Last week the podcast Crime Junkie put my sister’s unsolved murder back up for discussion with their episode, CONSPIRACY: Theresa Allore. The program brought close to 4,000 daily hits to Who Killed Theresa, a lot for a website about Quebec crime. I want to associate myself with everything in that podcast; it’s excellent and factually accurate. I found their investigative efforts inspiring. I was particularly interested in the hosts’ discussion about a composite drawing made in the early 1980s by the survivor of a sexual assault in the Eastern Townships (the “Female Jogger Attacked” composite made by the survivor, who was both an accomplished athlete and an artist). The picture bears a striking resemblance to a man named Luc Gregoire. Gregoire grew up in the Townships and had a history of arrests for assaults and burglaries in the Sherbrooke area. In 1977 he enlisted in the Canadian military, doing his training in Saint Jean sur Richelieu, where in the fall of that year, Denise Basinet was found strangled and dumped near a highway off-ramp. Gregoire soon moved to Alberta and was eventually convicted of the 1993 murder of a Calgary 7-11 clerk, Lailanie Sylva. Gregoire died while serving a life sentence in Archambault prison in 2015. To this day, the Calgary Police suspect Luc Gregoire of having committed several downtown murders of sex trade workers.
Ashley and Brit discuss the composite on Crime Junkie. Brit describes a man with thick dark brows, a ducktail beard, and “hair kinda like a bowl cut.” Then Brit describes viewing the composite next to a photo of Luc Gregoire:
“Oh my god. The resemblance is uncanny. They have the same face and the same chin shape. You can even see his dark, thick brows, and actually, the hair is spot on… this is really similar to that sketch.”
You can judge for yourself, but I don’t believe Brit and Ashley’s response is unjustified:
It’s a little like the visual pun in Charles Allan Gilbert’s All is Vanity, or those picture book games, which one is different where you work to strengthen visual discrimination skills. You know, where you have to look closely at a set of pictures of chickens or Alexander Hamilton to finally see that one of the chickens has a third toe or Hamilton has a spot on his brow. It’s a very subjective exercise; the eye sees what it wants to see, that’s the nature of cognitive blind spots.
For instance, here’s a picture of another man who also looks like the sexual attacker composite. And this isn’t just any man, this is Robert Leblanc. Like Gregoire, Leblanc was convicted of only one murder, the 1992 strangulation death of 22-year-old Montrealer Chantal Brochu. Also, like Gregoire, Leblanc had a prior history of sexual assaults, but not in Montreal, in Sherbrooke – the same place and at the same time where the sexual assaults and unsolved murders occurred in the Eastern Townships. The Female Jogger Attacked composite could also be a portrait of Robert Leblanc.
To confuse things further, the Female Jogger Attacked victim was such an accomplished artist that she made another drawing. This second composite ran in the local Eastern Townships newspapers the week after the first composite. She is describing the same attacker, but this second picture looks less like Gregoire and more like Robert Leblanc:
After all that, I will say that in my opinion, this is probably not Robert Lablanc. From what we know, Leblanc never owned a car. In planning his murder of Chantal Brochu, Leblanc took a bus from downtown Sherbrooke to Montreal. He then proceeded to a bar where he knew there would be a lot of beautiful, single woman. After the murder, he hitchhiked back to Sherbrooke. Luc Gregoire was known to use cars in most of his sexual assaults. And the jogger who was attacked near Sherbrooke described being dragged back to a car when the man proceeded to sexually assault her.
Here’s where it gets even trickier. Because there’s still yet another composite. This is something I’ve been sitting on for years. We tried to fit it into Wish You Were Here, but the publisher decided we were too close to the release date, and inserting the photo and story might confuse readers.
This is a composite from La Patrie, a weekly Montreal newspaper that ran from 1957 to 1978. In the summer of 1977, La Patrie published this composite, asking for the public’s assistance in tracking down a man wanted for attempted murder. The man was described as being between 25-30 years of age, white, about 5’11” with brown eyes and hair, and weighing approximately 150 pounds. He spoke French and wore sunglasses. The notice asked that the public phone a detective D. Lauzon. And from the number left, we know Detective Lauzon worked for the Montreal Urban Community Police (CUM), what today is known as the SPVM, or just the Montreal police force.
