Is it possible to talk about the underbelly of Sherbrooke and even dare to say that open war has been declared there? Would it be more accurate to say that we are carrying out a thorough cleaning, motivated by fear or caution, in an unsavory part of town? It is certain that things have been happening since the beginning of June in what is now agreed to have been two settlements of accounts, that of June 24 and the double of July 6. These denote that certain people do not feel good about themselves and perhaps others fear for their lives.“Indications of a major clean-up in sleaze town?”, La Tribune, July 8, 1978
S-Town – I’m not talking Woodstock, Alabama. It’s right here in Sherbrooke 1978: S-Town, Sleaze-Town, Shit-Town. This is, of course, a veiled reference to the popular podcast from the producers of Serial and This American Life, but before anyone becomes offended, I like Sherbrooke. There is a tendency to run-down any place from your past. The West Island of Montreal was a dump, Saint John, New Brunswick was ‘the asshole of Canada’ Tarana’s always had an inferiority complex, and Carrboro – where I currently live – was a podunk mill town before it became overrun by college intellectuals. Whenever I visit the Townships I try to see a little light in the place, because the darkness of its past can smother you. When I’m in Compton, I order breakfast and skim the JdM at the same diner, every time, and I never let on who I am or what brought me there. When Patricia Pearson and I visited a number of years ago, doing research for our book, we ensured that we made time for good things, such as Fromagerie La Station. You must invest the time to see the good, kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.
On the afternoon of Thursday, July 6, 1978, high schooler Alain Boulanger was riding his motorcycle on the back trails south of Lennoxville when he spotted a man lying on the ground off Astbury road, near route 143, and about 11 kilometers south of Sherbrooke. Alarmed, Boulanger rode home to tell his mother. And this is how you know you’ve arrived in S-Town; the mother immediately informed her child to go back and check if the man was dead.
The investigation in this case was led by Sergeant Marcoux assisted by detectives Réal Châteauneuf (from the Fecteau case), Noël Bolduc, and Roch Gaudreault from the criminal investigation bureau of the Sûreté du Québec’s Eastern Townships division. SQ Constable Michel Poulin was the first to arrive on the scene. The man was lying in a pasture and had been shot nine times. About 20 meters from the man, police discovered the body of a woman. At first they thought she too had been shot, so severe was the trauma to her head. On closer examination police discovered she had been beaten, possibly with the butt-end of a rifle, and strangled by a cord that still remained around her neck (recall that Louise Camirand also had a cord around her neck).
About 7 kilometers north at the Lennoxville Golf Course, police soon discovered an abandoned 1970 Cadillac registered to Manon Bergeron of 325 High street in Sherbrooke. From this, Police were able to determine that the bodies in the pasture south of Lennoxville were 20-year-old Manon Bergeron and her 38-year-old boyfriend, Raymond Grimard (for geographic visualization of the locations please visit this Google map).
Autopsies were performed on July 8. The forensic pathologist reasoned that Grimard and Bergeron had been dead for about 48 hours, but no more than 72 hours. Grimard was shot with a 0.22 caliber rifle; four times in the back of the head, twice in the front of the body, once in the left shoulder, once in the left thigh and once in the index finger of the left hand. Bergeron had six wounds on the back of her head, caused by a blunt object. Grimard died from the multiple skull fractures to his head. The pathologist said that Bergeron could have been killed by blunt force trauma, or asphyxia, or both. No shell casing were recovered from the Astbury road site, nor were their significant quantities of blood in the pasture, meaning the crime scenes had been somewhere else; Grimard and Bergeron were not assassinated south of Lennoxville.
Here Be Monsters
Raymond Grimard was well known to police, and had been “in trouble with the law” several times. Known as “Le Loup” (the wolf), Grimard lived with Manon Bergeron at the apartment on High street. It was located equidistant from the Gitans headquarters on Rue Montreal and the Sherbrooke Hussars headquarters on Winter, each within walking distance.
Raymond Grimard was a former waiter at the Hotel Normandie, better known as the Moulin Rouge at the corner King and Wellington in downtown Sherbrooke. Manon Bergeron worked as a bartender in similar establishments. Grimard and Bergeron were seen in the Cadillac by several witnesses driving around the King and Wellington corridor the evening of July 5. Bergeron’s brother-in-law, Guy Robert reportedly was the last person to see the couple alive, accompanied by Grimard’s children, at a house on Rue Galt at approximately 12:20 a.m., July 6, 1978.
