Here’s our interview with Kristian Gravenor, author of the soon to be released MONTREAL: 375 TALES.
This is Episode 6 of the Who Killed Theresa? podcast:
Here are links to some things we discussed including Coolopolis, Montreal Biker Gangs (including legendary figure Michael French), the Reet Jurvetson case, Sharon Prior, Norma O’brien / Debbie Fisher and the Chateauguay Full Moon Killer murders, the Montreal tabloid Allo Police:
Investigate the deaths of Sharron Prior, Jocelyn Houle and “Unidentified” as possibly connected cases committed by one offender (Suspect #1, The Longueuil Killer). This will require cooperation between the Longueuil and Surete du Quebec police forces.
Investigate the murders Louise Camirand, Helene Monast, Denise Bazinet, Lison Blais, Theresa Allore and Sharron Prior as possibly connected cases committed by one offender (Suspect #2, The Bootlace Killer). This will require cooperation between the Longueuil, Montreal, and Surete du Quebec police forces.
Investigate the murders Chantal Tremblay, Joanne Dorion and Katherine Hawkes as possibly connected cases committed by one offender (Suspect #3, The Commuter Killer). This will require cooperation between the Laval, Montreal, and Surete du Quebec police forces.
The perpetrators in these cases would have to be – at best – 60 years old today. More than likely they are much older or already dead. Quebec police cannot realistically expect citizens to come forward with new information on these cases when the public is not even aware that the murders occurred, or – when in some situations – the police refuse to acknowledge that crimes were even committed. Through attrition the Quebec police will ensure that any possibility of a confession or eyewitness testimony in these matters is eliminated. Everyone who touched the case will have died.
A unified cold-case task force needs to be created for all of Quebec to ensure cooperation / coordination between Quebec police agencies.
Access to cold-case information for family members of victims needs to be granted immediately. It should not be that I have access to my sister’s case information, while a family like the Dorions or Blais’ are denied access by Laval and Montreal police forces. All Quebec police agencies should be required to provide the same level-of-service to all victims.
An inquiry needs to be made by the Quebec government into the systematic destruction of cold-case physical evidence by Quebec police agencies to ensure the integrity of public safety in the province.
15-year-old Claudette Poirier lived with her parents at 1190 Monfette in Drummondville. In the summer of 1977 the family decided to do some camping about 4 miles south at Camp Plein Air Familial along chemin Hemming. On July 27th, 1977 the blond haired, 5/’5″ 110 pound girl was riding her bicycle along 3e Rang de Simpson on her way to visit friends who lived on St-Charles boulevard near her home back in Drummondville.
From that point Claudette disappears. Her bicycle is found along Rang 5e, Saint Cyrille, about 2 miles from her camp site.
Police investigating are Roland Gagnon of Surete du Quebec, Trois Rivieres, Andre Blanchette of SQ Drummondville, Henri Deschenex and Marcel Boutin. They are unable to find any trace of Claudette.
9 years later, on October 9th, 1986, 2 hunters find a skull, other bones and women’s clothing about 15 meters from the road at La Reserve, Saint Lucien about 4 miles from south of the site of her disappearance. (I have heard it reported that the bones were charred, as if her remains were burnt). The remains are analyzed by Dr. Andre Lauzon at the SQ medical lab at Parthenais in Montreal and identified as Claudette Poirier. Given the length of time that has past the cause of death is undetermined.
Also of note – 1977 was sort of a summer of disappearances in Quebec:
June 14, 1977: 16-year-old Johanne Danserault (5’3″) disappears from her home at 615 rue des Lotus in Fabreville / Laval and is never seen again. Lt Gagne of Laval SQ was put in charge of the case. It is thought she was a runaway.
June 27, 1977: 13-year-old Sylvie Doucet (5’4″, 120 lbs) of 3634 rue Rouen in Montreal disappears from East Montreal and is not seen again.
Doucet lived here at the corner of Rouen and Chambly in Montreal’s East End.
Henri Jette of the Montreal police is put in charge of the case. Again, Police think she has runaway.
July 30, 1977: 14-year-old Elizabeth Bodzy (5′, 95 lbs) disappears from her home at 311 rue Belec in Laval. Detective Milette of Laval is put in charge of the case. Police think she is a runaway. Update: Elisabeth Bodzy returned home safe on August 15th 1977.
If someone can demonstrate to me that these young girls were later found safe, I am all ears. From what I know they simply vanished.
And if you are noticing a pattern with these events, and recent events of young girls vanishing in Montreal, you would be seeing what I am seeing. In some cases they are found. In some cases we are told of rumors of the girls being sold into prostitution. In some cases they just vanish. It’s a public safety nightmare.
Returning to 1977, and in particular Laval, we will see that the situation would soon reach its apex with the late July disappearances and murders of Chantal Tremblay and Johanne Dorion.
Je ne peux pas empêcher de remarquer certaines similitudes frappantes entre le cas Provencher, à ce jour, et celle de Claudette Poirier.
