Roch Thériault (pronounced “Rosh Terry-o”) was born in the Saguenay Valley of Québec on May 16, 1947. He was the second of seven children and the eldest boy. When Roch was six, the family moved to the community of Thetford Mines, in the Eastern Townships. The town’s local school went up to the seventh grade and none of the Thériault kids went any further.
Roch’s father, Hyacinthe, was a laborer and was devoutly religious. He was a member of the ‘Union des Electeurs’ (Union of Electors, also known as ‘White Berets”), a Catholic fascist offshoot of the Depression-era ‘Créditiste’ movement. Between Mass and his father’s forced door-to-door White Beret literature distribution campaigns, Roch developed an abiding hatred for Catholicism in particular and organized religion in general.
Roch Thériault Wants Attention
Roch Thériault was given very little to complain about as a child, having had a relatively uneventful adolescence in Thetford Mines. But, as he grew older, he discovered that complaining about his childhood was a great way to get attention and sympathy. Between this, and his interest in a number of topics that gave the illusion of a penetrating intelligence, he came to crave this attention. This desire was readily satisfied by his physical presence and by his penchant for showmanship. He also found that spirituality was very attractive to people.
On November 11th in 1967, Roch Thériault married Francine Grenier, a girl from the next town over. They moved to Montréal and, over the next three years, she gave him two sons. During this time, Roch developed some severe ulcers, which had to be surgically excised. He later developed complications from the surgery. The persistent discomfort of his digestive system fostered a certain irritability on Thériault’s part. He also became obsessed with medicine and taught himself a great deal about anatomy.
Roch Thériault moved his family back to Thetford Mines. Roch began developing his skills with woodworking. He also became involved in municipal politics and joined the French analogue to the Shriners. He suborned for use as his personal platform for a parody of Catholicism, despite the Catholic roots of all the other members. Roch also acquired a new interest in sex and sexuality, one which was not entirely appreciated by his wife or his in laws.
Roch Thériault Took To Drinking and Cavorting with Other Women
Thériault was using his amateur wood sculpting sales as an excuse to go out of Thetford Mines for Québec City on the weekends to carry on trysts with women he met there. “Gisèle” was one such a woman. Eventually, Thériault’s finances gave way and the local credit union repossessed his Thetford Mines residence. Francine washed her hands of her husband and Roch took up with Gisèle. Although he was having sex with her on a regular basis, to keep up appearances he made a bed in the back of his truck, so that it would appear that his scruples forbade him from sleeping with a woman to whom he was not married.
It was around this time that Roch Thériault discovered the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The Adventists, ministered by a Guadaloupean named Pierre Zita, met in a local motel room every Saturday. Roch Thériault was their most devoted follower, He began following Adventist nutritional strictures and quit drinking. In fact, his “enthusiasm” for God’s work began to unsettle the other Adventists and his boastfulness irritated those who knew of his limited education. Roch became fascinated with the Old Testament, with its strict codes of masculine authority. He was also fascinated with the Apocalypse, with its message of violent retribution for sin in the end times and the division of the human race into the elect and the reprobate.
Roch Thériault Gains Followers
To make money, Thériault began selling Adventist literature door-to-door. When he proved himself quite capable in this enterprise, Zita began giving him workshops on ‘quitting smoking’ for Roch to run. He soon proved to excel at this and by 1977 he had amassed to himself a number of followers:
- Solange Boilard (21)
- Chantal Labrie (19)
- Francine Laflamme (18)
- Nicole Ruel (20)
- “Marise” (18)
- Josée Pelletier (20)
- Jacques Fiset (mid-twenties)
- Claude Ouellette (24)
- Jacques Giguère (24), his wife Maryse Grenier (23), and their six-month-old baby girl
The Followers and Roch Thériault
All of these people, including Roch, began hanging out at Gisèle’s apartment. Though most of the girls were still living with their parents, the whole group would often spend the weekend crashing at the apartment.
Roch Thériault encouraged all of his followers to drop out of college. After all, Christ was coming back soon, so there wasn’t much point in learning skills to get by in a world that was already doomed. Sometimes Gisèle would become jealous of the attention the girls lavished on Roch. But, as he had expressed interest in becoming a priest, and had committed to total sobriety, she came to regard this emotion as absurd. Roch’s Adventist ministers, however, began to fear that this group of disaffected youth were more attracted to Roch Thériault personally than they were to the Church.
