“I contacted the Sûreté du Québec to say that my father had confessed to having committed murder in the late 70s and early 80s before dying, the murder of Carol Fecteau and another that they would have abducted at a convenience store in Sherbrooke. The police seem to be turning their backs. If you want to talk about it with me you can call me, because I really don’t trust the SQ, and I don’t know other people I can talk to. thank you.”“Alex” – September 14, 2021
It is not infrequent that I receive this type of email, with someone accusing a dead relative of all sorts of bad things in the ’70s era in Quebec. Usually the relative had a history of family abuse, so there is an urge to tag a catalogue of nasty transgressions on the abuser. This time it was different, and I’ve had nine months to fully vet the story and fill in the pieces.
And so it was, in early December 2021, that I found myself at the Boucherville offices of the Sûreté du Québec, in the company of Tracy Wing, who agreed to come along and bear witness. I asked the police if there had been any developments in my sister’s case, any new suspects. To my surprise – because they always respond with, “there’s nothing new” – this time they answered that there were two suspects, brothers, they were good leads, but that they couldn’t tell me anything further, the matter must remain confidential. To which I replied, “I also have two suspects who are brothers, so let me tell you a story, and we’ll see if our suspects match”
In 2017, Gerald Lachance was dying of cancer, he had a few weeks to live. There was something not letting him go, something preventing him from dying. Over coffee and cigarettes with one of his children, – we’ll call them “Alex” – his gazed fixed in front of him as though he were watching the stages of the grisly event, he confessed the following:
When he was about nineteen – which places the event in 1978 – Gerald was out driving with his older brother, Regis and another. Gerald was sitting in the back, Regis was in the passenger seat, and the third person was driving the car. It was in the evening, and they picked up a hitchhiker in Lennoxville. Gerald thought he and the girl were about the same age, so also nineteen. The girl got in the car and sat in the back with Gerald. Gerald began kissing her. From the passenger seat, Regis reached back and began stroking her thighs. I’m guessing it was a lot more than kissing and fondling, but you get the picture.
Regis asks the driver to stop the car. He then dragged the girl with him. Some time passed, Gerald got out of the car to see what’s going on. He says he was going to help the girl. Gerald went down in a field and found Regis holding the girl’s head down in water. Gerald mimes the gesture of Regis holding her down in the water by the back of her neck. Regis yelled at Gerald to get back in the car, the girl didn’t move anymore and appeared to be dead.
Death bed confessions are tricky business, there’s no one who can corroborate exactly what happened. They’re a tool of last resort when a cold case is over four decades old, but a tool of value, very often these cases get cracked with the passing of a generation, with the offspring of players in the crime coming forward and doing the right thing. In addition to the possibility of it being the truth, there are a number of other avenues here: Gerald and / or Alex were lying, Gerald and / or Alex believed their lie, Gerald and / or Alex are telling the truth, but conflating events. Nevertheless, I am inclined to think that the story is true for two reasons:
The account is not overly detailed. Too often in these circumstances, someone will throw in something like, “and she had long, curly, reddish hair” or will give you an exact description of the clothing Theresa was wearing that is so obviously lifted from news reports. There are none of those headline-specifics, it is general, but enough. The second reason is that Alex has given this account no less than three times – once to me, once in person to my associate in Sherbrooke, and, at least once, on camera to the Surete du Quebec. What we all find interesting is the consistency in the story. There has been no embellishment from Alex, no sense to make the story more detailed or more interesting with each iteration of its telling.
It goes without saying that when I finished telling all of this to current cold case investigators with the SQ, they confirmed that these were the suspects they were investigating, and that they believed Alex’ story to be genuine. I’ll add that none of us – not even Gerald Lachance’s own child – believe that it was just “kissing”, and that Gerald more than likely played a larger part in the sexual assault and murder. Alex stated that the Lennoxville victim would have been one of Gerald’s first, and it marked him. Gerald once confided to Alex that he loved to strangle. Gerald would often simulate strangling Alex when they were a child.
Alex did not strike me as a websleuther. She did not have an historical knowledge of local crime, had not read Jean-Pierre Rancourt’s book (in fact, no one had), barely knew who I was, and only became aware of these things through personal, family experience:
“I also told the police that Régis Lachance had participated in the murder of Carole Fecteau with Mr. Laplante and that Régis had denounced Laplante to be able to cover himself. My father admitted that Mr. Laplante was behind bars because of him and his brother.