Galt, High, King, Wellington: our map is getting quite congested. Concerning High Street and the apartment where Grimard lived with Bergeron, a listener wrote, “I lived on High Street from 75 -77. A horrible area to live. I moved out the morning police came to my door and said my neighbor, my landlady who was 86 and blind…was beaten the night before. She died a day later. I was harassed all the time and never felt safe. Bikers on welfare hung on street day and night.”
Rue Galt, where they were last seen is interesting, bifurcating the working class neighborhood where Manon Dubé lived from the rougher King and Wellington urban landscape where Bergeron and Grimard ostensibly “worked”, though I would argue Grimard probably never worked a legitimate day of his life, opting for contract assignments and drug peddling “sous la table”. Then there is where they were found, or better, where Bergeron’s Cadillac was found, in the gravel lot of the Lennoxville Golf Course. I’ve drawn for you with a red line the walking path that leads from the golf course to Champlain college. This is the infamous path where for over 40 years students have been complaining of sexual assaults, and the school refused to light it. I know we said the area is small, and it may mean nothing, but our little crime world is becoming very small indeed.
Where they lived, where they worked, where they were last seen, where they were found; to me, it’s just fundamental that you would want to know these things. Recently, the Sûreté du Québec’s cold case unit boasted to me how they had finally travelled to the Eastern Townships and visited where Theresa was last seen, where she lived, where she was found, where her wallet was found. They were visibly very proud of the accomplishment. Their unit’s been in existence since 2004; I’m struggling to understand why it took them 18 years to do this. They’ve also mentioned to me on three occasions over the last four months how in 1979 after Theresa’s body was found how they held a town hall in Compton and interviewed practically every member of the community. And that’s great. But the fact is, they had at that point 4 murders and 1 suspicious death all in their Estrie district, the majority with ties back north near Sherbrooke, the majority with associations, and inter-associations with the King and Wellington corridor. They should have focused their efforts there, the people of Compton knew nothing.
As with Carole Fecteau whose body was found 12 days earlier in East Hereford, Grimard and Bergeron had been stripped of their identity papers. When Sûreté du Québec officer Réal Châteauneuf arrived at the Astbury road site, he found $19 and a piece of paper on Grimard’s body. The paper contained a phone number and the name “Tricia Hall”. The phone number matched that of the local Sûreté du Québec headquarters, a Patrick Hall was a detective with that detachment.
From this information it was surmised that Raymond Grimard, “Le Loup” of the Sherbrooke criminal underworld, had turned and was now working as a police informant. Officer Réal Châteauneuf would later reveal that on July 4, police had Grimard and several of his crew under surveillance, and followed a number of cars and motorcycles from Sherbrooke to North Hatley. The party spent approximately a half hour casing a bank in the village all under the watchful eye of the SQ. Police suspected the gang was planning a hold-up, but called things off when they began to suspect they were being surveilled. The cadre included Raymond Grimard, Jean Charland, Mario Vallières, and Fernand Laplante.
We know Jean Charland. Mario Vallières was a small-time hood who sold about $500 worth of drugs per week to Charland and the “Wolf-man“, Raymond Grimard. According to Vallières, Carole Fecteau, in turn, was a drug dealer for Charland and Grimard working the streets of King and Wellington. Based on all the evidence he had gathered, officer Réal Châteauneuf began to believe that someone had learned that Grimard was working for the police, and this was the reason for his execution. Why else strip him of his identity, yet neglect to remove the piece of paper that tied him to the police. Was this a message from the Sherbrooke underworld? Or was the paper with the name and number of “Tricia Hall” planted on Grimard to detract attention from the real police informant? Was the paper even planted by the murderers? Or was it, in fact, put there by the police themselves to detract other investigators from the trail of their real informant? In S-Town, it was hard to know who to believe and who to trust, everyone is a little bit compromised.
And who was Fernand Laplante?
The La Tribune article from July 8 effectively summed up the puzzle:
“Why talk about cleanup, shady surroundings, war? Simply because the similarities between the murder of Carole Fecteau, 18, a waitress in Sherbrooke, whose body was discovered in a stream, in East Hereford, on June 24 and the double murder of Chemin Atsbury, three miles from Lennoxville, are many.
First, the young girl, like the couple, was shot at point-blank range. In addition, care had been taken to remove the identity papers from the two victims. Then, each victim frequented more or less the same environment, saw the same world and stood in the same kind of gambling milieu. Finally, the very way in which care was taken to eliminate these people proves that we are dealing with people from a very specific background where human life is less important than certain current affairs. ““Indices d’un grand nettoyage dans un certain milieu louche?”, La Tribune, 8 Juillet, 1978