In July 2018, 17-year-old Riley Fairholm was shot dead by a Sûreté du Québec police officer on the deserted streets of Lac Brome. This episode is an interview with Riley’s mother, Tracy Wing. We talk about her advocacy, her lawsuit against the Quebec police, and her home town of Knowlton, real life location of the fictitious Three Pines in the Louise Penny novels featuring super Surete du Quebec investigator, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
Family of slain teen files lawsuit against SQ and officer
In July 2018, the Sûreté du Québec responded to a 911 call about a man who was walking the streets of Lac-Brome with a weapon. Several officers arrived on the scene and within about a minute, one shot 17-year-old Riley Fairholm in the head.
Katelyn Thomas – Montreal Gazette Publishing date: July 28, 2021
Three years after 17-year-old Riley Fairholm was killed by provincial police in the Eastern Townships, his family has filed a lawsuit against the force and the officer who fired the gun.
“It’s something that we feel like we have to do in order to get some accountability,” Fairholm’s mother, Tracy Wing, told the Montreal Gazette Wednesday. “I feel that the intervention was really short. They didn’t take time to negotiate, and I understand that my son was a threat — I can deal with that — but I don’t understand why they had to kill him.”
The lawsuit, filed with the Quebec Superior Court on July 13, seeks more than $700,000 in damages for Fairholm’s parents and sisters, including $100,000 in punitive damages from the officer who fired the gun. Joël Desruisseaux is named in the lawsuit as the officer in question.
Just after 1 a.m. on July 25, 2018, the Sûreté du Québec responded to a 911 call about a man who was walking the streets of Lac-Brome with a weapon. Several officers arrived on the scene and within about a minute, one shot Fairholm in the head.
“They killed my son in 60 seconds, from the minute they saw him,” Wing said. “And I believe that police officer was negligent, and it caused some damage. We’re damaged by that — all of us.”
The lawsuit states the police intervention took place in the context of a mental health crisis — Fairholm had shown signs of suicidal ideation prior to the event — and he should therefore have been handled as a vulnerable person in need of assistance. It says police should have negotiated with Fairholm and attempted to de-escalate the situation.
Police did the opposite, the lawsuit states, by not adapting their intervention to his mental state or considering that he was outside an empty business in the middle of the night.
“The attempted discussions lasted less than a minute,” the lawsuit says. “Attempts to talk only consisted of repeating the same orders over a loudspeaker.”
It also says the officers erred by not using a less powerful weapon.
“The policeman who fired used excessive and disproportionate force on a 17-year-old boy in distress,” the lawsuit says. “The police would have been able to use less force in order to carry out his arrest, or rather, and above all, to provide him with the necessary assistance.”
It wasn’t until months after Fairholm’s death that his parents learned the officer had shot him in the head. They weren’t allowed to see their son at the hospital where he had been taken after the shooting.
Wing and her ex-husband, Larry Fairholm, filed complaints against the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) and the SQ with the police ethics commissioner, claiming officers broke protocol and tainted the investigation into their son’s death.
In October 2019, following an investigation by the BEI, Quebec’s office of criminal prosecutions (DPCP) said officers involved in the incident had followed the law and that no charges would be laid. Since Fairholm refused to drop his weapon, the DPCP said, he “could have fired at any moment.” The lawsuit states the weapon was a pellet gun.
Three years after Fairholm’s death, his family is still awaiting answers. In addition to feeling grief and despair, they say they have lost confidence in police.
“There’s mistrust everywhere, in all the institutions, because it’s been so difficult to get any information — whether it’s from the prosecutor, the BEI, the SQ or even the coroner,” Wing said. “I’m very grateful that I have a public inquiry from the coroner, but you know, it’s been over three years and it’s appalling to me that it’s taking this long.”
Wing hopes the lawsuit will shed some light on the officer’s thought process.
“He didn’t shoot him in centre mass, so I’m wondering what was he taught at the police academy,” she said.
“If we do have a positive verdict in the lawsuit, that would mean that someone other than I and my family and our friends and many supporters that we have would say that, yes, there was this fault there, and it could have been better — that there’s some responsibility to be had by the SQ, because without their actions, my son would still be alive and we wouldn’t be suffering.”
The Sûreté du Québec declined to comment, “as the case is the subject of legal proceedings.”
Before he died last year, my father and I had been talking about his years working at Dominion Bridge, the engineering and construction giant headquartered at the southwestern end of Montreal. He remembered he had a secretary who was from the Kahnawake reserve across the Saint Lawrence. Occasionally there’d be some kind of trouble or unrest with some of the Mohawk tribe members. Whenever that would happen she’d say, “Oh that’s just the Warriors”.
Many of those Mohawks worked construction, they were particularly skilled steel workers. My dad remembered one guy who was a foreman on jobs. They used to travel together to projects, particularly in the north around Sept-Îles. My dad would show up at the gate – in those days Wardair was at the back, in the northeast corner of Dorval Airport – and there’d be this foreman with his canoe. It would be that way with most out-of-town jobs, the canoe would travel everywhere with this Mohawk foreman. They’d load the canoe in the hull of the plane, and off they’d go.
Prud’homme was removed as director of the Sûreté du Québecin 2019 for committing a possible ethical breach related to leaks of information. His confidentiality agreement with the Quebec government allowed him to retire without making any comments. The Quebec Government was quick to double-stitch the silence by withdrawing “the request addressed to the Public Service Commission to hold an investigation and report on Mr. Martin Prud’homme Director General of the SQ .”, and thus the whole matter of possible police corruption was quietly swept sous le tapis. Fin
There are two stories I’ve been reluctant to tell of Quebec injustice. One concerns the 1989 mass murder of 14 women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal. The second is the 1990 Kanesatake Resistance, also known as the Oka Crisis. Both incidents have seen plenty of coverage, there’s volumes of work written about them. In the case of Oka, I can’t see doing a better job telling that story than what the filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin achieves in her many documentaries on the affair. And anyway, you can’t tell the story of Oka without first understanding what happened to David Cross.
This is an old story – another kick in the ribs brought to you courtesy of the Quebec Police Force. It’s going to feel very familiar and contemporary to you. It’s got all your favorite players – Jean-Claude Bernheim, that crazy-cat, Frank Shoofey, the justice minister, Marc Andre Bedard. Cops and car chases…
Early Saturday evening, October 20, 1979, 28-year-old David Cross was shot dead outside his home on the Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) Reserve on the South Shore of the St. Lawrence River near Montreal.
Cross had been the subject of a high-speed police chase by the Surete du Quebec, in those days called the Quebec Police Force. According to the QPF, the police cruiser and Cross’s vehicle collided several times during the pursuit through the streets of Montreal. The chase continued across the Mercier Bridge, then onto the First Nations Reserve near Sainte Catherine, Quebec. Cross abandoned the vehicle at his home then disappeared into his house. Police constable Gervais Ouellet next handcuffed Cross’s brother, Matthew who was riding along side of him, and put him in the back of the police cruiser. Police spokesmen, Constable Robert Brunet told the public that as the cruiser was pulling out of the drive, David Cross then emerged from the home carrying a “big, black object” which others said was the end of a broomstick or pool cue. According to Lessard, Cross proceeded to smash the front windshield of the police cruiser. When Cross attempted to open the driver’s door of the cruiser, constable Robert Lessard who was seated at the wheel, opened the door, remained seated and shot David Cross three times. Several children and relatives stood by and witnessed the event.
A woman reported to have been Matthew Cross’ wife had tried to intervene. She too emerged from the house and asked the Quebec Police to leave, instructing them to contact the reserve’s own police, a 10-member force paid for by residents of the reserve known as the Peacekeepers. The Quebec police ignored her pleas, shot David Cross dead, leaving his widow and two young sons, “horribly upset by her husband’s death.”
“This is what I can’t understand. Why two six-footers, supposedly highly-trained officers who went through Nicolet ( police academy), didn’t get out of their car to apprehend one guy armed with a broomstick. If they had only waited for the peacemakers, none of this would have happened.”
Paul Deer – Peacekeepers chief of police
The 5,000- member reserve called a band council meeting, immediately deciding to attempt to have murder charges brought “against the person or persons responsible for the brutal killing.” Chief Andrew Delisle emerged from the meeting stating, “We don’t want any more provincial police on our reserve… the QPF doesn’t understand our people.” Delisle said the council would hold its own inquiry, but also called for the Quebec justice department to hold an immediate investigation into the shooting, adding that Cross’s death was the result of “bungling by the provincial and federal governments.” For years residents of Kahnawake had been demanding that the federal government pay for an organized, reserve-run force. The Canadian federal government would only agree if such a force was recognized by the province of Quebec, and Quebec would only agree if Quebec controlled it. The stalemate had lingered well past memory.
“We’re going to move on our own because we have no confidence that anybody will do anything for us anymore.”
“Any QPF officer we find on our land will be asked to leave. If the Officer doesn’t leave the reserve he will be arrested, charged with trespassing and detained – for his own protection.”
Chief Andrew Delisle
Police alleged David Cross had been speeding. But the QPF had a track record of running down members of the reserve and roughing them up. In an incident over the summer, police chased an Indian onto the Mercier Bridge, shot at him five times, before handcuffing him and his friends to the bridge. Cross had claimed he had been beaten several times by Quebec police. When they decided to chase you, the natural instinct was to run.
By mid-week Premier Rene Levesque ordered a coroner’s inquest into the matter, but stopped short of the requested inquiry into QPF-Indian relations saying Cross’s death was an isolated incident and did not reflect “generally peaceful relations with Indians in Quebec” ( First Nations would have to wait another 40 years for a full inquiry, and even today we are waiting for the government to make good on the recommendations of both the Truth and Reconciliation and Viens inquiries). Matters weren’t helped when on the morning of Tuesday, October 23, three women from the reserve were arrested for beating two Montreal taxi cab drivers with a crowbar and a baseball bat, setting one of their cabs on fire. The other cab was stolen, and driven across the Mercier Bridge into Kahnawake, apparently in an attempt to lure the QPF onto the reserve to exact revenge. Instead they engaged the Montreal police force, who chased the taxi cab for three miles across reserve dirt roads. When they reached a dead end, the police cruiser was blocked by a car with Michigan state license plates. A man emerged from the vehicle with a rifle who police mistook for a Peacekeeper until he told the officers, “You better fuck off or we will kill you!” Paul Deer, police chief of the reserve’s Peacemakers said of the incident, “there may be a tie-in” because of tensions. In response, the QPF ordered its officers not to enter the reserve under any circumstance.
On Wednesday, October 24, Mohawks buried 28-year-old David Cross in the rain in the reserve’s cemetery. 1,000 mourners attended the funeral where Cross was given ancient final rights by the band’s tribal chief, Joseph Phillips, Cross’s widow and two young boys standing graveside. Cross was eulogized for being a great hunter and high-steel worker. He was accustomed to traveling to the United States to do structural steel work. Often his wife, Linda would accompany him on these trips.
For years Mohawk members had complained about service calls by the RCMP and QPF to the reserve. According to Chief Andrew Delisle, “They were just too slow, we’d call them about something and they’d arrive a couple of hours later.” In 1969, after much lobbying, the Mohawks were given permission to form their own police force. The Peacekeepers were given the same functions as an urban force such as the Montreal police, but it was an early and very ancient experiment in community policing, operating according to Mohawk traditions. At the core, the Peacekeeper’s role was to keep human beings from harming each other.
“The peacekeepers have no hesitation about going to people, sitting down and talking to them about what they’ve done. We don’t raid people’s homes. We knock on their door and ask them to come in.”
The Kahnawake reserve started as a 20,000 acre tract awarded to the Mohawks in 1762 in gratitude for assisting the English in the war with the French. Over two hundred years the land had been whittled back to 12,500 acres as Canadians needed land for bridges, railways and seaways. Often this came in exchange for jobs, like steel work. But you’d be pissed too if someone constantly kept gnawing away at what was yours.
By November 1979 talks were underway for the coroner’s investigation ordered by Quebec Justice Minister Marc Andre Bedard. The Caughnawaga Band Council insisted the inquiry be held on Mohawk land, the QPF maintained it should be conducted where coroner’s inquiries are always held, at their headquarters at 1701 rue Parthenais. Further delays were anticipated when Quebec Civil Servants – which included court clerks – threatened a general strike later in the month. Jean-Claude Bernheim of the Quebec Civil Liberties Union urged the justice minister to “keep the QPF out of the Cross inquiry” after it was revealed the QPF officer Marcel Lacoste – himself a player in the Richard Blass affair in which the Montreal gangster was shot 27 times by police – would be permitted to investigate the shooting on behalf of the inquest:
The choice of Lacoste as an inquirer into the Cross affair is unjudicious given that this same policeman was implicated directly in the event which led to the death of Richard Blass, Jan. 24, 1975.”
The situation only worsened when on November 9, Fernand Giroux, one of the cabbies attacked in the retaliation incident, died in the Royal Victoria hospital as a result of his wounds. 400 taxi drivers attended Giroux’s funeral in LaSalle, passing the collection plate for his family. Father Leon Lajoie asked for forgiveness and urged the gathering to pardon those who didn’t know what they were doing. Three young women were being detained for the murder of Giroux.
At the coroner’s inquest, QPF constable Robert Lessard testified, “At no time did I want to kill that man.” Lessard stated the car pursuit began when Cross’s Chrysler passed the Ville St. Pierre interchange near LaSalle. His partner, Gervais Ouellet put on his flashers and siren and managed to pull alongside the vehicle as it crossed the Mercier Bridge, at times at speeds of 140 kilometers an hour in a 70 kilometer zone. Lessard rammed Cross’ Chrysler several times – almost forcing them into oncoming traffic – but was unable to slow the vehicle.
“The driver of the vehicle gave him the “finger” and shook his head indicating he had no intention of stopping.” Lessard testified that he shot Cross – twice in the stomach, once in the chest – when Cross opened the cruiser door and lunged at “my face”, though there had also been testimony that Lessard failed to warn the victim before firing his weapon. Nine witnesses also testified that Cross made no attempt to open the driver’s side door of the police vehicle. The shots were fired in rapid succession with one witness exclaiming, “The dirty bastards shot David.” Lessard then exited the vehicle, waving his gun in front of women and children and shouted, “You’re a bunch of crazy people.” Matthew Cross testified that his brother was simply trying to get him out of the back seat of the police car. As David Cross lay dying in the mud, Lessard called for backup rather than an ambulance.
On January 3, 1980, Quebec Coroner Cyrille Delage ruled that Quebec Police Force constable Robert Lessard was criminally responsible for the death of David Cross, calling Lessard’s actions an “abusive use of force… negligent, unskillful and acting without thinking.” David’s widow, Linda Cross said “It’s no victory for us yet. Victory will come when the person who killed (David) is jailed.” In the months that followed the October 20 shooting constables Lessard and Ouellet had continued to work for the Quebec Police Force, though the public had been lead to believe they were assigned to desk jobs. Cross family attorney, Frank Shoofey said he was surprised by the coroner’s decision because, “usually in all these cases the police are given the benefit of the doubt.”
Almost immediately, Quebec’s attorney-general charged constable Lessard with manslaughter for the shooting death of Cross. The news made the front page of the Saturday Gazette, but was overshadowed by the headline, “CLAUDE RYAN: THE PREMIER IN WAITING”, foretelling the almost certainty that the former director of Quebec’s Le Devoir newspaper and Liberal party member would become the next leader of Quebec. It was not to be as Rene Levesque’s Parti Quebecois won a second term in power. But the Liberals would live again with the second coming of Robert Bourassa, and Ryan serving as his Minister of Public Security during Bourassa’s fourth and final term a decade later, notably during the Oka Crisis.
By mid-week the director of the Quebec Police Force was upset by an “avalanche of insults” being hurled at his officers in the French press. Setting the bar at a limbo-low, Jacques Beaudoin argued,
“Our police force has 110 years of experience… and all administrations down through our history have had difficulties with the Indians. We certainly don’t believe our methods are error-free but they are certainly no worse than those in the rest of Canada and in the United States.”
QPF Director Jacques Beaudoin
On January 25, 1980 constable Robert Lessard pleaded not guilty to the charge of manslaughter. A preliminary hearing was set for the spring. Over the course of those months, where the public had been lead to believe Lessard was confined to desk duty, it came to light that he and his partner, Gervais Ouellet had been working patrol for the QPF. When the Mohawks complained to Quebec Justice Minister Marc-Andre Bedard, he claimed that he too had been “mislead”. QPF director Jacques Beaudoin joined the acting claiming he had been similarly mislead, and a subordinate officer would be disciplined. The Mohawks were having none of it:
“Nobody will accept any responsibility for what’s happened. Bedard says it’s not his fault. Beaudoin says it’s not his fault and they’re blaming some nameless scapegoat in the middle.”