Poirier avait 15 ans quand elle a disparu de Drummondville le 27 Juillet, 1977. Comme Provencher, elle a disparu sur son vélo. Comme Provencher, elle manquait une longue période, et beaucoup crurent qu’elle était encore vivante.
Enfin comme Provencher, ses restes ont été découverts près d’une décennie plus tard, dans une zone boisée à Sainte Cyrille (crâne récupéré par deux chasseurs). Son vélo a été retrouvé moins de 1/2 d’un kilomètre du lieu de sa disparition.
Curieusement, l’enquête ete conduit par le détachement Trois-Rivières du bureau d’enquête de la Sûreté du Québec.
I can’t help but notice certain striking similarities between the Provencher case, thus far, and that of Claudette Poirier.
Poirier was 15 when she disappeared from Drummondville on July 27, 1977. Like Provencher, she went missing on her bicycle. Like Provencher, she was missing a long time, and many believed she was still alive.
Finally like Provencher, her remains were discovered nearly a decade later in a wooded area in Sainte Cyrille (skull recovered by two hunters). Her bike was recovered less than 1/2 a kilometer from the place of her disappearance.
Curiously, the investigation was led by the Trois Rivieres detachment of the Surete du Quebec’s investigative bureau.
For over the past near-decade you could not be in the province of Quebec and not been aware of the story, or at least the face, of Cédrika Provencher. The 9-year-old girl disappeared on July 31, 2007 near her home in Trois-Rivières. Her parents – chiefly her father, Martin – were in the news regularly asking the public for answers. Cédrika became – literally – a poster-child for lost-innocence and fear. She was / is what Maura Murray is to New Hampshire, what Brianna Maitland is to Vermont, what Alison Parrot was for over a decade to the city of Toronto.
In the Fall of 2007 I visited Quebec City for a meeting with the Minister of Public Security. I snapped this photo of Cédrika along the artists alley across from the Chateau Frontenac. It could have been taken anywhere: the city was littered with these notices.
Now comes the news that the remains found yesterday by passers-by in woods on the edge of Highway 40 in St-Maurice, near Trois-Rivières, are those of the young girl. I am not currently living in Quebec, but I can tell you without an inch of doubt that the province is heartbroken.
Over the years I’ve thought about this case, but not deeply. I must confess that so many resources were thrown at this case that Cédrika didn’t appear to need my help. In the beginning Pierre Boisvenu and AFPAD fought hard to use it as justification for the Surete du Quebec to initiate a squad specifically dedicated to missing persons in the first 48 hours of disappearance. I know the Surete du Quebec took the matter seriously because often I couldn’t get things done on Theresa’s case, because the SQ was doubling-down on Cédrika. For the record, I had no issue with that. I have always believed that public safety resources should be used for current investigations first and foremost.
But then this very immediate case became a cold case. At times it seemed to lose its focus, with police chasing suspects as far away as New Brunswick. The documentary filmmaker, Stephen Parent made a pitch for linking Provencher’s disappearance to the murders of several children in Quebec in 1984. I don’t know what I expected the outcome to be, but it wasn’t this. It wasn’t yesterday’s news that bones were found in some woods less than 10 miles from where the child disappeared. It wasn’t that for the past 8 years Cédrika was most likely right under everyone’s noses: that outcome seemed too much of a cliche.
Hopefully this will sort itself out into some form of satisfactory resolution. At this point, that can only mean justice. The first question everyone will want answered is, how long were the bones there? Had the remains been lying in those woods for the past 8 years, or were they placed there recently? But the broader question – Again, unfortunately – is this: who committed this crime, and had they committed similar crimes before and after July 31st, 2007?
In 1996 the Quebec government appointed Lawrence Poitras to lead a public inquiry into the Sûreté du Québec following accusations of corruption and evidence tampering within the force. Three years later Poitras submitted his 2,700 page report accusing the force of abusing its powers of arrest, being more concerned with protecting its image than investigating misconduct. Total cost to taxpayers? Over $20 million.
Did the Poitras Commission recommendations have any lasting influence? Judging by the release this week of the Charbonneau Commission’s report the answer is No.
Private Investigator Robert Buellac describing the conditions of crime and law enforcement in Quebec in the late 1970s.
Homicide Investigators, Surete du Quebec 1970s
In a post titled Quebec 1977: Who was the Bootlace Killer, I presented information to suggest a possible connection between approximately 20 disappearances and unsolved murders in the province of Quebec in the late 1970s. Between 1975 and 1981 young women routinely went missing and turned up dead in rural and wooded areas. Many of them were straggled, raped and brutally beaten.