The Roch Stood On The Holy Place
In 1977, he and his followers attended an Adventist retreat on Lake Rosseau, in the woods of Muskoka, Ontario. Here, he met Gabrielle Lavallée (from Québec) and Yolande Guinnebert (from France), who joined his retinue. The natural scenery of Lake Rosseau apparently made a huge impression on Roch. In fact, at one point during the retreat, Thériault went hiking by himself, and climbed up on a rocky outrcopping. He said he had a vision in which the sky was lit up with a white radiance, and the voice of God told him that the outcropping on which Roch was about to kneel was a holy place. This was the first incident of what would become the ruling element in the lives of those people who had taken to following Roch Thériault.
With an entourage of eight live-in followers, a growing reputation as a “healer,” and sympathetic connections with the Seventh Day Adventist health food and mission literature suppliers, Roch Thériault decided it was time to move his motley band from Thetford Mines. He established them in Sainte-Marie, in the Beauce region, about 65km south of Québec City. Here, they opened the “Healthy Living Clinic,” an alternative medicine venue where you could get organic foods and holistic literature to help you cure any ailment, cash up front, of course.
The New Look
Thériault insisted his followers all wear a uniform: an ankle-length pull-over tunic, green for the women and beige for the men, with Roch wearing a dark brown robe of similar cut.
Not only was he making money in this enterprise, he was also attracting followers. Several of the Clinic’s patrons volunteered time or financial donations, including one, Léo Marc Faucher, who sold his worldly possessions to fund the Clinic and move in with his wife and child. Jacques Giguère and Maryse Grenier did likewise, and “Marise” and Josée Pelletier rejoined the group. A strange dynamic took hold of the group, with all the women (except Maryse Grenier, who hated being with the commune) competing for Rock’s attention.
Eventually, Gisèle became very concerned that she might lose Roch to one of the other girls, and took the initiative to propose to him herself. A week later he agreed, and they were married on January 8, 1978, at an Adventist church in Montréal. There was no honeymoon; the group piled back in the van for the five-hour trip home, Thériault joking with the other girls all the way home. Gisèle cried on a matress in the back, increasingly convinced that it had all been a way to cement his relationship with the Adventists with a display of sincerity.
The Adventists Weren’t Convinced.
Pierre Zita tried approaching the parents of many of the girls and tried to convince Gisèle to leave Roch. But Thériault’s place in the hearts of his followers was much too deep for family or friends to displace. Even when the police came, at the behest of the families of some of the girls, they refused to speak. Roch Thériault was their elected face to the outside world. Even when local businessmen began filing in to the police station to complain about Thériault’s inability to pay outstanding bills, the police’s hands were tied.
In March of 1978, Geraldine Gagné Auclair was admitted to the Healthy Living Clinic. She had been undergoing treatment for leukemia in Québec City and things seemed to be going well. But Auclair’s husband fell in with Thériault. Roch convinced Auclair to let him visit Geraldine in the hospital, where Roch got in a loud argument with the doctors over the matter of Geraldine’s treatment, particularly the amount of drugs they were giving her. Roch convinced Auclair to check the 38-year-old cancer patient Geraldine out of the hospital and into the Healthy Living Clinic, where even Geraldine’s own father was not permitted to visit.
When God Wants His People
Roch Thériault’s treatment for leukemia was grape juice and organic foods. Geraldine Gagné Auclair died in the Clinic. Thériault told his followers that he had gone into her room and kissed her, and she awakened from death – but that, in the end, “You know, when God wants people, he takes them. It was Geraldine’s time.”
During the same period of the Clinic’s existence, the parents of 19-year-old multiple sclerosis victim, Gabrielle Nadeau, placed her under the care of Roch Thériault, who they had met at an anti-smoking workshop.
In April of 1978, Thériault was voted out of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, on Zita’s initiative. This didn’t phase Thériault one bit, and his next move was to marry some of his followers together, in spite of the fact that, not only did he lack any authority to perform marriages whatsoever, his followers had actually not expressed any interest in getting married whatsoever, at least not to the men Roch decided they were to marry.