Peter Dionne – editor, Indians of Quebec
That Lessard was out on police patrol was one of the worst kept secrets in the province. On December 14, 1979, Daniel Gignac of CHOM-FM, one of the most popular English radio stations in Montreal, was arrested by constables Lessard and Ouellet for drunk-driving. Gignac even complained at the time that Lessard had physically assaulted him – remember this would have been less than two months since Cross’ shooting, an event the coroner described as an “abusive use of force… negligent, unskillful and acting without thinking.” Linda Cross’s mother lamented, “We’ve been had again.” In court for the drunk-driving charge, Gignac testified that Lessard had knocked him to the ground and put him in handcuffs. The judge concluded it had been Gignac who was abusive, finding him guilty of resisting arrest for refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
“This whole thing has become a charade. It’s a mockery of justice… We’ve been shafted. As long as we have to work within this system we’re going to continue getting shafted.”
Indians of Quebec editor, Peter Dionne
Lessard’s preliminary hearing was closed to the public at the request of the constable’s lawyer, Michel Proulx. Judge Luc Trudel finally decided that the case warranted that Lessard stand trial for the charge of manslaughter.
Approaching the one year anniversary of David Cross’s shooting death, Linda Cross filed a $264,500 damage action law suit against the Quebec government and constables Ouellet and Lessard charging they were “jointly and severally” responsible for the death of her husband. Specifically the suit argued that Lessard used “grossly excessive force” and acted in a totally “incompetent and unreasonable manner”, while Ouellet had “done nothing to attempt the orderly and peaceful arrest” of the victim.
At the trial held in November 1980, most of the testimony was the same or similar to what was heard at the coroner inquiry a year earlier. A witness testified that neither officer seemed in a particular hurry to check on Cross’s condition after Lessard shot him. A 15-year-old boy told the court Cross was unarmed when he was shot, “David put his hands up to protect his face just before the shots were fired.”
Lessard told the court that he “feared for his life”. “Glass was falling all over me” he dramatically told the court. It’s clear from photos that the squad car’s windshield was shattered and cracked, not broken. When asked why he hadn’t aimed for Cross’s arms or legs Lessard defended, “Everything was just happening too fast.” The Quebec Superior Court jury found Robert Lessard not guilty of the shooting death of David Cross. Lessard wept at the reading of the verdict, later telling the media:
“I want to stay on the force. I still want to be a policeman and serve the public. I just hope that this is the end of the nightmare.”
The Mohawks assured the public that there would be no reprisals. At the same time, the Kahnawake band council threatened to erect toll booths on highways passing through their reserve to raise money they argued that was owned to them by the federal government. A spokesman for the QPF made a statement that, “We have nothing more to say about [it]. The matter is finished, dead and buried as far as we’re concerned.”
Constable Lessard claimed innocence until the end, with all the major forces of Quebec public safety backing him up. By contrast, the three young Kahnawake women charged with manslaughter for the killing of that Montreal taxi-diver – which can be interpreted as a protest action in response to the Cross killing – pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to jail terms ranging from four to seven years.
Four years later Matthew Cross sued officers Lessard and Ouellet arguing that his “arrest, detention, and treatment was illegal and unjustified and constituted an abuse of power”. A judge ultimately ruled that the QPF constables – by 1984 referred to as Surete du Quebec officers – were blameless, but not the detention centre officials at Parthenais. Matthew Cross was awarded$3,000 in compensation for his troubles. In the summer of 1989 Michel Proulx, the lawyer who had defended constable Robert Lessard, was sworn in as a judge to the Quebec Court of Appeal.
For nearly a decade police did not openly enter the Kahnawake reserve land. Then in December 1989, reserve members charged that undercover Surete du Quebec officers infiltrated a Kahnawake high stakes bingo hall preparing for the arrest of a busload of departing participants. The following summer the Oka Crisis – The Resistance – would unfold on neighboring Kanesatake territory. The standoff between Mohawk Warriors, and the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP and Surete du Quebec lasted 78 days and began when the town of Oka tried to expand a municipal golf course into a Mohawk burial ground and other sacred land known as The Pines. The Canadian government eventually ruled that the “conflict was rooted in a centuries old land dispute and fueled by racism.” One Mohawk elder and one Surete du Quebec officer lost their lives. To this day no one knows for sure who lit the match, who gave the order to deploy Surete du Quebec police to Mohawk land – was it SQ director, Robert Lavigne, or minister of public security, Claude Ryan, or the premier himself, Robert Bourassa?
In the 1990s Robert Lessard appears to have continued to work for Quebec law enforcement. In the spring of 1991, a Robert Lessard was investigating a robbery of $90,000 worth of computer equipment from a West Island manufacturing company on behalf of the Montreal police force. Later that summer that same Robert Lessard helped break up a heroin deal in St. Laurent and an extortion scam at a shopping mall in Cote Vertu.
The Covid health crisis has erased much of our pre-2020 memory. You may recall just prior to lockdown in March of 2020, a railway blockade southwest of Montreal done in conjunction with the Wet’suet’en protest, a solidarity movement against the construction of an oil pipeline in British Columbia. Similar to the 1990 blockade of the Mercier bridge, Kahnawake protesters blocked freight and commuter trains trying to cross their territory. By late February, the blockade had gone on for three weeks, frustrations were mounting, and this time, the matter was in the hands of the Kahnawake Peacekeepers.
By the 1990s the Peacekeepers had become fully funded by the federal and provincial governments, each providing approximately 50 percent of the 33-person force’s $4.5 million annual operating budget. Under an agreement with the Quebec government, “the Surete du Quebec and the Peacekeepers must take the necessary steps to ensure mutual assistance and co-operation with respect to the effective monitoring of compliance with applicable legislation.” This was not the first attempt at cooperation between the SQ and the Mohawks. In 2012 the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake asked the Quebec public security ministry for help establishing a SWAT team – made up exclusively of Mohawk Peacekeepers, but trained by Sûreté du Québec experts – to help fight organized crime.
For over 40 years – ever since the shooting of David Cross – the SQ has been barred from entering Kahnawake. Despite mounting public tensions, no one expected the Quebec police to intervene to disrupt the rail blockade unless instructed to by the Peacekeepers. Even the Premier, Francois Legault – who wanted the police to intervene – did not have the power to make that happen. Give Legault credit for at the least being transparent about his intentions.
In March 2020 the Kahnawake blockade ended peacefully. In a prepared statement, Mohawk film director, Roxann Whitebean commented,
“Let this be a strong message and demonstration of good faith to all of Canada, we prefer a peaceful resolution and demand that Indigenous Peoples’ rights be respected.”
1979 must have been some kind of year for Minister of Justice Marc-Andre Bedard. He was under attack. He was on his heels. In July there were the murders of Chantal Dupont and Maurice Marcil, thrown from the Jacques Cartier Bridge. You had Jacques Déry – the father of 13-year-old Diane Déry, murdered in 1975 – petitioning Bedard to transfer the case from Longueuil to the SQ. The Allo Police headlines were screaming “228 RAPES” in the province, year-to-date. Nicole Gaudreault was murdered that summer in Montreal. Edmond Turcotte was back in court concerning the 1975 murder of Diane Thibeault. Then just when it appeared things were settling down, along comes this constable, this reckless fool who shoots a Mohawk, then later has the nerve to tell the public he’d like to remain in law enforcement. And of course the prelude to these events was the discovery in the spring of 1979 of the body of Theresa Allore. Police I suspect hoped since her disappearance the prior year that she would turn up as a runaway, but SQ Inspector Roch Gaudreault anticipated the tragedy when he predicted her body would eventually be discovered after the snow melted. This completed the trilogy of murders in that era, and evidenced the possibility that a serial murderer had stalked the Eastern Townships. By 1979 serial murder, it seemed, was on the decline in Quebec. But what did not change was a consistency of incompetence from all the components of the Quebec justice system.
In the matter of the murder of Catherine Daviau, the Montreal police would rather the public not know precisely how she died. But I’ll tell you right now that Catherine Daviau was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and stomach, bound with zip ties on the bed of her Rosemont apartment, the room set on fire using her perfume as an accelerant, December 11th, 2008.
This is Who Killed Theresa
What the police said
The following is the official notice from the Montreal Police / SPVM on the death of Catherine Daviau:
“Thursday, December 11, 2008, Catherine DAVIAU 26 years old, a young woman was found lifeless in her apartment in the Rosemont district during an intervention by the Montreal fire department at her home located at 5165 5th Avenue following a call to “911” from a neighbor who had noticed the fire.
Following the discovery of the body, the Montreal firefighters called on the SPVM. During the response, the police quickly found that the young woman had been the victim of a murder. Catherine DAVIAU was found on the bed of her room, she bore signs of violence. Investigators from the Major Crimes Section of the SPVM suspect that the attacker started the fire to hide his crime.
During the investigation, the police learned that that day Catherine DAVIAU had worked all day at a company on the West Island of Montreal as she has been doing for several years. After her shift, around 4:30 p.m., she left her work to return home by car, taking Highway 40 eastbound. Given the heavy traffic that day, police estimate that she would have arrived home about an hour later. The investigation also reveals that the victim had used her cellular device shortly after 5:30 p.m. to communicate with an acquaintance.
A neighbor called “911” at around 7:07 pm. When the firefighters arrived, all the exits were closed and locked, which suggests that the victim let her attacker in and that there was no call of a break-in.
Given the victim’s likely arrival at her home and the time of the call to “911”, the perpetrator’s window of opportunity was a little over an hour .
As part of the SPVM investigation for several years, Catherine DAVIAU’s family, neighbors, friends and acquaintances were met by the police, but to date no solid investigative lead has been identified in order to elucidate the gratuitous murder of this uneventful young woman, brutally assaulted, inside her home in the Rosemont district.
Through this process, the SPVM is asking the public for assistance in order to identify the perpetrator of this violent crime. Anyone with information is asked to contact the SPVM, either by dialing 911, by going to a neighborhood police station, through our website or, anonymously, by contacting Info-Crime Montreal at 514-393-1123. Each information received will be processed and analyzed. The case will remain open until it is resolved.”
Some things you can deduce from this information: 5165 5e, that’s a nice area in the Rosemont district, wedged between Parc Extension and Hochelaga, east, in the shadow of the Surete du Quebec headquarters. It’s evident that the notice is made years after the 2008 murder, exactly when we don’t know. There’s a short video made by the SPVM that goes along with the notice, and that video was posted to YouTube in December 2017, so possibly nine years after the murder. This seems about right as the Montreal Police only created their cold case unit in December 2018. We’ve talked about how – to date – the SPVM has only posted 4 cold cases on that website, even though they have approximately 800 under their investigative mandate, Catherine Daviau is one of those four. For a suspect, they lean heavily on Catherine’s friends and family to develop clues, but come up empty. When that happens, the difficulty is the case becomes more and more reliant on police investigation. There’s a suspect out there, and only their expertise is going to find them.
One final thing, the case has never been covered by Montreal’s English language paper, The Gazette. As we’ve seen, this can happen. French papers tend to stick with French victims, where family members can be easily interviewed, and the same applies for English papers. Even CBC Montreal has done little beyond publishing the SPVM press releases, most of the in depth reporting has come from La Presse and Journal de Montreal. I questioned The Gazette about this, and was never given a satisfactory answer as to the lack of attention. It seems especially odd as Catherine Davieau appeared to be fluently bilingual (her mother’s maiden name is Schneider).
The SPVM further disclose that they have physical evidence left at the scene of the crime, but do not say whether that is fingerprints or DNA. It becomes fairly obvious that it’s DNA, when in their next breath they disclose that the assailant smoked Player’s filtered cigarettes.
For the first time, Catherine’s younger sister, Geneviève, is interviewed about the murder:
“We already knew that Catherine would have returned from her work around 6 pm. She lived alone in an apartment on 5th Avenue. At 7:07 p.m., a neighbor called 911 to report a fire. It doesn’t leave a lot of time anyway. I still can’t believe that no one noticed someone or something fishy that evening,”
“Nouveaux éléments concernant le meurtre sordide de Catherine Daviau”, MARIE-CHRISTINE BERGERON, Journal de Montreal, March 15, 2018
After smashing down the apartment door, fire fighters found Catherine’s body naked on her bed. It is here that investigators also reveal that the man – it is the first time they disclose it was a man, presumably also derived from the DNA evidence – used Catherine’s perfume as an accelerator to start the fire, again releasing a photo of the crime scene evidence:
“It tells us that the aggressor arrived on site with a plan, a plan already made. He knew what he wanted to do, that he wanted to tie up the victim to control her. So, it is clear that there is a premeditation. This guy may have followed or observed Catherine in her routine perhaps a few days or some time before to see her routine, ”
Investigator Antonio Paradiso of the SPVM.
The SPVM then go on to explain the nature of a cold case in patterned language that is all too familiar to readers of this website:
“The murder files remain active for two years. If after two years the investigation has not succeeded, in the jargon, we will say that it is a “cold case”. Then the file will be put on hold and my investigators will revise these files sporadically with the new information that comes in. These kinds of files, like Catherine’s, are never closed, ”
SPVM Commander Vincent Rozon
At the start of the investigation, the police refused to say whether Catherine had been sexually assaulted. By 2018, they had confirmed it, but refused to disclose the cause of her death:
“It’s important for investigators to keep certain items confidential, items secret. We call that “hold back”. If it is information that the suspect left at the scene and it is not mentioned outside the file, if one day some people talk about something that has never been said in the public, we will know that this is good information and we will treat it as a priority, ”
SPVM Investigator Paradiso.
Well I’m telling you right here and now that Catherine Daviau was stabbed repeatedly in the throat and stomach, as reported in her coroner report released over two years after her murder in 2010. It’s not very good hold-back evidence if that evidence is readily available to the public, and the coroner invites you to disclose it. Here I’ll translate what the Quebec coroner sent me:
“Mr. John Allore,
Enclosed you will find the coroner’s investigation report on the death by Catherine Daviau. Please note that coroners’ reports are public documents. They can therefore be given to anyone who requests it, including media representatives.
Please accept, Mr. John Allore, the expression of our distinguished feelings.”
I swear, the Journal de Montreal, they do a lot of good in these types of stories in disclosing information to the public, but it is all told through the lens of Quebec police. In this manner the JdM’s relationship with the SPVM is no better than Jack Webb’s Dragnet in the 50s and 60s, the popular crime television series was practically produced by the LAPD.
In December 2018, the Montreal Police announce that they have managed to develop a composite photo of Catherine Daviau’s assailant using advanced DNA techniques. The SPVM sent a DNA sample of the suspect found at the crime scene – presumably from the cigarette butt of the Player’s filter cigarette – to the United States to draw a composite image using a ground-breaking technique called phenotyping.
“It is a method of analyzing DNA samples that makes it possible to obtain probable physical characteristics of an unidentified person”, explained commander of the major crimes section of the SPVM, Pascal Côté.
The color of hair, eyes, skin and “certain morphological characteristics of the face” are among the elements that can emerge from such an analysis.
The composite was shown to Catherine Daviau’s entourage, but the SPVM refused to make the image public:
“The composite will not be made public… It could mislead the population and even the investigators in error… It should be understood that a robot portrait produced by the testimony of a person has much more value today with the technologies that are within our reach. A witness sees the length of the hair, the age of the person, certain characteristics that cannot be determined by a DNA sample. A composite portrait drawn from a DNA sample will be more generic,”
Pascal Côté – SPVM
The composite portrait drawn from the DNA cannot, among other things, reflect the age of the suspect, explained Pascal Côté. At that time in 2018 – ten years after Catherine’s murder, detectives were still investigating the hypothesis that Catherine Daviau may have been killed by someone she knew. It is particularly for this reason that they showed the composite portrait only to the entourage of young woman in Catherine’s social circle.
“This is the city… It was Thursday, December 11th, we were working the night watch out of Bunko Division. My partner’s Antonio Paradiso, the boss is Commander Rozon. My name’s Friday….”
DNA phenotyping is the process of predicting a person’s physical appearance and/or biogeographic ancestry for forensic purposes using only genetic information collected from genotyping or DNA sequencing. This term, also known as molecular photofitting.
