to the detriment of the investigators.” Small towns – they like to keep their secrets.
Once again, it wasn’t Yvon Charland’s sons who murdered Rolland Giguere. But is it possible that there were longstanding associations with criminal elements in Sherbrooke within the Charland family? Was Rolland Giguere’s murder just a crime of opportunity, or was it a planned action to eliminate the competition? And competition for what – Fried chicken? Restaurant domination? Something more?