Roch Thériault Performs Weddings For His Followers
Claude Ouellette was paired with Solange Boilard, and Jacques Fiset with Nicole Ruel. Solange invited her parents to the ceremony and, on advice from their priest, they decided to attend, if only to show Solange that they still loved her. They reported that Roch’s wedding ceremony was not what they expected, to say the least. Roch Thériault’s rambling speech stressed the woman’s role of subservience to the man. Some of the women in Solange’s family wept. But it was not out of joy.
That spring, Gisèle, pregnant and feeling rejected by the lack of attention Roch gave her since their marriage, gave her new husband an ultimatum. He either break the commune, and encourage his followers to find new homes, or she would move back in with her father. Roch Thériault’s answer was to smash her in the mouth and forbid her to leave the room for two days.
A Bit Of Trouble Brewing
In June, 1978, in spite of its financial success, the Healthy Living Clinic faced some serious problems. First, there was the outstanding debts. Second, the constant police surveillance to which they had been subjected since Auclair’s death. Third, the cutting-off of health food and missionary literature supplies from their former friends, the Seventh Day Adventists. Prognosis: negative. Recommended treatment: Move.
Thériault loaded the band into their vehicles and set out. They wandered from town to town, down the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, for a month. In July, they found themselves in the wilderness of the Gaspé Peninsula. It was here that Thériault disclosed to the group his vision of the future. Roch Thériault told the group that the world would end on February 17, 1979, amid a storm of boulder-sized hail, earthquakes, and lightening. They, the commune, would become God’s chosen, but only if they made a righteous life for themselves in the scrub of these Appalacian foothills. Thériault, of course, would be their guide.
Roch Thériault Names The Eternal Mountain
The group set out on foot into the hills from the village of Saint-Jogues, on July 9, 1978. They hiked for two days until they found an isolated hill beside a small body of water called Lac Sec (“Dry Lake”). Thériault named the diminutive mound “Eternal Mountain,” and it was here that the group made their home.
They erected a tent-town, spent a week retrieving tools from the cars, and then began construction on a large communal cabin. They worked at least seventeen hours a day clearing the land, and occasionally getting supplies from the village. Jacques Fiset and Claude hacked at the ground with a shovel and pickaxe where the center of the cabin would be, working all summer to dig a well; when they finally reached the water-table, Roch declared it a miracle. They worked in their tunics, and when tripping over these became inconvenient and dangerous, Roch commissioned new uniforms: dark blue wrap-around short shrifts.
Roch Thériault also rationed the food. If anyone complained about anything (like hunger), he would punish them by restricting their rations.
People Started Leaving The Group
Of course, Thériault’s stomach pains and “cancer” prevented him from participating in any of the labor. His role was much more important for their spiritual salvation: impressing upon his followers that everyone in the outside world, most especially their families. These, he claimed,, were active oppressors of the righteous, who were doomed to lie dead for all eternity for the unforgivable harm they had inflicted upon these poor, innocent souls.
For some, this was all too much. Yolande Guinnebert, who had joined the group with her friend Gabrielle Lavallée at the resort at Lake Rosseau, headed back to France, claiming that her passport had expired. Léo Marc Faucher, who had joined the Healthy Living Clinic with his wife and child, and who had given Roch Thériault all of their money, loaded his meager possessions and his family into a wagon and headed back for civilization. Roch did nothing to stop them, but made it clear that Faucher was evil in the eyes of God.
The House Built For Papy and Mamy
When it was all done in September, the cabin consisted of a single open room with a floor made of pounded wooden rounds and with the well in the center, a ceiling made of mossy, twiggy bark-covered logs, and rooms consisting only of meter-high partitions and bed sheets hung as curtains.
This was to be their home until God began his thousand-year reign on Earth. It was also a place of merriment, where Thériault would organize skits and songs. To commemorate their new life, Thériault gave them all new names from the Old Testament. He himself became “Moïse,” or Moses, leader of the exodus from the depraved modern world. He was their Papy, his wife Gisèle was their Mamy, and with the collective welfare checks of everyone in the group, they had a monthly budget of $1 400 Canadian.