It is believed to have been first used in 2015 to help solve the 2011 murders of Candra Alston and her three-year-old daughter. Police in Columbia, South Carolina, issued a press release containing what is thought to be the first composite image to be published entirely on the basis of a DNA sample. This lead to the arrest of Kenneth Canzater, who was charged with the murders in 2017.
In Canada the technique is believed to have been first used in 2016 when Windsor police released a composite of the suspect responsible for the abduction and murder of six-year-old Ljubica Topic in 1971. This was the first public release of a phenotyping composite outside of the United States and the oldest case to apply the technology.
Phenotyping is like the Zizzlingers of forensic science. Just add water, you never know who you’re gonna get.
And what of phenotyping related to solving other cold cases in Quebec? Are there plans to test other cold case evidence? There exists male DNA evidence in my sister’s case, will that sample be sent to the United States for phenotyping? I might like some confirmation that after phenotyping, the offender tends to resemble Luc Gregoire, who died in Archambault in 2015 after his sentencing for the Calgary murder of Lanie Silva. I have three victim rendered composites (2 from Sherbrooke, one from Montreal) that demonstrate a man resembling Gregoire was a serial sexual predator active in Quebec in the late 1970s. It would be nice to have genetic confirmation. It’s an expensive technique; so what is the rationale of testing only the Daviau evidence? What about the Teresa Martin case, shouldn’t the method be, oldest cases are the first ones tested? Or maybe it is the newest cases, while memories are still fresh. I know, I’m being a little overly ambitious by daring to suggest that perhaps there should be a strategic, coordinated effort here.
What about any number of cases, like Valerie Leblanc?
In 2011 Valérie Leblanc was an 18-year-old student at the Cégep de l’Outaouais in Hull. The city of Hull rests across the Ottawa River from the Canadian Capital of Ottawa. In fact the river defines the border between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
On August 23, 2011, her badly beaten and burned corpse was discovered in the woods behind the campus of Cégep de l’Outaouais. Two students found the body around 4 p.m. near the bike path behind the school’s Campus Gabrielle-Roy. As reported by CBC News, Josianne Tardif was having a cigarette on the path with her friends – the place was a popular spot for local teenagers – when they came upon the body.
The location where the body was found was near a spot where in March 2010 a woman was found badly burned in what police later called an attempted suicide. The similarity of the incidents led some at the school and family members of Leblanc to speculate they were connected. But police said the 2010 incident was still considered an attempted suicide, while admitting that Leblanc’s “suspicious” death was not a suicide.
Two days later, Gatineau police announced that Valerie Leblanc died from head trauma. They refused to comment further on the case, but said it did not appear the body had been moved from another location. Patrols consisting of the Gatineau police bicycle squad and the RCMP began to canvas the grounds and paths of the college campus. Police said they had no suspects in the homicide investigation.
Police then announced they had opened a second investigation into whether people who first came upon the body may have “manipulated” it. “Certain actions were taken by the people who discovered the body of Valérie Leblanc, so there is a second investigation to the one of murder,” said Gatineau police spokesman Sgt. Jean-Paul Le May. Le May went on to say that there were four suspects in the second investigation, which also included allegations of obstructing the homicide investigation. He said the people involved in the second investigation were not believed to be involved in the death of Leblanc. According to Le May, the four suspects may have potentially compromised the homicide investigation.
Eventually police revealed that the four suspects were teenagers who told police they were walking through the park when they saw smoke rising from an off-trail area. They went to investigate, and discovered Leblanc’s body with evidence of burns and other signs of violence. The teens later told police that they did not realize the body was real, so they returned to class. Eventually they decided something was wrong and phoned police.
The press reported that Leblanc and her boyfriend had recently broken up, and that they were seen entering the woods together that Tuesday morning. But police, while confirming the split between the couple, said that investigators met with the boyfriend and that he was not considered a suspect. Leblanc was a first year student at the cegep / college, according to police. She died on the first day of school of the fall semester.
Police release sketch of ‘important witness’
Two months later the trail from Valerie Leblanc’s murder goes cold. Valerie’s mother holds a press conference pleading for the public’s help. “We want the police officers to find who is responsible for this horrible murder and make sure the person is arrested and convicted,” she says.
Gatineau Police say they still have no suspects, but they do release a sketch of a man described as an “important witness” in the slaying who was seen wearing a black hat. They say there have been more than 500 tips related to this homicide investigation and repeat their call for more information. The force also offers a $10,000 reward for information related to the case. The “important witness” is described as a white man in his 20s, about six feet tall and 200 pounds, with a chubby face, short black hair, no facial hair and a pot belly. He is French-speaking. He also had a summer tan “with a particular olive complexion.” He has a pointy nose and walks with a limp. He may have been riding a bicycle. The bicycle is described as a mountain bike with straight handlebars. Police say the bike appears to be a lower end model and that it had mountain or hybrid tires.
The witness was also said to be wearing an open black nylon jacket, along with a black T-shirt with a red and golden logo, a black cap and black wrinkled pants. He was walking decisively and looked worried. Later other witnesses claim the man was not wearing a black cap, but of course by this time police had already released their composite showing the man in a black hat. The Gatineau police declared they had no suspects but their chief defended the investigation, saying they did not believe the case should be turned over to the more experienced provincial police, the Surete du Quebec.
By December 2011, with still no progress on the murder investigation, the office of the Crown attorney announces that no charges will be laid in the matter of tampering with Valérie Leblanc’s body. Police reveal that originally four teenagers were suspected to have tampered with the murder scene. However, three were cleared by police in September, with the fourth person cleared in December. Officials say there is no discrepancy as to whether or not the body was tampered with, but they will not move forward with charges based on the evidence. It’s never quite clear what exactly the nature of the body tampering was, but many assume it was either the setting of the corps on fire, or the breaking of the legs. “Of course they touched (the body), but we cannot say how,” a police spokesman explained at the time.
Leblanc memorial vandalized
On the one year anniversary of her death, a memorial to Valerie Leblanc erected along the bike path where she was found is vandalized. Valerie’s grandmother says she believes the person(s) who desecrated the memorial could be linked to the killing.
“They say a murderer or some murderers always come back to the site of their act,” said Huguette Leblanc, “It could be that, too, it’s starting to affect them inside and in their head.”
At exactly 4 p.m. – one year to the hour that his granddaughter’s body was discovered – Bert Leblanc went to visit the memorial site and discovered it had been trashed — a cross was broken, a commemorative plaque cracked, a picture of Valerie had the face scratched out and a crucifix with a wolf’s head on it had been unearthed. He also found cases of beer and broken bottles scattered around the memorial site. Bert Leblanc shared his experience with the Gatineau Police but they said it was too early in the investigation to draw any possible links between the vandalism and the murder.
Now… given that you had no leads and no suspects, wouldn’t you take the vandalism a little more seriously? For the sake of the family, wouldn’t you – at the very least – give the appearance that you were taking it seriously and not dismissing the incident outright? Given how much the family had suffered, given that you already had the evidence of body tampering, conducted by teenagers, given that your lack of experience had already been called into question… wouldn’t you, as the investigating force, start to focus the investigation closer to home, and stop pinning your hopes on an phantom “important witness” who may not even exist. A figment who may have been created by those teenagers to throw the focus of the investigation in a direction other than the Cégep de l’Outaouais.
It didn’t take long for the Valerie Leblanc investigation to devolve into the circus it was destined to become. This is what happens when you have a police force that is completely out of their depth with criminal matters, they become prey to outside elements that – with the best intentions – manage to complicate and confuse things even further.
Enter Claude Poirier.
In the fall of 2013, the second anniversary of Valérie Leblanc’s murder, Claude Poirier hosts a television call-in show on Quebec’s TVA television station. On the TVA program an anonymous caller claimed Leblanc’s killer committed suicide a month after the 18-year-old’s mutilated and burned body was found behind the CEGEP de l’Outaouais in August, 2011. The caller to Claude Poirier’s show, who claimed to be resident of Gatineau, said he received his information from an unnamed, recently retired police officer.
“We must come to an end with this atrocity there,” he told TVA host Poirier. “I hold information that will confirm that we will never find the perpetrator of Valerie Leblanc, because the individual has committed suicide not long after in the Gatineau Park.”
Police quickly qualify this information as “unfounded”. Claude Poirier confirms that he receives lots of information on the Leblanc investigation: “I received information on my voicemail, on my site, on my pager. I passed everything on to two lieutenants. Still, I received extremely plausible things, ”he says.
Valerie’s grandmother, Huguette Leblanc, says the one thing that seems to make common sense, that the assertion is difficult to believe. “I’m glad people are still talking about it, but I don’t believe it,” she said. “I doubt a police officer would talk like that. If it was true, there would be proof, we’d already know about it. My feeling is people like to say things to get attention.”
“It’s bringing me down so much”
Nine years later and police still hadn’t gotten very far with the Valérie Leblanc murder investigation. Valerie’s mother does annual press conferences to try and keep the case alive.
“I just miss her … and every year that goes on, it’s like we’re going [through] that again. It’s bringing me down so much,” Leblanc’s mother Julie Charron tells CBC News.
Gatineau police continue to state that they would like to speak with the male witness from their issued sketch. “We’re still at the point where we would like to meet with the important witness in our case,” says Jean-Paul Lemay of the Gatineau Police Service.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Gatineau Police Service’s homicide line at 819 243-INFO (4636).
By 2020 Claude Poirier had conducted his own investigation in the hope of shedding light on the homicide, on his program, Poirier Enquete. The Poirier problem is that he’s just like Dragnet. Another Quebecor / TVA product, there’s no objective distance, he is right in the police’s pocket. And there’s the added danger of when Poirier goes rogue; like he did with the anonymous caller on the 2013 television program, as he did with the 1997 disappearance of Cédrika Provencher.
I suspect that police already know this, but have elected to put up a front. The best suspect is not some “important witness” who may or may not exist. The best suspect in the Valerie Leblanc case – and I feel this is something very different from the Catherine Daviau case – is, in fact, someone closely associated with her at the cegep campus in Hull.
Leblanc’s coroner’s report is not very telling, but it does reveal this:
“[Mme Leblanc] had gone to the wooded area behind the CEGEP, which is very popular with students, with a friend around 1 pm. The friend in question left the woods some thirty minutes later. Other students found Mme Leblanc there dead and made a call to 911 at around 3:55 p.m.”
We know from press reports that the “friend” is Valérie’s boyfriend with whom she had recently broken up. Two go in, one comes out. And there is an approximate two-and-a-half hour window in which the body tampering could have occurred. I would guess that the boyfriend is the police’s prime suspect. There simply are no witnesses – or none ready to tell what they know – and the boyfriend hasn’t ever broken, he won’t confess.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth study of the Valerie Leblanc case, check out the podcast Synthèses, produced by QUB Radio ( yet another Quebecor offering). Synthèses is the brainchild of Boris Proulx and Julien Morissette, and they’ve now produced two series on unsolved murders, the one on Leblanc and a second series on the death of Louise Chaput, a 52-year-old Quebec woman whose body was found in 2001 at Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Their podcasts for a time were hard to find, but they’ve recently been posted on Apple Podcasts.( I’ve posted the link here). Morissette and Proulx’s work is excellent, definitely worth checking out. The only problem is they are in French, so you need to brush up on your Parlez-Vous.
Louis Chaput was from Sherbrooke, which is as good a transition as you’re gonna get for our next segment….
“We will shine a light on these events”
Now those that know me have already guessed where this is all leading to, why I chose to tell these stories at this particular point in time. For years, I have been asked to cover the cases of Daviau and Leblanc. I just have never been able to find quite the right hook, the right angle. It’s one thing for some teenagers to mistake a burnt body for a mannequin, they’re kids, not professional investigators. We even begin the book Wish You Were Here with the discovery of the body and how the muskrat trapper thought the victim was a mannequin. That’s a true story, but we also wanted to play off the old trope – because it always seems that crime stories begin this way, with an old cliche, but then we wanted to take the book in a very different direction.
So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when police and fire fighters from the city of Sherbrooke, Quebec literally mistook a burning body for a mannequin, and then collectively made the decision to dispose of said mannequin in a nearby dumpster.
On the morning of July 23, 2021, police and firefighters responded to a call made by employees on break from the AMF Factory in southern Sherbrooke. The workers say they saw someone set fire to a mannequin in a wooded area at the corner of Rue Cabana and Roy. According to Sherbrooke police chief Danny McConnell, the body was initially believed to be a silicone dummy. After discussions between police and firefighters, it was decided the best way to dispose of the mannequin was to put it into a dumpster behind the police station.
Four hours later, a man reported the disappearance of his partner. Police tracked her cell phone and found her vehicle near the scene of the fire. The woman’s description matched that of the supposed mannequin. Police, noting the coincidence, decided at 6:30 p.m. to check the dumpster and discovered the mannequin was… ya, the rest writes itself.
According to CTV News, the coroner’s office, Crown and independent bureau of investigators (BEI) are all looking into the situation. Police are investigating it as a suspicious death. In a news conference McConnell offered his condolences to the woman’s family. “We are obviously sorry for this incident and we assure you the family will be advised throughout this investigation,” he said. Sherbrooke fire chief Stephane Simoneau said many firefighters were shocked by the discovery and he is concerned about the psychological toll the situation may cause, adding that he is personally taking on the responsibility to determine what exactly occurred.
“We will shine a light on these events over the next few weeks,” he said.
On the subject of shining light, what I find interesting is the dark blanket that appears to have been thrown over this matter. From what I can tell, most of the reporting from the initial week of the incident -from July 22 when the body was discovered to the following week – has been wiped from the internet, the majority of coverage only picks up a week later on July 29, from the point of the police apology. What has also been dropped is that the AMF workers say they saw someone light a body on fire. In later news coverage the reporting only says a police responded to a body on fire, but you can hear it as clear as day on this CBC report:
The story that has emerged is that a woman in her 60s appears to have taken her own life, but there’s no telling that that is actually what occurred. We’ve seen this before, burning the victim or crime scene to obfuscate the murder, most notably the case of Diane Thibeault, but also in the Catherine Daviau case, and possibly also with Valerie Leblanc. Full disclosure; the only thing connecting the Daviau and Leblanc cases is the burning of the victims, apart from that I see little in common with their dossiers.
Far from shining light, the police have maintained stone silence since the public apology on July 29. As Viatka Sundborg reported in the French language, le Soleil, “”Silence” is the watchword in the file”. Here I’ll read from Sundborg’s August 3rd article, what appears to be the last word on the matter for the time being:
“An investigation by the coroner’s office is underway, says Jake Lamotta Granato, responsible for communications and media relations. “M. Richard Drapeau is responsible for this file and no comments will be made before the publication of the report,” he adds.
Ten days after the tragedy, the same questions as last week therefore remain unanswered. The identity of the victim remains unknown, in addition to the circumstances of their death. All say they are waiting for the coroner’s report before commenting further on the tragedy….
According to the Bureau du coroner du Québec, “in 2018-2019, the average time to produce this type of report was 11 months. “”
On the matter of the timing of the release of coroner information it is worth noting it took over a year for the coroner to produce the report for Valerie Leblanc. In the matter of Catherine Daviau’s death, over two years. With the murder of Siasi Tullaugak which we covered a couple of episodes ago, the coroner waited 21 months.
I’m eagerly awaiting the part in this story when we’re officially told to go away, ‘This is a local matter, please let our community heal’.
Who killed James Dubé? For nearly 15 years, the murderer of the fisherman from Grande-Rivière, in the Gaspé, managed to escape investigators. Until the Sûreté du Québec launched a delicate infiltration operation to gain the trust of the main suspect, more than 500 km away …
NICOLAS BÉRUBÉ LA PRESSE
SEPTEMBER 24, 2017
GRANDE-RIVIÈRE – It is almost 3 am when James Dubé opens his eyes to begin what will be the last day of his life.
Taking care not to wake his two daughters, his partner by his side, the fisherman puts on his work clothes and leaves his house. He climbs aboard his white Ford pickup truck and drives along Route 132 for 3 km, to the Grande-Rivière wharf.
With his fishing partner Gilles Lebreux, James Dubé climbs aboard his boat. Dressed in coats to protect them from the cool night of April 30, 1998, the two men set sail to retrieve their lobster traps.
“James was pulling up the cages, and I was emptying them and putting a mackerel bait back in,” recalls Gilles Lebreux. We had 250 cages. We had to work quickly, we didn’t talk much. “
After fishing, James Dubé sells the lobsters to the Grande-Rivière fish factory, of which he is one of the co-owners. Later, he climbs back into his truck to return home, to his brown brick bungalow facing the sea, on Route 132.