And Régis Lachance was also a police informer, and worked for the police to give them information on the drug deals that were happening around Sherbrooke. I’m afraid the cops don’t want me to dig up an old story that’s been buried, but I’d like the truth to come out that they left a woman killer loose and unguarded just because they were an informer for the police. My father was called Gérald Lachance, he was Régis Lachance’s little brother and committed a lot of crimes with him. Sorry to bother you, but I’m afraid I’m telling the police stories they don’t want to hear.”
What’s striking in Gerald Lachance’s account of this Lennoxville abduction is its remarkable similarity to Jean Charland’s account of Manon Bergeron’s death. According to Charland, Fernand Laplante “dragged her out of the vehicle”, and here we have Regis Lachance “dragging” a girl out of a vehicle. So in the case of Manon Bergeron, I don’t think Jean Charland was referring to Fernand Laplante at all, he was talking about Regis Lachance.
Both Gerald and Regis Lachance are dead; Gerald died in 2017, and Regis in 2006. So the focus became, who was the driver? Alex stated that they did not think the driver was another brother, Jean-Claude Lachance (also dead) because their father would have mentioned it. It’s interesting that they chose Jean-Claude. Why Jean Claude? Between them, Gerald and Regis had at least seven other brothers, why this brother in particular? We’ll come back to that.
Was the driver Jean Charland? It fits, Jean had a history of being the driver. One week later, he would be driving Regis’ sister’s car during the Aloha Motel arson incident (remember this car was impounded by the police; did the SQ find Theresa’s clothing inside? One shudders at the potential missed opportunity). He said he was the driver for the Grimard and Bergeron murders. He also stated he would have been the driver for the Ayer’s Cliff heist, before their gang got scared and cancelled the job. So, Jean Charland was a driver.
Was it Luc Gregoire? This is the least probable scenario. Though Gregoire lived in the King and Wellington corridor, though he was a serial rapist in the era, there is nothing, so far, to link Luc Gregoire with any of the crews we’ve been discussing; the Grimard gang, the Lachance brothers, for now, Gregoire remains an outlier. So if the driver was not Gregoire, or Charland for that matter – and they too are also both deceased – was it someone else? Was is someone still alive?
La Famille Lachance
There was a story the Lachance brothers used to tell around the dining room table that would bring the house down. One day Regis and Gerald were arrested for smuggling. Police found the trunk of their car filled with stolen cigarette cartons. Regis produced a small card from his wallet and showed it to the police. They were let go immediately. The boys fell over in fits of hysteria.
According to Alex, their father was a collector for the Gitans, and later the Hells Angels, and Regis also would have been affiliated with motorcycle clubs. Gerald never worked an honest day in his life, all of his money came “sous la table”. They would take contracts for anything; thefts, arson, murder. They would run drugs. It was common for Regis to get hired by the owner of some small time business to steal the safe from the store. The business owner would then claim double on the contents for insurance purposes. Regis would often ditch the safes along roadsides. It’s worth mentioning that in addition to Theresa’s red wallet, that McDonald Road farmer also once found an old safe abandoned along the gravel road next to his apple orchard.
In 1968, Regis Lachance made the papers for a house fire that left his family homeless. Regis appealed to the Red Cross and Salvation Army for food and clothing, claiming he’d lost everything, even his pants on the bed post, and that nothing was insured. But accidents appeared to follow Regis and his family. His then wife had recently been injured in a car accident. One of his sisters died in a railway accident. Many of his children died under mysterious circumstances. Alex said that with his first wife, Francine Corbin (there were many), Regis set their house on fire for insurance purposes “and let the children burn”. Then there was this nasty bit of business from 1971 where his four month old child was “accidentally” asphyxiated during another house fire:
According to Alex, the Lachance brothers had no respect for women, and “treated them like sex slaves”. There was a lot of incest in the family. Even the grandfather sexually abused the children.
Let’s do some recap here. Regis Lachance and Fernand Laplante may have murdered Carole Fecteau, perhaps with the assistance of Laplante’s soon-to-be wife, Claire Dussault, who might have lured Fecteau away from her apartment to Wellington Street. This is consistent with Jean-Pierre Rancourt’s belief that Laplante had a hand in Fecteau’s murder, and it’s what Alex said in her initial emails.