In October, the six-months-pregnant “Mamy” Gisèle went to “Moïse.” She said that the women who had not been married were lonely. Roch Thériault relayed this insight to the other girls, thus giving them the impression that Mamy had been the first to think of it. A few nights later, Nicole Ruel (whom Roch had married to the uninterested Jacques Fiset) confided that she and Moïse had had intercourse while everyone else was working. This hurt Gisèle immeasurably and she fled from the cabin. An enraged Roch pulled her down and squeezed his hands around her throat. Cowed and afraid for her life, Gisèle agreed to return to the compound.
Roch Thériault Marries The Women To Himself
‘Moïse’ declared all commune marriages, other than the one between himself and Gisèle, void. He then began marrying the women to himself – including Gabrielle Nadeau, the twenty-year-old multiple sclerosis invalid, though apparently didn’t try to have intercourse with her. He did, however, have sex with his other “wives;” the rebellious Solange was the last to fall to his wiles. The one exception was Maryse Grenier, the outsider.
When the Jonestown Massacre occurred on November 18, 1978, Roch Thériault followed the story with keen interest. He even claimed to have had a vision of the event a year before. But they now had a very pressing problem. Doomsday cults were now a household concern and the families of Thériault’s followers renewed their attempts to disrupt the group.
The police wanted to take him into custody, but lacked evidence that he was a danger to himself or others. Nevertheless, Thériault went willingly with them and underwent psychological evaluation. He claimed that he wasn’t the “leader” of the group. He said that the commune was a democracy and that they lived “in peace and without any promiscuity.” He conveniently left out the parts about food rationing, abuse, or his polygamous harem. The authorities realized he was a delusional crank but, without any proof that he was a dangerous delusional crank, they had no choice but to release him under his own recognizance.
The Changes Begin
Roch Thériault abandoned the Adventist diet. He began eating meat and junk food. He prostituted Gabrielle to a local grocer for some milk, meat, and cheese. Roch also started drinking again after two years sober – first communion wine, then beer and cognac. He began to deliver long, rambling, drunken sermons. If anyone fell asleep, he’d smack their head with a four inch thick club. When Maryse Grenier, pregnant, ate two more pancakes than Thériault had allocated to her, he punched her in the side and broke two of her ribs. A favourite punishment would be to force someone to strip naked and stand in the snow for a few hours. No one would fight back; it would be like raising a hand against God himself.
Jacques Fiset left. Roch told the others he had been taken by the Devil.
Maryse Grenier began to talk about leaving. Thériault instructed Jacques Giguère, Maryse’s husband in the eyes of the law (though not in the eyes of “Moïse”) to cut off one of her toes with an axe as punishment. When Giguère balked, Thériault began to taunt him: “What are you, a faggot? Don’t you have any balls? If you want to be a man, you have to learn how to teach your woman a lesson.” When Giguère began to cry, Thériault grabbed the axe and threatened to cut off all of Maryse’s toes himself. Reluctantly, Giguère took the axe and severed one of Maryse’s small toes. After that, Giguère became “Moïse’s” main enforcer.
The Day Of Doom Came And Went
The prophesied day, February 17, came and went without any Second Coming. According to Thériault, divining exact dates from the messages of God was a difficult business for mortals, as time passes differently for God than for them. To the shock and horror of the families of Thériault’s followers, this was enough to keep the group together. After all, the end could come any day now. Chantal Labrie’s parents obtained a court order for a round of psychiatric tests for their daughter. When two police officers showed up at the compound, however, Thériault repelled them.
One month later, only four days after Québec City’s Le Soleil published a story on the group entitled “They Are Happy And Free To Leave If They Wish” (which referred to Roch Thériault as the group’s “spiritual father,” and which included quotes from an interview with fled member Jacques Fiset, in which he stated that the group was democratically run) Ten police officers set a helicopter down on the Eternal Mountain. They arrested Thériault for obstruction of justice, and he was ordered by the court to undergo psychological evaluation at Québec City’s Hospital.
Moses and The Shrink
Gisèle maintained the morale (and isolation) of the commune during “Papy’s” absence. When the family of other cult members tried to visit them to try to talk some sense into everyone, they were treated coldly and it was made clear they were unwelcome.
Meanwhile, Thériault was ingratiating himself to the doctors. He claimed that he had saved these kids from the self-dissolution of drugs and put them on the right track. The director of the hospital at which Thériault was confined began referring to the patient as “Moses,” and expressed his scorn for the public that had reflexively assumed that just because Thériault had a different lifestyle and had been sent for evaluation, he was crazy.