At 37, James Dubé is at his peak. The easy smile, the strong handshake, he is known to everyone in Grande-Rivière, the city where he grew up. Seven years earlier, his father, Raymond Dubé, also a lobster fisherman, got caught in a net that pulled him into the winch of his boat, killing him instantly. This did not discourage his son from returning to sea with the same boat and practicing this profession which allows him to go moose hunting in the fall and to take snowmobile trips through the Gaspé in the winter.
“When James came in somewhere he would take his place, he was imposing,” recalls one person who knew him and who wishes to remain anonymous. “Let’s say there’s no one going to knock him off his feet. “
Three weeks earlier, James Dubé and his wife Johanne Johnson delighted in showing friends over dinner an engagement ring. “They were going to get married. It was a great time for them. “
Around noon, Johanne Johnson arrives home with two submarine sandwiches she bought at the convenience store. They have sex. Ms. Johnson, who works at the lobster factory, cannot stay any longer: she has to go to work. James Dubé lies down for a nap with his arms crossed on the living room sofa.
A few hours later, André Dubé, the older brother of James, owner of a auto body garage in Grande-Rivière, is about to paint a client’s car when the phone rings in the office. A co-worker answers, then tells him that something serious has just happened at James Dubé’s home.
A DESIRED DISORDER
André Dubé jumps in his car and arrives at his brother’s place in less than five minutes.
“I park in the driveway and see police and paramedics everywhere. There were about twenty people there. I was not allowed to enter the house. “
One hundred and fifty kilometers further south, investigating agent Guy Lebel, from the major crimes office of the Sûreté du Québec for eastern Quebec, is on his way to Rimouski when he receives a call telling him to turn around and go to Grande-Rivière.
It is around 5 p.m. when Guy Lebel parks his car in front of James Dubé’s bungalow. SQ investigators from the Pabos station guide him inside, to the living room, the center of interest for everyone on site.
“I see a man lying on the couch, lifeless. He’s dressed in jeans, he’s dressed like a worker. He has a gunshot wound to the head. The house appears to have been searched. There are pots on the floor. It was his oldest daughter who found him. She cries and she panics in the kitchen. “
Alerted at her work, Johanne Johnson arrives by car. “She seemed to be in shock,” says Lebel.
SQ police set up a roadblock on Route 132 and search all cars in the area, looking for the murder weapon. Investigators interview neighbors, co-workers and family members of James Dubé to get a picture of his day.
Guy Lebel establishes a security perimeter around the house. He and the Forensic Identification Service are searching the ground floor, basement and large grounds. “We were looking for things where there might have been blood, but not much was found. “
Guy Lebel worked for almost 10 years at Pabos SQ post, a seven-minute drive from the house where the murder took place. He has crossed paths with James Dubé several times. “He and his brother weren’t coming up on our radar. They were people who worked, who made their living. “
At the scene of the murder, a detail surprises Mr. Lebel.
“The TV, the hunting guns in the basement… Everything was still there. I found that strange. Usually, valuables go first. And the pots on the floor… Something was wrong. The house was a mess, but it wasn’t a normal mess. It looked like a deliberate mess. “
In addition to plunging him into a state of shock, the murder of his brother explodes a series of questions in André Dubé’s head.
” Who did that ? Was there a quarrel with another fisherman? Is it a woman’s story? Will the person who did this come back? “
James was his best friend, he said. “We were always together. We were almost like twins. “
A few days after the murder, James Dubé’s neighbor accidentally falls in his basement. He cuts himself on the neck on the wall of an aquarium and dies.
“It added to the climate of paranoia. We were like, what is going on here? It’s a small place. I’m not a nervous person, but for a month after the murder, I turned on lights everywhere at night. Inside and outside. I was not at ease. “
André Dubé and his wife welcome Johanne Johnson and her two daughters to their home. Very quickly, Mr. Dubé was surprised at his sister-in-law’s attitude.
“Johanne was not asking any questions about James’ death. She was cold, indifferent. She wasn’t crying. ”
André Dubé is also amazed to see his sister-in-law return to take a shower in the house where her husband was shot a few days earlier.
A few days after the murder, Johanne Johnson is on the phone shopping for a car for her daughter, a purchase that James Dubé opposed before his death, says André Dubé. “The next day she was talking about having a house built. Me and my wife at the time, we found that this was not normal. “
The afternoon he died, James was scheduled to go to the solicitor to sign the papers and dissolve the lobster factory business, André Dubé recalls.
“By the same token, he would have lost his life insurance. By not leaving the house that day, the shareholders, including Johanne, saw their debts paid and received life insurance if one of the shareholders died. “
The autopsy shows that the rifle that was used to kill James Dubé was a 22 caliber, the same as a rifle the fisherman kept on his boat that had been stolen in the weeks before the murder.
Investigators probe to see if a fisherman could be responsible, but find nothing. Police ask Johanne Johnson to take a polygraph test. She refuses, repeating that she had nothing to do with the murder of her future husband.
Months go by, then years. One observation begins to emerge: the murderer did not leave enough traces for their identity to be revealed.
$50 IN A GLASS
14-years later, on December 5, 2012, Johanne Johnson gets out of her car in front of her new partner’s house in Rivière-du-Loup shortly after 3 p.m.. She notices a woman standing near a car parked in the street.
She asks her if she needs help. According to documents filed with the Superior Court of Quebec last year, the woman replies “that she is lost, that she is looking for her sister whom she has not seen for a long time to tell her that their mother is deceased”.
Johanne Johnson offers to help. The woman accepts and the two women undertake to crisscross the neighborhood by car.
Johanne Johnson doesn’t know it yet, but the disoriented stranger she just put in her car is an undercover officer for the Sûreté du Québec.
A grand merry-go-round launched by the SQ’s cold case team with the participation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Montreal Police Department has just started.
This is the eighth time in more than two weeks that an approach has been attempted. But, each time, Johanne Johnson’s comings and goings do not [allow] the officer to approach her.
As the car drives through the streets of Rivière-du-Loup, the officer, identified by code SQ0902 in investigative documents, shows Johnson a photo of her sister. She offers Johnson a $50 bill. Johnson refuses, saying “this is help.” The agent puts the money “in a glass in the middle of the console.”
For nearly two hours, the two women talk. Johanne Johnson, then 52, talks about her health problems, her daughters and her grandchildren. She explains that she is on sick leave.
At around 5 p.m., they returned to Johanne Johnson’s home. Agent SQ0902 offers her a second $50 bill, which she again refuses. The agent places the ticket “in the same place as the other”. A reward of $500 will be given to whoever helps her find her sister, she tells Johnson.
The two women exchange their phone numbers. Johanne Johnson volunteers to continue the search “Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays”.
PERFUME AND A CÉLINE DION CD
Over the next few days, Johanne Johnson and Agent SQ0902 saw each other regularly. The two women continued their research before going to lunch and dinner in restaurants. Agent SQ0902 pays the bill.
The agent gives Johnson $50 and $100 bills to thank her for taking the time to help find her sister. The latter accepts the money, which she promises to use to “spoil [her] grandchildren.” The two women become friends.
During their conversations, Johnson is “in a good mood” and “talks easily about her private life”.
She says she was the victim of domestic violence from her “ex” and says that the latter “died in an accident”.
She says she does work for the elderly at a community health center. Johanne Johnson says she has struggled with alcohol and gambling in the past.
The two women work for over a week when Agent SQ0902 received a call. She must go to Montmagny to pick up a vehicle to bring it to Lévis. “Johanne Johnson is informed that SQ0902’s spouse has a company and that SQ0902 works for him,” read the transaction report.
Officer SQ0902 asks Johanne Johnson if she can drive the vehicle for her, that she will be paid for this service, which she accepts. The agent “offers her the job” at the company on the spot.
Johanne Johnson moves vehicles from city to city. Each time, she gets paid in cash. So much so that she says one day that she “will get rich” by doing work like this.
On December 20, Agent SQ0902 surprises Johanne Johnson with a gift: perfume and a Celine Dion CD. Johnson tells Agent SQ0902 that she is “a godsend.”
Gradually, the nature of the work entrusted to Johanne Johnson by Officer SQ0902 begins to change.
Johnson has to transport a suitcase by bus from Rivière-du-Loup to Sainte-Foy. Later, she will move a suitcase that is in the trunk of a car. You can’t say what’s in the suitcases, but “it’s not drugs.” She also meets the agent’s spouse, identified as DG876, and other alleged members of the organization.
Johnson accepts the tasks and can earn $400, $500, or even more for a day’s work.
Johnson agrees to carry a suitcase that contains weapons. To celebrate, the group is treating themselves to hearty dinners in upscale restaurants, including La Bête in Quebec City.
On January 29, while in Montreal for a delivery, the group took the opportunity to attend a hockey game at the Bell Center, a first for Johanne Johnson. The Montreal Canadiens won 4-3 over the Winnipeg Jets. Johnson “doesn’t like hockey, but enjoys her night. […] [She] is in a good mood, ”the report notes.
“THE TRUTH, NO LIES”
Johanne Johnson learns that a ‘big job’ awaits her if she can live up to it.
Before having access to this “big job”, she must meet the big boss of the organization. This meeting takes place on June 19, 2012 in a cottage in New Richmond, on the edge of the Bay of Chaleur in the Gaspé.
En route, Agent SQ0902 stops at Tim Horton’s in New Richmond. She phones the big boss. Back in the car, she is upset. “There is something wrong here. The big boss is not in a good mood.”
Johanne Johnson asks “if something bad is going to happen to them. […] SQ0902 reassures her that nothing will happen to them physically and not to “screw up” ”.
During the meeting, the boss affirms that things are getting “warm” for the group. “I just found out about that. These are all things we could have avoided. Because the heat does not come from the rest of us there. The heat is coming from your friend here, ” he said, turning to Johanne Johnson.
The boss says “it’s worse than he thought and it’s about her ex who was killed.”
The two agents leave the room. Johanne Johnson is alone with the big boss.
The big boss is “respectful. There is no confrontation or intimidation “, say the notes of the Sûreté du Québec.
“If you want me to help you there, […] you’re going to start telling me what happened that day from A to Z, he said. The truth, no lies because if you tell me a lie, that’s it. What happened? […] “
J.J: “The day James died? “
J.J .: “I killed him.”
Boss: “How did you kill him? What happened ? Because. “
J.J .: “Well there [inaudible] there was so much pressure on me [inaudible]. “
Boss: “Ok. […]. “
J.J. “This is the first time I say this. “
DIET COKE FOR THE BIG BOSS
The big boss asks her why she killed her partner that day.
“[I] didn’t decide when, it just happened. It happened like a flash, ”she replies.
She says she killed James Dubé while he was taking a nap, lying on the couch. She shot him in the head with a 22 rifle. “After killing James Dubé, Johanne Johnson threw pots on the ground to simulate a fight,” the report notes.
“She picks up the gun, rolls it up in a rug, walks out the back of the house, gets out of the car, and takes the gun into the woods at Chandler about fifteen minutes from her house. “
Johanne Johnson says she inherited her husband’s fishing boat, which she sold for $175,000, and $30,000 in life insurance. She says she spent two or three years on drugs to try to forget. “She felt followed by the police. She spent the inheritance money on drugs. She gave her father $30,000 to pay off his debts. She spoiled her daughters. “
Johnson also tells the big boss of being worried when summer arrived that the gun will be found and someone will come knocking on her door.
After the meeting, the big boss asks two members to accompany Johanne Johnson in the woods off Pellegrin road, in Chandler, where she says she got rid of the weapon, just to try to locate it and make it go away for good. The group goes there, but fails to locate the weapon.
On the way back, the group stops at a Chandler IGA, and Johanne Johnson is told to go in and buy “Diet Coke and Chocolate Chip Cookies” for the Big Boss. When she comes out of the grocery store, Johanne Johnson is arrested for the murder of James Dubé.
On April 13, 2016, after three days of deliberation at the Percé courthouse, a jury composed of five men and seven women found Johanne Johnson guilty of the second degree murder of James Dubé. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 11 years.
Johanne Johnson filed for an appeal which was authorized by the Quebec Court of Appeal. The final dossier has not yet been submitted.
During her trial, she claimed to have nothing to do with the murder and said she lied to the big boss for fear of dying.
Her lawyer, Me Rodrigue Beauchesne, maintains that her client is a victim.
“With the Operation Mr. Big trap, the police made her say what the police wanted to hear. Mrs Johnson is a citizen, and in front of the whole machine, she was no match. “
During the undercover operation, which lasted over six months, Johanne Johnson received approximately $18,000 in cash for the work performed and was reimbursed $2,400 for her expenses.
Even today, André Dubé says he is stunned when he realizes that his ex-sister-in-law shot down his brother during his nap.
“It was in cold blood. If it had been done with drinking or on drugs … But it was around noon, so she was sober. “
He says he doesn’t feel angry at her. “Now she is paying for what she did. “
Guy Lebel, the first member of the Major Crimes Unit to arrive at the scene of the murder, recalls feeling “relief” when he learned that Johnson had been arrested, 15 years after the murder.
“I said to myself: We were right. The investigation was right. “
The person who comes close to committing the perfect homicide is the one who acts alone, he says.
“Whoever does it alone, there is no one who can tell it. If they don’t speak, it doesn’t come out. In the case of Johanne Johnson, she could have taken it with her to her grave, that secret. “
WHAT IS A “Mr. BIG” OPERATION?
A “Mr. Big” operation is an investigative method designed to trick a suspect into believing that they are about to join a criminal group, and is used to extract a confession from them. At least 350 operations of this nature have been carried out over the past 30 years in Canada. In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of Mr. Big operations, while restricting their admissibility in evidence. Critics of the use of these operations argue that the mere participation of a suspect in a Mr. Big-type operation is likely to mar credibility in the eyes of a jury.
A Gaspé woman, Johanne Johnson, found guilty of the unpremeditated murder of her husband James Dubé, will be entitled to a second trial. The Court of Appeal found that the judge at the first trial erred in presenting the statement of an important witness to the jury. Johanne Johnson, 58, was convicted in April 2016 of the murder committed 18 years earlier.
On April 30, 1998, lobster fisherman James Dubé was shot in the head with a 22 caliber rifle bullet while taking a nap on the living room couch in his home in Grande-Rivière, in the region.
Johanne Johnson was arrested only in 2013, after a “Mister Big” undercover operation. The lady had confessed to the murder of her husband to the head of this false criminal organization, personified by a police officer.
She was charged with premeditated murder.
At trial, she said she confessed to a murder she did not do because she feared for her safety. The accused also said that she was beaten for several years by James Dubé.
Sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 11 years, she appealed the verdict.
A lack of direction
The highest court in Quebec has just ruled in his favor and ordered a new trial on a very specific point.
The Superior Court judge who heard the trial erred, the judges say, in presenting the accused’s daughter’s statement to jurors.
Jackie Dubé, a crucial witness for the prosecution, had read during the trial observations on her mother’s behavior as well as recounted confessions made by Johanne Johnson after the arrest.
According to the Court of Appeal, the judge would have had to justify the admissibility of the girl’s notes into evidence and give the jury specific instructions. “Taken together, these two errors carry an obvious risk of harm,” wrote the Court of Appeal. Their cumulative effect is far from minor, and its influence on the jury’s deliberations is incalculable. Without these errors, it is not possible to conclude with certainty that the evidence presented against the accused was so overwhelming that it would have been impossible to reach a further verdict. “
Joanne Berube April 19, 2021
The first part of the second trial of Johanne Johnson, accused of the murder of her husband James Dubé, ended last week at the Percé courthouse.
The proceedings, which began on March 15, took place behind closed doors and were subject to a publication ban. The judge reserved the case.
The continuation of the trial has been set for October 4 for eight weeks and should begin with the selection of the jury.
James Dubé was found shot dead in the back of his neck at his home in Grande-Rivière in April 1998, but it was not until 15 years after the incident that his wife was charged with the murder.
Johanne Johnson was then found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2016.
In the summer of 2020, the Quebec Court of Appeal ordered a new trial due to the admission at the first trial of certain evidence and the lack of instructions to the jury in connection with this evidence.
A 2019 coroner’s report on the death of a 27-year-old Inuit woman determined “This is a violent death”, not suicide as initially ruled by the Montreal Police, the SPVM.