Regis Lachance may have also been involved in the Grimard / Bergeron murders, but not with Laplante. Laplante stands in as a surrogate for Regis Lachance in all of Jean Charland’s testimony; where Charland is saying Laplante, he is really talking about Lachance. Regis Lachance is the blonde, tattooed man picked up by William Pettigrew in his taxi, and taken to Belvedere and Short where Regis lived. But remember there is the possibility of three or four assailants in the Grimard / Bergeron murders, so possibly, Gerald Lachance (or Jean-Claude) is also there. In the late 1970s, Gerald Lachance was also blonde and tattooed, so perhaps he is the other man in the taxi with Jean Charland. Maybe Raymond Grimard is shot in the alleys behind Wellington Street (as Charland bragged, but two shooters, there were nine shots.), and then taken in the car to the Astbury Road site, and perhaps Manon Bergeron is alive, and isn’t murdered until her arrival at Astbury Road. Had you checked in the alley behind the Moulin Rouge you might of up until fairly recently found the bullet holes in the brick wall where Grimard was shot, but they tore the place down last year
This then leaves us with one other murder possibly involving Regis Lachance, the Lennoxville abduction. If this was in fact Theresa Allore, and the body was left in the culvert along Chemin de la Station in Compton, one wonders why this spot was chosen. Well, adjacent to the culvert where Theresa was found is a corn field belonging to the Gagnon family. The Gagnon farm has been a part of the Compton landscape for at least half a century. Just as Fernand Laplante had worked as a farm laborer on the land where Carole Fecteau’s body was discovered, it is believed that he had also worked as a laborer at the Gagnon farm (see map). Laplante was in jail at the time of Theresa’s disappearance, but because he was a criminal associate of Regis Lachance, and may have participated with him in Carole Fecteau’s murder, it is thought that Regis chose the Gagnon farm site because he knew it from Laplante.
So that’s four murders possibly associated with Regis Lachance: Fecteau, Grimard, Bergeron and Allore. Or is it five? Alex said that their father, Gerald Lachance, confessed to one other murder of a girl they, “abducted at a convenience store in Sherbrooke.” Who could this be, I wonder? The only girl from Sherbrooke last seen at a convenience store that I know of is Louise Camirand. When Alex was pressed on Gerald’s words, she stated that Gerald said they murdered the girl and “buried her in the woods”. When asked as to what exactly Gerald meant by the word “buried” (did he mean literally “buried” or did he mean “hid”), Alex stated that she did not know. Louise Camirand was not buried in the woods off Chemin Giguere, but she was definitely hid.
This leaves the question of what to do with Raymond Roy, the jilted boyfriend thought to have possibly had a hand in the disappearance of Camirand? Perhaps the Surete du Quebec are wrong in their suspicions( and, yes, that is the leading theory today of the SQ). Perhaps it was one more kill on the rolls for Regis Lachance. Or, perhaps Raymond Roy hired Regis Lachance to murder his former girlfriend. The going rate for a contract killing in that era was about $10,000, even cheaper if it was a woman, so let’s say Camirand was offed for $3,000. From what I now know about the Lachance brothers, they would have done anything for a quick score, and they would have done it with immunity from law enforcement.
One of the things Alex asked of me was to check Regis Lachance’s fingerprints against any prints that may have been left on the back of Theresa’s neck. I’m not sure that skin-on-skin markings can even be forensically detected, but, apart from that, it assumes an investigative diligence on the part of Quebec police that I have never experienced. Even if they had this information, you would have to overcome the mountain of other assumptions: that they kept the prints, that they still had a set of Regis’ fingerprints on file, that they even had the investigative will to do such a test. Nevertheless, this was the dominant image Gerald Lachance could not shake; of his older brother holding the young girl’s head down in the water by the scruff of the neck.
“With everything that pretty is”
If it is true that we see more shades of green because of our primal fear of predators in the wild, then I now know why I have such a strong visceral memory of that color. Green is the color of my sister’s racing bike. It’s the image I most strongly associate with my brief time in Sherbrooke after she went missing; the purple night sky and the green forest, practically my only memory from those awful days. It is the color when I learned she had been found; my grandfather’s green shirt as he sat in his living room weeping, the green lamp on the coffee table. But it’s not the color of comfort, it’s the impression of presentiment panic and terror.