Despite the age being wrong – Luc Gregoire was only 17 in 1977 – everything else is uncanny: dark hair, ducktail beard, kind of a bowl cut. We can’t see his brows because of the sunglasses. But it looks very much like a young, slight Luc Gregoire. Here’s the kicker. When Gregoire was finally arrested in 1993 for the murder of Lanie Sylva, police described him as wearing army fatigue pants (many Township sexual assault survivors described their attacker as wearing combat gear) and large, oversized sunglasses.
Of particular interest is the run date of the composite: July 17, 1977. The summer of 1977 was clustered with sexual assaults, disappearances, and murders in the vicinity of Montreal, none more so than the unsolved murders of Johanne Dorion and Chantal Tremblay. Both disappeared less than ten days after the running of the composite drawing on July 29, 1977. Tremblay was last seen getting off a bus at a Montreal metro station. Dorion worked in Montreal near that metro station and was last seen getting off a bus near her home in Laval. She was found ten days later strangled near the St. Lawrence River. Tremblay’s remains were found almost two years later in a wooded area owned by the Department of National Defence.
The first Townships murder for which Gregoire is a potential suspect (possibly committed with the assistance of an older partner, the folie à deux theory) is the March 1977 death of Louise Camirand. The 24-year-old who served with the Quebec military unit, The Sherbrooke Hussars, was strangled with a military boot lace. It is very possible that the Montreal Police were looking for a sexual predator in Montreal who was Luc Gregoire, and that Gregoire was shuttling between Montreal and Sherbrooke in 1977-78, committing a series of sexual assaults and murders in this corridor, most of which remain unsolved to this day.
If you’re thinking Gregoire too young for such a violent pedigree, a reminder that Richard Bouillon – who confessed to the murder of Julie Surprenant – had committed over a dozen sexual assaults before he reached the age of sixteen. Also, Gregoire traveled between Montreal and Sherbrooke; he was eventually stationed at CFB Petawawa and would have had to pass through the urban city on trips home to visit his family. Finally, Gregoire had a record of assaults in Montreal, but those didn’t occur until later. In 1983 he was paroled to a community residential centre in the city, where he quickly found himself in trouble again, arrested for assaulting a sex trade worker.
So the La Patrie composite is Luc Gregoire, right? Maybe.
I decided to do one last scan of the newspaper archives to see if I could learn anything more about this attacker who preyed on Montreal in the summer of 1977. Sure enough, the journal Montreal Matin had the goods. Ten days earlier, the Montreal daily ran a story on the attempted murder suspect. At around one in the afternoon, the young man gained entry to the home of a 63-year-old woman in Ville Saint-Laurent by pretending to be an employee of Gulf Oil. After surveilling the residence, he pulled a revolver and announced he had come to kill her. He then took a dog leash and began strangling her. The woman lost consciousness, and the man left her for dead but did not rob or sexually assault her. The notice again describes a man between 25 and 30, 5’11”, about 150 pounds, and French-speaking.
Apart from the sunglasses, it is the same man from the La Patrie article, except that the artist has removed the sunglasses, which leads me to believe the attacker left his glasses on, but police removed them in the Montreal Matin composite to assist the public with identification. This means no one knows precisely what the 63-year-old woman’s attacker’s eyes were like. These eyes are open, direct, and clear. In the few photos we have, Gregoire’s eyes always appear less alert and squinty.
Interestingly the attack occurred in Ville St. Laurent. Two months later, Katherine Hawkes was murdered in the same Montreal neighborhood. But the m.o. is off. Gregoire was not known for fooling sexagenarians to gain entry into their homes and then attacking them in the middle of the afternoon. It sounds more like William Fyfe. But it doesn’t look like William Fyfe. Gregoire occasionally attacked in interiors, as opposed to outdoor spaces, and he used guns in some of his assaults.
Is it Gregoire? The eyes see what they want to see. If Gregoire was criminally active on the island of Montreal as early as 1977, it casts a whole new perspective on a catalog of the city’s unsolved murders.