Siasi Tullaugak was found hanging from the small balcony of a Chomedey Street apartment on August 29, 2017. Within 24 hours, another Inuit woman, Sharon Baron’s body was found hanged in a closet inside her apartment in Dorval. In both cases the Montreal police considered the deaths of the two Inuit women as suicides. People who knew the two women said they suspected foul play, but when they tried to communicate this to the police their information was brushed aside.
In the case of Baron, the Quebec coroner eventually ruled her death a suicide. In a March 2018 report, Dr. Louis Normandin wrote that Sharon Baron hung herself with a computer power cable, concluding that she died of compression asphyxiation of the neck structures following the hanging, finally determining, “It is a suicide.”
Tullaugak’s coroner’s report was filed over 14 months later, even though both victims died within 24 hours of each other. In May 2019 coroner Karine Spenard wrote, “Siasi Ikidluak Tullaugak died of suffocation by hanging”, then concluded “This is a violent death.” The report goes on to say that it is not the role of the coroner to pronounce the civil or criminal person responsible in such matters, and, as this is “still an open file at the SPVM”, the analysis of the event remains open.
In 2017, the Montreal police’s Aboriginal liaison officer, Carlo De Angelis insisted police had thoroughly investigated the cases, “… investigators have done the legwork on this. They’ve looked at all the information that was gathered.”
Both Tullaugak and Baron were known to frequent the Cabot Square district on the edge of Montreal’s west end. The park is well known for drugs and sex trafficking. On March 26, 2019, another Inuit woman, Donna Pare was reported missing. Pare was known to frequent Place Emilie Gamelin, another area known for drugs and prostitution. She has not been seen since December 2018.
The SPVM’s media relations division declined to comment on the matter, instructing that all questions be put to the police force through an access to information request.
It’s December 12, 1977 around 11 p.m. and my 13-year-old sorry ass is standing at the southwest corner of Sainte Catherine and Atwater waiting for my dad to pick me up after an Aerosmith concert – blue jeans, jean jacket, and tan work boots, we called them workie joes. It’s a well-worn ritual. My sister shuffled the pavement impatiently waiting after ELO and Heart shows. Now your father will pick you up at 11 p.m. sharp, so you be there at the corner, don’t keep him waiting. If the encore ended early you might grab the cheapest thing on the menu at the new McDonald’s, kitty-cornered from The Montreal Forum. You sit in the dining area with all the other kids waiting for parents, the air thick with cigarette smoke, trying to make a Christmas ornament out of one of the tin ashtrays. If he’s late, you might drop a dime in the pay phone on that corner – Where is he? Well, he left 15 minutes ago! One thing’s certain, he was going to make you wait, he wasn’t going to drive around Cabot Square four or five times. A stranger asks you for a cigarette, but you know that’s not what he’s really ask for. You offer him one then quickly move on to another part of the corner. Finally you recognize dad’s head silhouetted above the steering wheel. You trudge through the slush into the car. Right on Atwater, then the Ville-Marie Expressway to Decarie, Decarie to the 401, take the Sources Boulevard exit and you’re back in the safe arms of the suburbs.
Forty years later a crisis would unfold in this neighborhood, though the problems had been simmering since the early 1980s.
One of the first to report of the ongoing crisis in downtown Montreal was the Montreal Gazette’s Christopher Curtis. On August 29, 2017, the body of Siasi Tullaugak was found hanging from the small balcony of a Chomedey Street apartment. Within 24 hours, Sharon Baron’s body was found hanged in a closet inside her apartment in Dorval. In both cases the Montreal police considered the deaths of the two Inuit women as suicides. People who knew the two women said they suspected foul play, but when they tried to communicate this to the police their information was brushed aside:
“This was just hours after they found (Tullaugak) and the cops wouldn’t even write down what we were saying… It felt like they just didn’t take it seriously.”
Anonymous witness, “Women’s deaths spark fear, mistrust for Inuit community”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, September 8, 2017
Two sources said they were with Siasi Tullaugak in the early morning hours before she died in the lobby of an apartment building on Rue St. Marc, a couple of blocks from the square. Around 4 a.m., they say they observed the 27-year-old leave the building with a man in his 30s. “I smoke crack cocaine and I drink but that night I was sober….And I’m telling you she left with that man.” The Montreal police’s Aboriginal liaison officer insisted that, “… investigators have done the legwork on this. They’ve looked at all the information that was gathered.”
Siasi and Sharon both came to the city of Montreal from Quebec northern regions, spending years drifting in and out of any number of the city’s roughly 40 homeless shelters. In 2017 David Chapman was running the Open Door shelter, then still located south of Cabot Square. Chapman was well acquainted with both women:
“These were women who came to Montreal in search of a better life., having seen more than a person should see in their youth… What they found when they got here was people looking to take advantage of them…. one definite problem is that, particularly young Inuit women, they don’t have confidence in the police.”
David Chapman, “Women’s deaths spark fear, mistrust for Inuit community”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, September 8, 2017
Tullaugak was from Puvirnituq, a small fishing village on the eastern shores of the Hudson Bay. According to her niece she could be annoying and loving at the same time. “She was feisty, she would tease you and she wouldn’t take any flak from anyone. But there was a tender side to her. She looked after the elderly women on the street, she shared her food and drinks and she could be very nurturing.” 28-year-old Sharon Baron came to Montreal from an Inuit village near the tip of Ungava Bay. According to John Tessier, an outreach worker with Open Door, “(Baron) was more cool and collected. Real quiet. She was sort of the opposite of Tullaugak in many ways but she had a swagger about her.”
How does someone like Sharon or Siasi end up on the streets? One possible scenario I’ve heard goes like this. Perhaps you’ve come to Montreal accompanying an elderly relative for surgery. None of the clinics in northern Quebec offer specialized medical treatment, so you must visit one of the major hospitals in Montreal. The government will provide for the patient’s care and lodging, but not for you. So for the duration of the medical treatment – which may last several weeks – you’re left to your own devices. You’ve heard of the Cabot Square area, others have come before you and done the same thing. So you take the 3 kilometer walk along Ste. Catherine from the bus station up the street from Parc Emilie Gamelin. The area is flashy compared to your village, it’s got clubs and condos and coffee shops. You stop in a bar and order a coke. A man approaches you and offers to buy your drinks. Later that night when you’ve nowhere to go, he offers you a place up the street for your lodging. For a while the drinks and lodging ( and later drugs) are free. But then one day he starts demanding that you pay the rent. When you say you can’t afford it without a job, he offers you one, working for him in his sex trade. Before long you’re addicted to crack, and doling out sex in exchange for a fix, and receiving regular beatings for failure to pay your rent.
By mid September 2017, Vice News reported that it had obtained information from a police report where Siasi Tullaugak called 911 just hours before her death about a man who was trying to force her into a downtown alley. Later that evening she talked to police officers about the event. In addition, nine sources came forward to say that the man was a known pimp from the area who targeted Inuit homeless women attempting to coerce them into sex trade work. Further, before learning of the police report, The Gazette interviewed the man. The alleged pimp stated he had been drinking with Tullaugak at a bar at Towers street and Ste. Catherine in the early morning hours the night that she died. Around 3 a.m. they moved a block east to the St. Marc apartment – a building locals by now had identified as one they commonly referred to as “the crack hotel” – where he last saw Tullaugak leave the building around 4 a.m. with an unidentified man. Other witnesses from that night say they saw Tullaugak get into a silver sedan after leaving the building.
“Around 5:30 a.m., I went to lay down but something told me to get up, I heard a really deep scream coming from Chomedy St…. About two minutes later, police started flying down the road. I guess that’s when they found the body.”
3 a.m. man / pimp – “Tullaugak’s death raises suspicions”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, September 13, 2017
The day after Curtis published his story, police announced they had reopened the investigation into the death of Siasi Tullaugak. But it took investigators over two weeks to interview staff and clients of the Open Door. The shelter was a focal point of Siasi’s existence, she’d eated her meals there and used the computer terminals to communicate with family back home in northern Quebec. Jessica Quijano project director of Iskweu, a Justice Canada program designed to address the high levels of violence against Indigenous women in Montreal assessed the situation as follows:
“Historically, with missing and murdered Indigenous women, people know who the suspect is, but don’t believe police will follow up on the information they provide.”
Jessica Quijano – “Constant Danger and Fear”, Christopher Curtis, The Gazette, December 19, 2017
Two key witnesses in the matter eventually left the city out of fear for their safety. Locals believed police weren’t thorough enough in their initial investigation because Tullaugak was homeless, Inuk and an addict.
“The porch had the wrought-iron railings that are typical of Montreal. It was raised, like a low balcony, leaving enough space underneath to accommodate the entrance to a basement apartment. Curved steps led up one side, and on the opposite side, the top railing was screwed to a homemade wooden planter full of flowers.
Tullaugak’s body hung from the side of the porch that held the planter, the police reportedly told the homeowners. That was part of why it didn’t make sense when police deemed her death to be a suicide.”
“Branded: How Inuit women in Montreal end up on the street – or dead.”, Selena Ross, National Observer, October 16, 2017
Tullaugak was short, barely five feet tall, she was often mistaken for a high school student. Her feet would have barely been off the ground, possibly as low as a foot above the sidewalk. Her family insisted that she was not suicidal (though this is sometimes true; as difficult as it is to hear, it was possibly the case that Sharon Baron took her own life. More on that later). Within days, police told the media that Tullaugak hung herself from the balcony of her apartment. Tullaugak was homeless she lived on the streets, often under balconies such as the one on Rue Chomedey. The actual owners of the Chomedey property came to the more obvious conclusion, “She didn’t die here. She was dead when she arrived here. Somebody hanged her here.” Within two days police closed the case. That’s not even enough time for a coroner’s determination. How did the coroner believe Siasi died?
Though Sharon Baron may have committed suicide, the trajectory that brought her to that end is not an unfamiliar story of what happens to Indigenous women who come in contact with the hard edges of Cabot Square. The following is from the reporting of Selena Ross.
Baron had been living with her boyfriend, Meeko Griffin for 5 years in their Dorval apartment. Meeko was a former pilot for Air Inuit. One summer, he proposed spending July and August at his family’s camp in Kuujjuarapik, along the coast of Hudson Bay. While visiting northern Quebec, Baron’s mother was attacked by a polar bear and had to be flown to Montreal for treatment. Baron would visit her mother regularly while she was convalescing in a facility that happened to be across the street from Cabot Square. One evening around 1 a.m. she was waiting for the night bus to take her back to Dorval at the corner of Sainte Catherine and Atwater, when a man approached her, started chatting, then offered her some crack.
“It’s definitely someone I didn’t know,” said Meeko Griffin. “And I did get the feeling it was someone she didn’t know either.” Sharon wasn’t in the habit of taking hard drugs, but, “… in this case Sharon tried crack.” Sharon then went missing for about a week. Meeko eventually found her in the Cabot Square area and took her home. Meeko says after that she was no longer the same. She became loud and argumentative. She’d often return to the downtown area. When she’d return home she’d have bruises on her body, often crack pipe burns. This is when Meeko realized that Sharon had become addicted to drugs and was doing sex work. Within six months she’d moved out of the Dorval apartment and was living on the streets.
In 2016 Sharon Baron returned to Dorval, trying to get clean. She had a new boyfriend, Matthew Smith, and they lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. The night she died, Sharon and Matthew were high on vodka and crack cocaine. Matthew passed out, so Sharon went to a neighborhood bar. Staff said she appeared her normal self. Smith woke up in a hospital bed, with police telling him he had called 911 reporting suicidal feelings. When police arrived at the Dorval apartment, they found Baron hanging in their closet. There was no suicide note. Smith stated that he didn’t know she had wandered into the closet because he had, “completely blacked out”. He said he had no doubt that Baron committed suicide, though exactly what the coroner determined was not known at the time Selena Ross filed her story.
The rumors that spread among the denizens of Cabot Square range from a serial killer – possibly a pimp / drug dealer who disguises the deaths of his sex workers as suicides – to, at the very least, a pimp / drug dealer exploiting Inuit women and driving them to these unfortunate outcomes.
The man who heard the screaming from Rue Chomedey at 5;30 a.m. – allegedly Siasi’s own pimp – was asked if he could remember any similar cases from the area. He recalled the case of 33-year-old Nunavik homeless woman named Nunia Grey. Grey was found November 3, 2011 hanging in the bathroom of a crack house on Atwater Street. There was no suicide note. The body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that the death was again quickly ruled a suicide. Like Sharon Baron, Grey had come to Montreal to accompany a relative during a medical procedure.
According to John Tessier, the outreach worker with the Open Door shelter, Grey had been part of the same group that Tullaugak would later join, with the same pimp. Tessier elaborated, “He’s been in this area for 20 years and he’s been doing the same thing for 20 years – basically corralling young Inuit to do whatever it is they do to help them get high.” This pimp would regularly brand his ‘property’. His trademark burn was “two lines from a crack pipe,” often on a victim’s arm, as a kind of tattooing. The man’s court records included at least two charges for assault with a weapon and one for conspiracy to commit murder. However. in developing a profile, it’s important not to become too attached to any one individual. People from the area described two to three men who work the Cabot Square neighborhood singling out Inuit women. None of them were Inuk.
In the matter of Nunia Grey, is Tullaugak’s pimp basically laying out a confession, a road map for his own actions? Here you get the feeling that this pimp is deliberately taunting reporters like Selena Ross, because he knows there’s no evidence, and he knows the Montreal police really won’t make the effort to pursue justice. I exchanged messages with Ross about the interview:
“I didn’t trust pretty much anything I heard from the pimp. I presented it at face value. And I don’t have much new to say about those particular cases, four years later, but there have been some related violent episodes downtown since then, which was really depressing to hear since it seems not much is changing.” – Selena Ross
The police will quickly rush to a verdict of suicide because that’s the easiest outcome to manage. Maybe it is suicide. Maybe these woman, displaced from their homes, reach a point of despair; they miss their families, they miss their culture. So they do what they’ve heard others have done in the past and take their own lives. Or maybe it’s someone taking advantage of this cultural phenomenon and masking murder as suicide. As Jessica Quijano of the Native Women’s Shelter offered about Tullaugak’s death, “I don’t think it was anything like some serial killer with an elaborate plan… I think it’s just really easy.”
Time passes. People stop talking about Sharon and Siasi. Their names get added to rolls of ‘murdered and missing’. They’re called out at annual vigils at Cabot Square. Cabot Square is of course named after John Cabot. The Italian explorer – it’s actually Giovanni Caboto – is said to have been the first European to discover North America. There’s a statue of Cabot at the centre of the square that hasn’t been toppled yet. I guess it’s designed so that people to congregate at the old navigator’s feet. ‘Give us your tired, poor, huddled masses’, or something like that. And they did.
Last year Christopher Curtis left The Montreal Gazette. In his words, “…to do the projects that I wanted to do and not really work on traffic reports and bullshit.” He now works on projects like richochet and his own, The Rover that focus on stories no longer covered by Canadian investigative journalism, specific Indigenous issues being one of them. Yes, the CBC and Globe and Mail will certainly blanket their news feeds with residential schools stories, but who’s going to cover Val d’Or?
I spoke with Christopher about the events from 2017 around Cabot Square. He said the pimp who is a suspect in the Siasi Tullaugak case currently might be in prison for sexual assault. He’s well known in the area as being a “scary dude”. Known as “O.D.”, he once tried to spar with Chris, but Chris is bigger than him: “Motherfucker, I will kill you.”
Sun Youth will offer a reward of up to $2000 for any information that would allow us to find Mrs. Donna Paré.
Anyone with information about this disappearance can communicate it by calling 911, going to their neighbourhood station or sending it anonymously and confidentially to Info-Crime Montréal at 514 393-1133 or online.”
The McDonald’s they are referring to is the one south of Place Emilie Gamelin, and I am well familiar with the area. BAnQ, Montreal’s major library is located north of the parc, so I spend a lot of my time when I’m in Montreal in that area doing research. In fact, that sound you hear at the beginning of the Francine Da Sylva podcast, that’s the sound of metal rigging hitting the side of a flag banner pole outside that McDonald’s. I had supper two times in that McDonald’s over a long weekend. I didn’t go to The Gilded Truffle, I went where the cops and people hang out for two Quarter Pounders with cheese, thank you very much. When I left at dusk, I tried to snap a picture of a girl and her pimp and the guy nearly took my head off. As Christopher Curtis told me, “If [Paré] was hanging around Emilie Gamelin, that’s heroin…. if she went missing, you have to assume she’s dead.” Then futher:
“I remember just being shocked at how quickly that went away. And by that point I was losing a lot of that free time that I used to have in the newsroom to look into these kind of things, so I didn’t follow up as much as I could have or would have wanted to. I’m kind of still kicking myself about that. “
Emmanuel “Pacman” Stark
It’s hard to know exactly what happened to women like Donna Paré. People are fearful, unwilling to talk. They don’t want to disappear. We have some knowledge of victims like Siasi and Nunia, we know even less about the men who abuse them. For some perspective, consider the case of 49-year-old Emmanuel “Pacman” Stark, a Montreal pimp found guilty in March 2021 of orchestrating the gang-rape of a young woman.