In the Winter of 1977, the Quebec tabloid, Allo Police reported that there had been 212 homicides in the province in 1976, 4 per week, with 1 in 4 of those crimes going unsolved by the police. Two years later the Sherbrooke Record proclaimed “Townships Crime worst in Quebec”. Statistics released by the Quebec Police Commission showed that the Eastern Townships had the highest rate of crime of any region in Quebec in 1978. The report noted that crimes against persons had “skyrocketed” in the region. The eleven Township municipalities having their own police forces collectively logged 377 crimes in the nature of homicides, rapes, sex crimes, armed robberies and other assaults in the year 1978. This was a 9% increase from the 345 crimes against persons reported in 1977. For those Township municipalities that did not have their own police forces – towns patrolled by the Quebec Police Forces (QPF) – the figures were even worse. The QPF showed a rise in violent crimes against persons from 87 in 1977 to 142 in 1978, a staggering increase of 63%. Raynald Gendron, the director of the police commission’s research and statistics division stated there was no accounting for the increase in crime.
Gendron’s statement is false and irresponsible. Though the specific actions that led to these crimes – and more pointedly to the murders and disappearances cited in the Bootlace Killer piece – are to this day unknown, the conditions which gave rise to this environment of disorder and lawlessness are familiar and well documented:
In the 1976 provincial election, the Parti Québécois was elected for the first time to form the government of Quebec. Regardless of where you sit on the argument of whether this was ultimately good or bad for the province, the original elected members of the Parti Québécois were academics, not managers. They were not well equipped with the tools of decision making, communication and leadership that were so greatly need in a time of social upheaval and change. The Quiet Revolution unfolded with the previous Liberal administration; the PQ government was not well positioned to manage it. Almost immediately the new party got down to the business of what is always most important in regime change: investigating the actions of the prior government. In 1977 René Lévesque launchds the Malouf Commission’s Public Inquiry into Jean Drapeau’s 1976 Montreal Olympics (and you thought Charbonneau was something new). The Commission was a huge time-suck on the new and inexperienced PQ government. While attending to grand spectacles like public inquiries, the Parti Québécois took its eye off the ball of the day-to-day aspects of governing like public safety, organized crime, and education; with education specifically coming home to roost in their indecision over granting a certain small Eastern Township CEGEP permission to build a new dormitory for their newly created college. Champlain college would continue to use their grossly inadequate facility in Compton, Quebec, resulting in disastrous consequences for students (as documented many times on this website).
Police Force Consolidation
Surete du Quebec: Arrêt Stop
After assuming power, the Parti Québécois began a project of consolidation that was merging smaller police forces under the umbrella of the Quebec Police Forces (QPF, and later the Surete du Quebec or “SQ”). In 1978, larger municipalities such as Sherbrooke and Magog were able to keep their forces in tact. By contrast, other towns such as Lennoxville and Brome were teetering on the brink of being swallowed up by the Provincial force. Still others such as Compton, Ayer’s Cliff and North Hatley had already succumbed to consolidation and lost their forces altogether. With consolidation came confusion. The QPF’s jurisdiction and responsibilities were growing at an accelerated pace. They were unfamiliar with the new territory and struggled to keep up adequate levels of service. The QPF force known as the Coaticook division had just eighteen men to cover over 2500 square miles, from Lake Memphremagog in the east to the New Hampshire border in the west, from the outskirts of Sherbrooke all the way South to the town of Stanstead on the Vermont border. The changes were confusing to both the police and public. For example, a short, two mile drive on route 143 – the main drag through Lennoxville -would take you through no less than three police jurisdictions – those of the Sherbrooke Municipal Police, the Coaticook division of the QPF, and the town police force of Lennoxville.
Similar problems were mirrored in cities like Montreal. Depending on where a crime took place in “Montreal”, the investigating force could be the Montreal police (SPVM), the provincial police (QPF / SQ), off-island police from Longueuil or Laval, or Federal investigators from the RCMP, or a combination of these forces! In the case of Katherine Hawkes, because the body was found at a CN train station, it was on federal land, so the RCMP took the lead, even though the Val Royal train station is squarely in the middle of the island of Montreal. The Hawkes case has been investigated largely in isolation from other Montreal crimes for over 37 years, more than likely a large contributor to why the case remains unsolved.
The Cotroni crime family was a Mafia organization based in Montreal with strong ties to the Bonanno crime family in New York. From the 1950s through to the mid-1970s the Cotroni family controlled the Montreal drug trade, led by the family boss, Vic Cotroni. By 1975 Vic Cotroni was ailing in health, and operations were turned over the the family heir to the throne, Paolo Violi. In January 1978, Violi was assassinated. Eventually, Vic’s younger brother, Frank would take control of organized crime in Montreal, but that wasn’t until the Spring of 1979 when Frank Cotroni was paroled from a U.S. penitentiary. For almost a year-and-a-half there was a virtual power vacuum in organized crime in Quebec.
Do these cases remain unsolved due to conspiracy or incompetence, a culture of indifference and compromise? We do not know.
But consider the following cartoon from a 1975 edition of Photo Police:
(PHOTO REMOVED AT REQUEST OF PUBLISHER)
Further consider that at least two of the victims mentioned above had been violated by blunt objects. Now consider what the cartoon actually suggests: Not only was rape an accepted cultural norm in Quebec society in the 1970s, it was invited, considered humorous, and suggestively practiced by the very agents elected to protect citizens from harm and victimization.
(All photos are the property/used courtesy of Allo Police/Section Rouge Média Inc.)
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