Stark first met the young CEGEP student at a Pierrefonds fast-food restaurant in 1995. He moved into her apartment and insisted she work as a stripper for him, forcing her to clubs like Caesars Palace in downtown Montreal and demanding she get on stage. Caesars Palace is a 10 minute straight-shot down Sainte Catherine street from Cabot Square. One day, between seven and nine men showed up at their Laval apartment. The student was gang-raped while Stark collected money from them saying, “all this wasn’t for free.” The student ended up sex trafficking for him, with all of the money going to Stark. When she refused, he would beat her. The woman only escaped when one time Stark beat her so badly she ended up in the Sacre-Coeur Hospital. She evenutally was able to leave his terrifying influence by fleeing from Canada.
At trial, the judge was considering whether to sentence Stark as a dangerous or long-term offender. In 2018, he had been convicted of human trafficking, with 13 charges extending from offences committed between 2016 and 2017 in and around Place Emilie Gamelin. In these cases, Stark preyed on two area crack addicts, and made them work for him as prostitutes, again without sharing any of the money he received. At the time, both women were residents of Montreal homeless shelters. “He had the machete and the crack, so you do what he tells you,” one of the women testified. During the trial it was disclosed that Stark had a lengthy criminal record and was described as being a member of a Montreal street gang.
The Coroner Reports
As I mentioned earlier, it would be nice if someone went back and found out what the coroner had to say about these cases. Well, someone did. Me.
Sharon Baron’s coroner’s report provides the following circumstances of death. On the evening of August 29, 2017, Baron and her partner, Matthew Smith consumed “alcohol and street drugs (crack)”. They arrived together at their Dorval apartment at 11:10 p.m.. Smith was so intoxicated he could not remember what happened next. The apartment entrance surveillance camera captured Baron leaving the building at 12:44 a.m. on August 30, 2017. She may have had a bottle under her arm. She returned at 2 a.m., then left again around 4 a.m. Her return was not captured on camera. At 7:32 a.m., SPVM officers received a call from a man who said he was suicidal. He told dispatch he has a knife in his hand (this turns out to be Matthew Smith). After police and paramedics arrived and managed to get Smith under control, police searched the home and discovered Sharon Baron semi-seated, curled up on the floor of the wardrobe of the bedroom. In trying to extricate her from the closet, police found that she has been hanged. After unhooking her from the closet, paramedics attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and an ambulance was called around 7:38 a.m. During this time Sharon Baron showed no rigidity and her skin was still warm. Paramedics continued to try to resuscitate her as she was transferred to the emergency room of the Lachine Hospital, but they were unsuccessful. Sharon Baron was pronounced dead at 8:41 a.m, August 30, 2017.
Sharon was hung with a computer power cable. The toxicological analysis showed evidence of cocaine in her system and a blood alcohol level of 216 mg; a high level that can trigger anger and depression, memory loss, and severe physical disability.
The coroner’s analysis elaborated further on the circumstances that led up to Baron’s death. Sharon Baron had lived with Matthew Smith for approximately two years. Both had, “alcohol and cocaine use disorders.” According to a police report, Baron was frequently absent from home, engaged in excessive consumption of drugs, and often only returned to Dorval when she was financially strapped for money. There were often physical conflicts, police were called to intervene in December 2016 and July 2017. According to police reports, Baron proposed a suicide pact several times to her partner. No suicide note was found in the apartment the night she died. The coroner concluded that Sharon Baron died of compression asphyxiation of the neck structures following the hanging, finally determining, “It is a suicide.” Note here that in the 2012 case of Nunia Grey, the coroner also determined a probable cause of death by “asphyxiation by hanging” with a conclusion of “suicide”.
Siasi Tullaugak’s coroner report is interesting when viewed in the context of the above conclusions. At 5:53 a.m., August 29, 2017, a SPVM patrol car was intercepted by a passer-by who told officers there was a body hanging from a building. Police then found Tullaugak hanging from the balcony of the Chomedey street apartment building. She was identified by her ID papers which were found in her clothing. Police were unable to resuscitate her, and Tullaugak was pronounced dead at 6:50 a.m. at the Montreal General Hospital. Hanging was determined as the cause of death, but the instrument used to hang her wasn’t identified. Toxicological analysis was performed, but the results were not disclosed. The coroner determined that “Siasi Ikidluak Tullaugak died of suffocation by hanging”, then concluded “This is a violent death.” The report goes on to say that it is not the role of the coroner to pronounce the civil or criminal person responsible in such matters, and, as this is “still an open file at the SPVM”, the analysis of the event remains open.
“Violent death” is in stark contrast to the definite conclusions of “suicide” in the cases of Baron and Grey. It also directly contradicts the police’s determination of suicide in the initial days after the discovery of Tullaugak’s body in early September, 2017. Here, I should point out that Sharon Baron’s coroner report was submitted in March 2018. Siasi Tullaugak’s report took over a year further to complete, the corner submitted the report in May of 2019. It’s not unusual for a coroner to take some time to file a report, though it is odd that Siasi’s report took an additional 14 months, when both victims were pronounced dead essentially within 24 hours of each other.
When I contacted the Montreal police to give an update on the Siasi Tullaugak investigation I was told, “Unfortunately, I can’t give you any information concerning this case.” When I pressed, I was told to file an access to information request. I did, and I will be reporting out on the SPVM’s response in future postings.
“I think one of the main challenges is to rebuild trust between Indigenous nations and police officers, and who better than a police officer, who understands that problem, to solve it?”
Premier Francois Legault
Nakuset of Montreal’s Native Women’s Shelter said she was ‘shocked’ at the news of the Lafreniere appointment, “I almost thought it was a joke.”
About the Montreal police force, the SPVM, Christopher Curtis had this to say:
“They have a low clearance rate, they’re fucking lazy, they’re super racist, they all live in the fucking suburbs. They’re really rough. When I was covering something I got knocked once by a cop… just out of nowhere he cold-cocked me in the face. I was covering a protest, I clearly was identified as a journalist, I had a camera. I guess I didn’t move fast enough and he just fucking smacked me. And he didn’t knock me down so he smashed me again. He had like his shield and his baton, he was a real fucking jerk. But I would wanna smack my face too though…”
Putting Ian Lafrenière in charge of Indigenous affairs isn’t just a case of placing a wolf in the fold, it’s leaving the wolf with keys at the entrance of the whole fucking farm.
Turning back to where we started, it’s 1977 and I’m standing across from Cabot Square. Was that a ‘there but for the grace of god’ moment? Not even close. A whole lot of advantage put me on the same street corner Sharon Baron would face decades later. I had a dad with a car, and a home to go to. That home had a phone to call. When I entered McDonald’s, no one would try to escort me off the premises. I could afford a concert ticket. When I say, ya, but I paid for that ticket with money from my paper route. How’d I get the paper route? Why’d The Gazette hire me to deliver their papers? In the summer of 1983, I was back at Cabot Square, sitting on the grass with friends, waiting for The Forum doors to open so we could see the David Bowie concert. No one harassed us, the police didn’t try to esport us from the park.
When I get sick, I can go to the doctor. Where I currently live there are at least a half-dozen modern medical facilities – many of them, like Duke, the envy of the nation – within driving distance. I don’t have to to take a bus or plane to get there. I don’t get attacked by bears. What can you do? Everyone says I’m sorry, but no one wants to change anything.
Real Chartrand was given a second chance. Then a third, then a fourth… a fifth, a sixth, a seventh. The career criminal was granted more opportunities to reform than most Quebec offenders. Over and over, judges who sat looking down on Chartrand saw the potential in him and opted for leniency.
Chartrand’s first breach of trust came before Judge J Redmond Roche. The 18-year-old was sent to jail for his participation in a 1960 armed robbery in the suburban Laval town of St. Dorothee that netted $11, a fur coat, a car, and a watch. He spent 5 1/2 months in jail awaiting trail, but because of his good behavior, and no previous record (and we can imagine, his age), Chartrand convinced the court he had been rehabilitated. Judge Roche agreed to parole Chartrand and he immediately committed new infractions. On October 12, 1961 Judge Roche pronounced the verdict:
“You failed to take advantage of the chance given you and my sentence is five years starting today.”
“Man Lost Chance, 5 Years”, The Gazette, October 13, 1961
In July 1966 Real Chartrand fooled the Quebec justice system again. Chartrand was on temporary leave from the St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary undergoing some minor surgery at a local Montreal hospital. Somehow he had obtained a starter’s pistol and while taking a bathroom break, he ordered a young prison guard to strip off his uniform. Fleeing the hospital, Chartrand ran smack into another guard, a 63-year-old seasoned veteran who tried to apprehend him. Chartrand shot the man in the chest with the starter’s pistol, striking the cigarette package in his left shirt pocket ( the guard was not seriously injured). Real Chartrand was on the loose for four hours before Montreal police caught up with him in an East End rooming house. The warden of St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary immediately ordered a full inquiry into how Chartrand managed to escape.
The Fifth Chance
In 1971 Montreal’s Philippe-Pinel Institute for the Criminally Insane in co-operation with Canada’s National Parole Service took what they called, “a calculated risk.” In 1969 Chartrand had been transferred from the St. Vincent de Paul prison ( today known as the Laval Penitentiary) to the more lenient confines of the East End psychiatric facility ( for more on the Pinel Institute click here). By this time he was serving a 15-year sentence for some other infraction ( so he must have been given a fourth chance) which ran concurrently with the 14-year term handed down in 1966 for the hospital escape. The Pinel doctors prescribed what they called “a program of progressive rehabilitation.” Chartrand was awarded a series of day passes, initially escorted, but gradually for unescorted day trips, returning each evening to his guarded cell. Through the summer of 1971 the program was progressing as intended; Chartrand worked each day as a salesman at a furniture store and returned to Pinel before dark. The program was kept secret from the public because, in the words of Dr. Lionel Belliveau, medical superintendent of the Pinel Institute, “we don’t want the public to get upset.” Note here that around this time Chartrand applied for prison parole but, for reasons unknown, he was turned down.
“No, he didn’t always want to be a policeman. When he was a kid he wanted to be a priest.”
Paul-Emile Labelle – “Dead policeman was Capt. Labelle’s son”, Chris Allan, The Gazette, October 14, 1971
Gabriel Labelle was on patrol with his partner, constable Gilbert Martin when the call came across on their squad car radio: “The dispatcher had given us the number of the wanted car, IX-4645. We saw it at a stop sign and gave chase.” The two Ste. Therese police officers – a tiny Laurentian foothill town about 20 miles north of Montreal – were new to the 22-man police force, Gabriel Labelle had served for under two years. Their suspect abandoned the stolen vehicle at the corner of rue Blainville and Avenue des Erables and a foot chase began through the small suburban streets:
“When the guy ran, Gaby chased him and fired three shots in the air. I couldn’t see what was happening for the the trees.”
Labelle and Martin were soon joined by their colleague, constable Jean-Claude Quesel. Vaulting a hedge between two gardens, Quesel then tripped over his fallen comrade. When he turned over the body, Quesel realized that the 24-year-old officer was dead, shot through the heart by a submachine gun.
The gunman managed to elude capture and took refuge in a nearby home, taking a mother and her 13-year-old daughter hostage. For the next nine hours, residents of this tiny community heard the drama play out over local radio stations as police, and what were described as “radio station personalities” negotiated the release of the hostages. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, October 12, 1971, exactly 10 years from the date of his sentence from Judge J Redmond Roche, 28-year-old Real Chartrand was arrested by police for the hostage taking, a suspected bank robbery, and as a material witness in the shooting of constable Gabriel Labelle. Terrebonne district coroner Jean-Louis Taillon called for an immediate full inquiry into the release of prison inmates prior to parole.
Here Everyone Knows Each Other
The Ste. Therese police force was headed by Gabriel Labelle’s father, Captain Paul-Emile Labelle. Gathering in the town hall, which also served as the police headquarters overlooking a small town square known as “The Fountain”, officers mourned the loss of their captain’s only son:
“And Gaby was always working hard, pushing. He was young and he wanted to show his father he was a good policeman…. [In Ste. Therese] it’s not like Montreal. Here everyone knows each other. It’s like losing one of your own kids. One of the family.”
Sergeant Roger L’Esperance – “Dead policeman was Capt. Labelle’s son”, Chris Allan, The Gazette, October 14, 1971
During the coroner hearing to establish if the case could proceed to trial, Chartrand seemed bemused, more interested in flirting with a girlfriend in the courtroom than the proceedings. Witnesses lined up and identified Chartrand as the man who held up the Provincial bank in Ste. Augustin, about 15 minutes west of Ste. Therese in the Mirabel region. Poorly disguised in a trench coat and ill-fitting wig, Chartand fled with $1,268 in cash to Ste Therese where the shooting of constable Labelle occurred. During the hostage standoff, two lawyers and French radio commentator, Evelyn Letecheur negotiated for the release of the 13-year-old girl and her mother. One of the lawyers managed to get Chartrand to hand over a Commando Mark III submachine gun and two magazines. Ballistics confirmed that a bullet taken from constable Labelle’s body came from the weapon. Dr. Jean Hould testified Constable Labelle was shot once in the wrist and once through the heart, and estimated the shots were fired about six feet from the victim.
“Society must be protected, and if certain experts continue to favor the liberties of certain individuals instead of the freedom of the people the fences we’re slowly removing from the jails will slowly be returned.”
Coroner Jean-Louis Taillon – ” Probe demanded of release system”, Eddie Collister, The Gazette, October 28, 1971
“He was an uncured patient”
If you think this is just the story of an offender getting too many chances from a soft justice system, you’d be wrong, we’re going to make a turn.
Real Chartrand’s trial for capital murder began over a year later in November, 1972. Much of the testimony was a replay of the witnesses offered at the coroner hearing, the playbook only changed when the defense brought Dr. Gilles Lefebvre to the stand, a former Pinel Institute psychiatrist. Lefebvre had not been Chartrand’s assigned psychiatrist. He was dismissed from the institute in January 1972, three months after the October 12th shooting incident, after a closed-door inquiry with institution management.
Dr. Lefebvre met Real Chartrand in the normal course of his daily duties at Pinel. In a breach of patient and physician interactions, the 38-year-old psychiatrist told the 28-year-old Chartrand about “certain personal problems” he was having. Specifically Lefebvre said he had “received threats and was fearful of the underworld.” He went on to testify that “he was being blackmailed in connection with his past sexual life and that he had enlisted Chartrand’s help.”
Lefebvre and Chartrand quickly developed a close relationship. The doctor bought Chartrand clothing and a car, bestowing on the young patient gifts in excess of $3,000. Over the course of the year proceeding the October 12 shooting, Chartrand had been granted over 200 leave passes, all reportedly without incident. On Saturday, October 9, 1971 Lefebvre took Chartand to dinner at a fancy St. Hubert street restaurant, in the heart of Montreal’s vibrant Plateau neighborhood. Leaving the restaurant, the two friends made a stop at a drug store where Dr. Lefebvre purchased a sleeping pill prescription for Chartrand, even though the use of outside medications was strictly prohibited by Pinel Institute policy. The final witness that day was Chartrand’s actual consulting psychiatrist, Dr. Andre Mauffette who testified that, “the relationship between Chartrand and [Dr. Lefebvre] at the institution nullified any good the treatment might have done to rehabilitate Chartrand.”
Dr. Mauffette returned to the witness stand the following day, November 15, 1972 to give further light to the “questionable relationship” between Chartrand and Dr. Gilles Lefebvre. Dr. Mauffette told of a conversation he had had with Chartrand 45 days after the shooting, when Chartrand had been returned to custody:
“Chartrand told me to give his regards to everyone at Pinel but Dr. Lefebvre…. this individual made advances toward me. I felt like I was caught in an impossible situation”
Real Chartrand – “Doctor’s advances affected Chartrand, expert tells court”, James Duff, The Gazette, November 16, 1972
Dr. Mauffette continued that the anxiety created by this inappropriate relationship would have been a contributing factor to Chartrand’s state of being before the shooting, “To me, this means that this state of anxiety was a very important consideration on the days preceding the crime and on Oct. 12 itself.” When he was admitted to Pinel in 1969 Chartrand was assessed as of above average intelligence, “always aware of the nature and quality of his acts.” But he was suffering from “suicidal depressive states and auditory and visual hallucinations.” Chartrand had been put on a program to slowly wean him off prescription medications. Giving Chartrand a bottle of Doriden sleeping pills would have exacerbated his depressive state.
“I refuse clemency”
On November 20, 1972 a 12-man jury found Real Chartrand guilty of the capital murder of Ste. Therese police constable Gabriel Labelle. The jury asked for clemency. When Superior Court Judge Guy Mathieu asked Chartrand if he had anything to say he responded in a clear and steady voice, “I refuse clemency.” For the first time since the sentencing of the Santa Claus murderers – possibly for the last time in a Quebec court – Judge Mathieu read the following sentence:
“You will be driven from here to a secure place where you will be kept until the 28th day of April, 1973, and hanged by the neck until you are dead – and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Superior Court Judge Guy Mathieu – “Police killer gets death sentence”, The Gazette, November 21, 1972
In September 1973 Chartrand lost his appeal before Quebec’s Superior Court who ruled he had not proven he was legally insane at the time of the crime. Chartrand appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. By 1975 there were eight men on Canada’s death row waiting for appeals or for the Trudeau government to definitively abolish the death penalty:
On June 26, 1975 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously dismissed Chartrand’s appeal, with the eight judges unconvinced that Chartrand was not mentally responsible for the murder. Chartrand’s hanging was then scheduled for October 1975, but the execution was stayed until 1976 while Canadian Parliament continued to debate the question of capital punishment. With the execution date again looming, Bill C-84 passed by a narrow margin abolishing the death penalty at the eleventh hour, on July 14, 1976. Chartrand hanging had been scheduled for the following day, July 15th. The Trudeau cabinet commuted the sentence to life in prison without parole for 25 years. Real Chartrand got his sixth chance.
“He’s very conscious that he’s carrying the fate of others on his shoulders.”
Ten years later, Real Chartrand was again before the courts, this time asking for his seventh chance. In March 1987 Chartrand faced a Sainte Jerome Superior Court jury, this time in a precedent setting case seeking the right to a parole hearing after serving 15 years of a 25-year prison sentence. In the Ste. Jerome trial, Chartrand took the witness stand for the first time. He told a grim tale of his childhood. His father was an alcoholic who beat his mother. Chartrand grew up in poverty in Montreal’s Villeray – Parc Extension district. At times his family lived in a garages, once an abandoned dog kennel. He and his brother would routinely pick pockets and rob grocery stores to provide for his 5 younger brothers and sisters. He developed an early resentment against authority figures. At the age of eight he was caught shooting out the windows of a police chief’s house.
A member of the Church Council for Justice and Corrections, Marie Beemans described Chartrand as, “one of the gentlest people I’ve ever met.” Parole officials testified that Chartrand had been completely rehabilitated. Asked whether she thought Chartrand would ever kill again, psychiatrist Lousie Grignon replied, “The chances are one in a million.” Parole board member, Claude Fillion told the jury he would welcome the convicted police killer into his home “as if he were my own brother.”
In early April, Real Chartrand won the right to seek parole. The court’s verdict was ground breaking, today the effect of Chartrand’s appeal is commonly referred to as two thirds sentencing, where an offender can apply for parole after serving two thirds of their prison sentence. By July 1987, the National Parole Board began granting Real Chartrand unescorted leaves from prison. Even Paul-Emile Labelle the father of the victim, Gabrielle Labelle and former police captain for Ste. Therese agreed it was the right thing to do:
“If he’s (Chartrand) OK today, then I don’t see why he shouldn’t be given a chance to live a normal life.”
Paul-Emile Labelle – “My son’s killer deserves chance dad says after jail leave granted”, Eloise Morin, The Gazette, July 10, 1987
Others weren’t so sure:
“With the rejection of the death penalty, there is a growing worry among police officers…. Mr. Chartrand has been given a chance few criminals have ever had… I just hope that in the future we don’t discover that society erred in giving him this chance.”
Jean-Guy Roch, President of the Quebec Police Federation – “Municipal police officers worry killers may get early parole, leader says”, Eloise Morin, The Gazette, July 11, 1987
In 1989 Real Chartrand was granted unconditional parole and walked out of prison a free man. Interviewed by radio commentator Claude Poirier, the now 45-year-old former offender offered, “I want to live a peaceful, productive life – working and paying my taxes.” By April 1989, Chartrand was living in a Montreal halfway house, and was interviewing for a job with a communications firm where he hoped to work as an electronics technician.
From the reporting of Eloise Morin
One of the items to come forward in Chartrand’s 1987 appeal for parole was the 1972 closed-door inquiry report produced by the Pinel Institute in the wake of Chartrand’s multiple unescorted absences from the psychiatric facility. Authored by Montreal lawyer Jacques Clement, the Clement report recommended that Dr. Sleep / Dr. Gilles Lefebvre be fired from Pinel and never again employed as an administrator at the institute or any other hospital in Quebec where dangerously mentally ill patients are treated. Upon reading the report, the Quebec Corporation of Physicians and Surgeons revoked Lefebvre’s license for two months.
The section in the Clement report concerning the Chartrand affaire had never been made public. Following his dismissal and the Chartrand murder trial, Lefebvre spent seven years in exile in Morocco. In his two years at Pinel, Lefebvre was initially Chartrand’s attending psychiatrist, but his case was handed over to Dr. Andre Mauffette in 1970 when Lefebvre was appointed assistant superintendent of Pinel. Lefebvre continued to telephone Chartrand and visit him in his cell, despite requests from Mauffette asking him to stop. It was in January of 1971 when Lefebvre approached Chartrand with his “certain personal problems”, saying Carol Lavoie, a known criminal who was living with Lefebvre in his Outremont home, demanded $300 or he would disclose that the doctor was a homosexual. At this point Chartrand called upon a criminal associate to terminate the blackmail efforts, and Lefebvre paid $1,200 for the associate’s services, though it was never made clear how the money was earned.
The Clement report detailed how Lefebvre took Chartrand on trips to the Laurentian mountains, to Vermont, and once for a ride in a small airplane. The report upped the amount of money given to Chartrand disclosed at the murder trial from $3,000 in gifts to approximately $5,000 in cash. This in addition to the $2,400 used to purchase a Pontiac GTO for Chartrand. A notary also testified for Clement that Lefebvre had authorized him to draft a letter to Chartrand indicated that on his release from Pinel he would receive $2,000 in several monthly payments. Again, it must be stressed that none of this had been disclosed to any of his colleagues at the institute prior to the events of October 12, 1971. At no time did Lefebvre disclose any details of his relationship with Chartrand to medical staff.
At the dinner at the St. Hubert restaurant on Saturday, October 9, 1971, Lefebvre showed Chartrand a gold ring and asked him to put it on, symbolizing their homosexual marriage. When Chartrand refused, Lefebvre became angry, then disclosed that Chartrand’s request for parole had been denied and he would be soon leaving Pinel and returning to prison. After dinner Chartrand became extremely agitated at the thought of returning to jail, and it was at this point that doctor and ‘patient’ stopped at the drug store to pick up the prescription Doriden sleeping pills. Again, these would have heightened Chartrand’s state of agitation and depression. At the time Doriden was recognized as a highly potent and hypnotic drug. By 1986 it was taken off the market, and hadn’t been prescribed by most psychiatric hospitals for 10 to 20 years. One psychiatrist referred to it as “one of the most awful drugs ever used to treat the mentally ill.”
Chartrand then spent the remainder of that Canadian Thanksgiving weekend – a time normally reserved for celebrations with family and friends – alone, taking pills and becoming more agitated. It was after that Thanksgiving Monday, on Tuesday, October 12th that Chartrand committed the bank holdup in St. Augustin, then drove to Ste. Therese where he shot constable Lasalle, all while away on a day pass approved by Dr. Gilles Lefebvre.
At the 1972 trial, Lefebvre described Chartrand as a “psychopath”. But in 1975 the Trudeau cabinet requested a new diagnosis of Real Chartrand. The assessment was conducted by Jean Baptiste Boulanger, a psychiatrist from the Universite de Montreal, and Roger Boutin, assistant director of psychiatry at the Ottawa General Hospital. Boulanger denied that Chartrand was a psychopath, arguing that the pills coupled with anxiety pushed him over the edge into a psychotic state. Before he shot the officer, Chartrand would have lost complete contact with reality. Dr. Boutin agreed:
“If one had wanted to ‘brainwash’ Real Chartrand and bring him to the point where only acute psychosis or uncontrollable violence were possible, than one could hardly imagine a more efficient process than the one employed by Dr. Gilles Lefebvre.”
“Fired after scandal in ’72, psychiatrist attacked by patients’ group”, Eloise Morin, The Gazette, June 2, 1987
Quebec Social Affairs Minister Claude Castonguay twice refused to make the Clement report public, arguing it could prejudice Chartrand’s murder trial, even with Chartrand arguing that the report contained elements that could save his life. In their closing remarks to the cabinet report, Boulanger and Boutin offered this scathing assessment:
“… in the midst of deafening publicity, a repeat offender, who, after having held up a bank, had killed a policeman who was chasing him; the offender turned out to be none other than the Pinel Institute’s model inmate. And because of him, the ‘Pinel Affair’ was clumsily covered up and followed by the firing of its assistant superintendent. Finally came the public trial where the psychiatrist appeared to be more of a psychopath than his patient.”
Jean Baptiste Boulanger
“It can be said that a terrible injustice was committed toward Real Chartrand by the fact that at the very place where he should have received appropriate treatment… he also found someone who led him to ruin, blindly or otherwise, but as surely as if he had a gun held at his back.”
For a time, Real Chartrand became a frequent speaker advocating for the rights of the formerly incarcerated, arguing for the rehabilitation of criminals rather than constant punishment. “Instead of forced labor, there should be forced studying. Nobody would hold it against the system for having learned something”, he said.
By the time of his parole request, Chartrand claimed to have read 3,000 books in prison. Prior to the Ste. Therese shooting he had participated in three armed robberies. My mind goes back to the morning of Tuesday, October 12th, 1971, the day after Thanksgiving – what was going through the mind of Real Chartrand? Maybe he knew he could no longer accept money and gifts from Dr. Lefebvre. Maybe he was truly fearful he would soon be leaving the relative comfort of the Pinel psych ward and returned to St. Vincent de Paul. Maybe he didn’t want to take any more chances with the justice system so he made the decision to take control of his fate. The bank in St. Augustin was a logical choice, a sleepy cottage-country town, he had spent time in neighboring Blainville. Maybe Chartrand thought $1,300 and his GTO was enough to take him away from his troubles. For a time.
More than 50 years after her death, the murder of Teresa Martin has still not been solved.
On the night of September 13, 1969, Teresa Martin, a 14-year-old teenager, was found dead leaning against a wall in the parking lot of a Montreal-North business. More than 50 years later, her family lament the “passivity” of the Sûreté du Québec’s unsolved crimes division, which often admits relying on appeals from the public before questioning key witnesses again.
A black hole
It was a little over 10 ° C and a light breeze was blowing around 3:30 a.m. when Pierre Cyr returned to his apartment at 6775, boulevard Henri-Bourassa, in Montreal-North.
Before getting in, Mr. Cyr saw a teenage girl sitting on the ground, leaning against the outside wall in the parking lot of the taverne du Vieux Cyprès.
The teenager was still. Mr. Cyr noticed her bare feet.
He walked over and tried to talk to her. The teenager did not react. In a panic, Mr. Cyr alerted the Montreal North police. They called an ambulance, which transported the girl to Sacré-Coeur Hospital, where a doctor pronounced her dead.
A few hours later, on the morning of Saturday, September 13, 1969, a worried father contacted the Montreal-North police to report his daughter’s disappearance.
The day before, he said, Teresa Martin, 14, had gone to see a movie at the Galeries d’Anjou cinema with two friends, and had never come home. Her friends confirmed that she got on the 41 bus at around 11 p.m.
When questioned by the police, the bus driver said he dropped the teenager off at the corner of Gouin and Rolland boulevards, near Rivière des Prairies, about two blocks from the Martin family’s apartment. . This was the last time she was seen alive.
The police quickly made the connection between the corpse found during the night and the disappearance of the teenager. Teresa Martin’s father went to identify his daughter at the morgue at the Sûreté du Québec headquarters on rue Parthenais.
Isabel Marcotte, Teresa Martin’s younger sister, remembers the day her sister disappeared as if it were yesterday.
“We had just moved into a new apartment on Léger Boulevard,” she said in an interview. Me and my sister, we slept in the same room. The next day, I remember there were lots of people at home, detectives, journalists… It just kept on going. “
Her family was never the same after Teresa’s death.
The worst part is watching your parents suffer. When you’re young, it breaks your heart, and there’s nothing you can do… I seem to miss my sister more now than in those years. I do not know how to explain it.
Isabel Marcotte, sister of Teresa Martin
A shy good student who was finishing her classical course at Regina Assumpta College, Teresa Martin was the daughter of a school principal and a private investigator. She had few friends and spent her weekends horseback riding on a Laval ranch, says her sister.
“She was a shy girl,” she says.
In his report, the medical examiner concluded that the teenager died of “asphyxiation from probable obstruction of the external airways.” She was not raped. Neither alcohol nor drugs were in his blood.
Shortly before or after his death, he also noted, his murderer (s) used a blade to engrave the words “F. V. Frenchy I love you” on his stomach.
This “tattoo” left the police very perplexed, wrote the journalist Michel Auger in La Presse in 1969.
Is he a sinister maniac who wanted to sign his crime or a clever assassin who wanted to lead the police on a false trail? At this time, the answer is not known.
Michel Auger, in La Presse in 1969
Ms. Marcotte notes that the place Teresa had to walk to get home after getting off the bus was not lit in 1969. “In those years there were no houses. They were fields. At night it was a black hole. “
More than 30 people were questioned by investigators after Teresa Martin’s death, wrote the publication Hello Police in October 1969.
“At this stage of the investigation, the police are most optimistic about the imminent arrest of the perpetrator of this appalling crime,” the publication noted.
But no arrests were made.
The following year, authorities continued to question several teenage girls in Montreal North. One of them, Johanne H., a 14-year-old student, will tell them about unpunished crimes committed by a group of bikers.
Brutes, as she calls them, invited to settle in Montreal North and paid to do so by the Montreal police and the Quebec government.
United Motorcyclists of Quebec
At the end of the 1960s, the City of Montreal had a problem: groups of bikers at war with each other intimidated citizens and caused repeated complaints to the municipal police.
In 1969, John Dalzell, a 24-year-old police officer assigned to the youth section of the Montreal police force, instigated one of the first community policing projects in Montreal: to gain acceptance for the city’s 300 or so bikers.
With the support of the Government of Quebec and the Director of the Montreal Police, Jean-Paul Gilbert, John Dalzell founded the Motocyclistes unis du Québec (MUQ).
Bringing together bikers from various clubs such as the Popeyes, Death Riders, Dead Men, and Gorillas, the association aimed to “promote the sport of motorcycles and develop a spirit of understanding between different groups” of bikers.
At the launch of the MUQs, director Gilbert noted that many young Quebecers were attracted to “biker fashion” and wore leather coats in their club colors.
“It is necessary to find ways not to suppress this lifestyle, but to make it more acceptable,” he said, according to an article published at the time by The Gazette (now the Montreal Gazette ).
One of the ways to make it more acceptable was to provide a place for bikers to congregate and ride. To get there, the Montreal police reached an agreement with the British Petroleum company (now BP) to reserve a vacant lot for them on Boulevard Henri-Bourassa, in Montreal-North.
The provincial government, through its youth department, provided $ 3,600 to start the association [$ 26,000 in today’s dollars].
The head of one of the clubs, who is not named in The Gazette article, noted that motorcycle enthusiasts were poorly understood by the public.
“Our main problem is that uninformed people think we are bullies and good-for-nothing,” he said. We should not all suffer just because a small group of hotheads cause terror. We have a lot of control over our club and all we want to do is motorcycle racing. “
Yet, far from the media gaze and press conferences with elected officials, the reality of biker groups was very different.
In an interview conducted on May 21, 1970 in the investigation into the murder of Teresa Martin, teenager Johanne H. spoke to authorities about the bikers newly landed in Montreal North.
Aged 14, she explained to the coroner Me Laurin Lapointe, whose role it was to lay the criminal charges at the time, that she and several friends were spending time with “guys from the MUQ” at parties. and in a small restaurant near his high school.
Several of the MUQ guys “have been in jail” for some time, she said. Among those she dated, she cited the names Borosco, Gazou, Scorpion, Shifter, El Rebel, Jean-Guy, Mick, Pepilo, Flo, Rocky, Zipper and Crazy Horse.
The teenager also identified several bikers by their full names. La Presse wrote to people of the same name on social media, several of whom are riding motorcycles in their profile photos, but received no response from them.
MUQ members often behaved like “bullies,” the teenager told the coroner.
“They often threaten,” said the teenager.
[They threaten] who?
The teenager recounted how MUQ members threatened to “splash” teenage girls.
“What do you mean by splashs? Asked the coroner.
“He forces her to stuff things like that […]. They often say: “If you don’t, you’re going to have this” “, according to the minutes of the interview archived at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).
The teenager, who attended Henri-Bourassa High School, added that she herself suffered a “splash”. She said she hasn’t seen bikers for a few months.
Later in the interview, she added that several bikers had “knives” on them, and they used them to “write on the skin.”
The teenager also explained that she heard friends say that “MUQ guys” killed Teresa Martin – whom she did not know and had never met.
The coroner tried to get the teenager who gave him this information to say, but she said she could not remember it. “Everyone was talking about it,” she said.
“We cannot contact everyone” Years ago, investigators from the Sûreté du Québec’s unsolved crimes division contacted Isabel Marcotte, Teresa Martin’s sister.
They wanted her permission to post her sister’s photo in the unsolved crimes section of the SQ website. Glad to see that the authorities were still interested in the matter after all these years, she immediately nodded.
“I was excited when they called me. I told myself they were working on the file. “
The Teresa Martin murder case number on the SQ website is 068-700225-001. The file contains one of the few photos of Teresa: her sister does not have one.
A few years later, in 2019, the Sûreté du Québec announced with great fanfare that it wanted to reduce the number of busy full-time investigators in the unsolved crimes division from 5 to 30.
More than 700 files, many of which date back to the 1960s, were in the boxes of the police force. The idea was to get more staff to deal with these issues.
Especially since time could sometimes play in the favor of investigators, Lieutenant Martine Asselin explained to The Canadian Press in 2019.
“Twenty years, thirty years later, some people have died, we may have moved, our family situation may have changed, and then we are ready to talk about it today,” she said.
John Allore, author and host who has been studying unsolved murders in Quebec for years, is currently researching a book that will discuss, among other things, the murder of Teresa Martin.
On April 26, he was able to speak by phone with Sergeant Sylvain Benjamin of the Unsolved Crimes Division.
In a recording of this interview, Sergeant Benjamin explains that Sûreté du Québec investigators review the files to see if a detail was missed, and see if it is possible to have objects tested in the laboratory.
Then, with the family’s consent, they post a photo of the victim on their website.
“That way, if anyone knows anything, they’ll call us,” said Sergeant Benjamin.
Asked if this approach was proactive enough, Sergeant Benjamin replied: “We have 700 files, we cannot interview everyone again …”
In an interview with La Presse, Benoit Richard, information officer for the Sûreté du Québec, notes that the SQ wants to make the unsolved crimes section of its website “a reference”, and wants the public to be able to consult it. regularly “.
Mr. Richard notes that re-interviewing witnesses in a case is “not necessarily” the way investigators work.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t. I need to have something to allow me to go ask questions again, or call someone. We have to revive people with new things.
Benoit Richard, Sûreté du Québec information officer
Internally, files are reviewed “on a regular basis” by investigators, he says.
Since 2004, 11 murder cases have been resolved by the Unsolved Crimes Division and the Disappearances Division of the Sûreté du Québec.
For a police force that prides itself on putting a lot of resources and energy into the issue, this is a “completely unacceptable” record, laments John Allore.
“I know unsolved crimes are difficult to solve and time is not on the side of investigators. But Quebec has an advantage that other countries do not. People tend to stay put. Many witnesses have lived in the same place for 50 years. If the investigators really wanted to get things done, they would go talk to them. “
“Put a phone number”
After being initially excited when the SQ posted her sister’s photo on its website, Isabel Marcotte lost her enthusiasm when she realized that things weren’t going to go any further.
“Their strategy is to put in a phone number and hope someone calls them. It’s very passive, ”she said.
Few details are also communicated to families, she laments. For example, Teresa Martin’s family were never made aware of the hypothesis that bikers may have been linked to her death.
“Bikers, I’ve never heard of that. My parents are deceased, but I don’t believe they too have heard of it. Teresa had never been in the biker scene and was not at all drawn to the world of motorcycling. “
Ms. Marcotte is also uncertain whether the “completely disgusting” statements and crimes detailed by young Johanne H. in her coroner’s statement in 1970 were the subject of an inquest at the time, or more recently. What she does know is that no investigator questioned her or any other related person.
Bus. Morgue. Wallet. Missing Clothing. Journal de Montreal. Don Bosco.
Pattern Recognition is a term I borrowed from computer science. It’s used in sequence / spatial analysis and machine learning, with origins in cognitive behavior. There are some pretty large sign posts I recognize in the Teresa Martin case. Both Martin and my sister were last seen by persons on a bus. Our fathers made the identification of the bodies at the morgue in the Surete du Quebec’s Montreal headquarters on rue Parthenais. In both cases the victims’ clothing was never recovered. Later, their wallets were found but not at the victim dump sites. Both Teresa Martin and Theresa Allore were discredited as drug users by the tabloid, Le Journal de Montreal, despite no scientific evidence of drugs or alcohol in their systems at the time of death. Finally, years later, both myself and Teresa Martin’s sister made pilgrimages to the SQ HQ in Sherbrooke, located on Don Bosco ( Martin’s family later moved to the Eastern Townships), both of us, I suppose, displaying a dogged unwillingness – perhaps a naivety – to let things go.
A person dies, but the indignities they continue to suffer – particularly murder victims – seem endless. A girl goes missing, and the police ask, have you a photograph, something we can use to help search for your loved one? So the family frantically provides the last picture taken. It’s never a particularly good photo; they never really had that hair style, she didn’t really look that crazed, that’s not her blouse, remember? she borrowed that. Still, you give it to the police, and from then on, forever and for always, that becomes the public face of your private suffering.
I have some regrets about all the photos I’ve shared of my sister, Theresa. Initially I released them to say, There she is, she existed. She was dynamic, she had many appearances. Not just that smiling, frizzy haired girl in the green top with spaghetti straps. Now there are too many photos in too many places. You can’t control how those images become used by others for well intentioned, but ultimately not so nice purposes. Having said that, I like the photo Theresa Martin’s family chose to display on the Surete du Quebec’ cold case website. Teresa with a kitten in Caravaggio grey, black and brown. It looks like Teresa, or rather, it looks like how I imagine Teresa looked. Those eyes staring right back at you, asking you – daring you – to make a move, do something.
‘The evening of September 12, 1969, 14-year-old Teresa Martin disappears while coming back from the Galeries D’Anjou cinema by bus, accompanied by two friends. At the intersection of boulevard Saint-Michel and boulevard Henri-Bourassa, Teresa left her friends to take a transfer. Around 3 a.m., her body was found in a sitting position in the parking lot of the Vieux Cyprès tavern, on boulevard Henri-Bourassa. The young victim had been carefully placed there by the suspect(s)’ – This is the official notice from her investigating force, the Surete du Quebec.
Last week, La Presse published a lengthy article on the Teresa Martin case. Qui a tué Teresa Martin? is a work of investigative journalism, covering many of the details we’ve laid out in this podcast – the coroner’s interrogation of Johanne H, the establishment of the Quebec motorcycle association, La MUQ by the police and Quebec government, the conclusion that La MUQ enabled the rise of biker gangs in the province – and included an interview with Martin’s sister, Isabel. That’s not some coincidence, nor is it La Presse trolling my website and taking credit for my work, that kind of effort takes a dogged persistence.
About the time of the fourth episode on La MUQ, I approached La Presse asking them to do a French version of what I’d been reporting. This kind of pitch doesn’t always work, you have to have something unique to show them. It’s happened in the past with a few stories of covered, La Presse picked up the Diane Thibault case and the piece on Roderick Nicholson as a probable suspect in the murders of Diane Dery and Mario Corbeil. In the matter of Teresa Martin, I had the coroner report, the MUQ information, and the connection with Martin’s sister. I will note that I asked Isabel twice if she’d like to come on this podcast and discuss the matter from her perspective, and I believe she – rather wisely – declined that offer. But passing up the opportunity for a 2000 word column in one of Quebec’s largest French newspapers – far more than the standard ‘shock and awe’ 500 word jobs you typically see these days – was too important an opportunity to turn down for someone who still believes – 52 years later – that there is hope that the case may be solved.
My job was to broker the relationship between La Presse and Isabel, and after that, what they discussed and how the story was shaped was none of my business. Very often these things don’t go well, you go away feeling very exploited by the media. And you can say, ‘but John, they took your story, they took credit for it?!’ And I say, don’t be so naive, there are always trade offs. La Presse knows it’s my investigative work, we discussed that. There are tradeoffs and exceptions to everything. The bottom line is this was too important a case to have kept in isolation. When you find the right voice that can elevate and daylight a matter, especially in the language of the province, you have to respond to that opportunity.
But now there is a crossroad. As sure as the rising sun, the Quebec media will now be calling at the door to do more stories. At a minimum, Journal de Montreal will come knocking for some blurbs for a 55 anniversary article (it will be 200 words). Attraction Media, and Point Virgule, and any number of production companies will want to take the words and turn it into visual documentary. In the case of JdM, I would do what I did when they approached me two years ago for my sister’s 40 anniversary. There’s a line, and 40 years ago they crossed it, so I literally told them to Fuck Off.
In the case of television? My first question back them would be, how much are you going to pay me? And when they say, “but you would dare asked to be paid for such a thing?” I would say, but you’re getting paid for such a thing! And I would ask for three salaries; for your story, for your research, and for appearing on camera, because you are also the talent. Because my advice would be not to participate in these programs, but if you’re going to do it, you should at least be compensated for your work like everyone else working in the true crime circus industry.
These people do not practice investigative reporting, they are entertainers. Sur les traces d’un tueur en série is not interested in solving murders, they are in the business of perpetuating fear – dressing up like extras from District 13 does not make you an investigator. Claude Poirier has survived for over 50 years because he plays all sides, he is a paid mercenary. In half a century he has not contributed to the resolution of a single unsolved murder. Claude Poirier has one central interest: Claude Poirier. Claude Poirier is an entertainer – and he knows this.
So you will have a choice as to what to do when these people come calling. My advice is that if you decide to work with them, you should at least get paid for it. After that, what they do with your story is out of your hands. You cannot control it. And what you do with their money, is none of our business.
After the publication of the La Presse article one of he SQ officers quoted in that story was reprimanded. Sylvain called and informed me that his supervisor will no longer allow him to discuss other cases with me. For those matters, I now have to go through police public affairs, just like any other schlep journalist. I told him I was disappointed, that such a reaction was silly and short-sighted. Rather than closing ranks – again – they should be opening up and becoming even more transparent with the public. It’s the public who’s interests they serve, no? We’re paying for it. But the Surete du Quebec have always had a higher priority, a greater interest. Themselves. They are there to ensure the survival of the agency, public safety is a secondary priority. Since at least the days of Duplessis Army, it has always been this way.
Over 20 years later, when I discovered the fact that my sister’s wallet had been found – not with the body, but 10 miles away from the dump site on the outskirts of Sherbrooke – I had a choice. This was holdback evidence, I imagine police did not like my writing about it on this website. But it had been 20 years. The cold case was frozen over. Much more important to discuss the wallet, and the fact that the lead investigator’s theory as to how it got there was that “wild dogs” had carried it in their mouths for 10 miles, then efficiently deposited along a public roadway.
In the summer of 2006 we had a recovery team visit the site where Louise Camirand’s body had been found in 1977 near Magog, Quebec. Since this was also the area where hunter’s reported seeing clothing matching the description of those worn by Theresa Allore when she was last seen, we thought this might be a productive search target. The Surete du Quebec declined our offer to participate in the search dismissing it as “a school project”. Over the years that site has produced several personal objects belonging to women, deteriorated to the point of having been from the era of the 1970s including jewelry, women’s shoes, a woman’s blouse, and a purse matching the description of one missing from a 1978 Montreal victim, Lison Blais. The Surete du Quebec has never expressed any interest in examining this evidence.
Last weekend, 15 years from the date of that search for evidence, the situation was almost identically repeated. A team of divers from Stéphane Luce’s grassroots non-profit, Meurtres et Disparitions Irrésolus du Quebec, searched a body of water near Wemotaci in an attempt to find the body of James Ambroise, who has been missing since October 15, 2017. They used a GoFundMe campaign to defray the costs of boats and oxygen tanks, exploring the waters of Lake Bréhard and the Saint-Maurice River as well as places where the Sûreté du Québec and local police could not, or would not go during previous searches. The team recovered a plastic bag of bones, more than likely animal bones. Among the dozens of volunteers on sight last weekend, the Surete du Quebec was nowhere to be found.
At some point, you are no longer investigating a murder or disappearance, but the very quality of the investigation in the hands of those who have taken an oath to protect you. The police are no longer protecting the public, they’re protecting themselves. Half their efforts must be mop up jobs for some politician who compromised themselves with a call girl, or drugs, or some shakedown (If you don’t believe me look up l’affaire Gregoire form the early 1980s, and I don’t mean that Gregoire: Gilles Gregoire. Look it up). The Surete du Quebec has more in common with the Stasi or FSB, or more to the point, the DGSE, than any modern police force. 17 years after its creation, their cold case website has become a monument to failure.
There have been points along the way in this story where I’ve had to resist the urge to misinterpret certain facts. There’s another photo of Teresa. She’s standing on the balcony of a duplex apartment in a fur hat and coat. I wondered if this was one of her girlfriends’ places, perhaps where members of La MUQ hung out, Was the fur coat a gift, stolen in some biker robbery job? No, Theresa’s family moved to Montreal North about 6 months before her death, this was their prior home. The fur coat and hat were her mother’s, and she was trying them on and playing for the camera. I asked if Teresa ever went to Belmont Park. The amusement park was midway between our home growing up and Teresa’s, it was a popular destination for kids in the summer, perhaps we had all been there together at one time. No, Teresa never went to Parc Belmont. Those shoes she was thought to have been wearing that where never found. In the police reproduction they looked very fashionable, like an ad for flats I once saw from Bloomingdale’s or somewhere. Yes, they were part of her school uniform. Oh! Was she wearing her school uniform the night she died? No, she was wearing grey slacks and a green sweater.
That duplex where she lived before moving to Montreal North, at 10627 Rue d’Iberville. That’s one block away from Parc des Hirondelles – the park where in May 1969 Pierre “Butch” Boucher was stabbed 58 times by three members of the Devil’s Disciples motocycle club. Teresa Martin may not have followed trouble, but trouble seemed to have followed her.
Teresa Martin was a shy girl who had the misfortune of moving to a rough neighborhood. She didn’t do drugs, she didn’t hang out with bikers. One evening she took a late night bus from the movies and got off at Gouin Boulevard. Gouin is a very long boulevard, my sister Theresa used to sling pizza dough at Chez Luna, about 40 kilometers west on Gouin. The night of September 12, 1969 I believe Teresa Martin had a chance encounter with some very bad men and met with a most unfortunate outcome. The best answer is that Theresa’s murder was part of a biker ritual that never made it to the main event, she panicked and died within the process of that ritual. At least more than one person knows what happened. Isabel should know what happened, if only Quebec police would do their job.
For a more in depth conversation, listen to the episode podcast.
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PREVIOUS PODCAST: Why Murders Are Unsolved – Teresa Martin #8 / WKT5 CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO ALL NINE CHAPTERS OF THE TERESA MARTIN SERIES Bus. Morgue. Wallet. Missing Clothing. Journal de Montreal. Don Bosco. Pattern Recognition is a term I borrowed from computer science. It’s used in sequence / spatial analysis and machine… […]