He was released from the hospital early, judged fit to stand trial for obstruction of justice, and given a one-year suspended sentence. The media began to portray him as a gentle mountain man that had run afoul of a prejudiced industrial society. In the eyes of his followers, this only proved that he was an emissary of God, just as he said he was; if psychiatric experts couldn’t find anything wrong with him from their position of objectivity, how could they, his most intimate family?
Death on The Eternal Mountain
Gabrielle Nadeau went into a coma and died shortly thereafter. Thériault wanted to bury her at the foot of the “Eternal Mountain,” but she was taken by the authorities for an autopsy. They found no signs of foul play, but Thériault swore that if anyone else died on the commune, their body would stay there.
A New Member Arrives On The Mountain
In early November, 1980, Guy Veer joined the commune. He was the first new member of the group since the Healthy Living Clinic. He had undergone treatment for depression at the same hospital that had declared Roch Thériault “mentally sound.” After hearing about Thériault on television, Veer decided to head into the hills. After passing Gabrielle’s examination, Veer was permitted to stay at the commune – in the storage shed, away from Thériault and his “family.”
He would get a small woodstove, a case of twenty-four bottles of home-brewed beer, two hens, a rooster and one meal a day. Veer’s job, in addition to his normal responsibilities of chopping wood, storing food rations for the winter, and continuing construction on “Moïse’s” growing wood cabin palace, would be to babysit the group’s three non-Thériault children: Samuel Giguère, age 2; Miriam Giguère, age 4; and Simon Ouellette, age 2, son of Solange and Claude during their brief “marriage.” Thériault had three children of his own living at the commune (one by Gisèle, one by Solange and one by Nicole), but Veer was mentally unstable, and so was only fit to look after the “animals” – these being the children that were not of Roch’s seed.
On March 23, 1980, Thériault organized a party. His two sons from his marriage with Francine Grenier, Roch Jr (12) and François (10), were coming to live with their father in the commune. Veer, of course, was not invited. His job was to look after those three outsider children.
What Happened On Eternal Mountain
There are two versions regarding what happened that night. The “official version” is the one that was given in court by Roch Thériault, Guy Veer, and most of the commune members. According to this version, Samuel was crying that night and keeping Veer awake. Veer lost his temper and started screaming at the child to be quiet. Then, picking the two-year-old up by the throat, he plunged his fist into the child’s face five or six times.
The next day, Thériault discovered what had happened, and placed Samuel under the care of Gabrielle, nurse for the group. Allegedly, baby Samuel’s head was flopping around on his neck, and his penis had swelled up. Rock took a pair of scissors, and after sterilizing them in alcohol, he lanced Samuel’s penis to permit urine to flow out. The next morning, Samuel was found dead. This is the account accepted by the courts.
According to Savage Messiah by Paul Kaihla and Ross Laver, Gisèle tells a different story. According to her, Samuel’s face was bruised on the morning of the 24th of March, but there was nothing else wrong with him. However, Thériault decided that the child needed to be circumcized. He used the ninety-four percent ethanol solution to do more than sterilize the razor, though. He also poured some into a rubber bulb, which he then squeezed into Samuel’s mouth for use as an anesthetic. This may have been enough to cause Samuel’s death by alcohol poisoning.
Move Forward Back To Normal Life
After hearing about her baby’s death, Maryse Grenier just went back to work. At supper, Thériault suggested they burn the baby’s remains, saying if they buried them birds or bears might get into them. Maryse and Jacques Giguère agreed. Claude Ouellette did the honors. Then life at the commune went back to “normal.”
For six months, everything went smoothly for the commune. But one night in September, a drunken Moïse became angry with Veer for some infraction, and decided that he should stand trial for his crime of the previous March. He appointed Jacques Giguère, the baby’s father, to be the judge, “Mamy” Gisèle would be the prosecution, Claude Ouellette the lawyer for the defence. Gabrielle would act as coroner, and Roch’s other six wives would act as jury. The trial lasted one hour, and the verdict was unanimous: Not guilty by reason of insanity.
But Roch Thériault was not to be satisfied with this decision, and a couple of hours later he took Jacques aside and suggested that they castrate Veer. Giguère didn’t like the idea, but Thériault called another vote anyway. Of a jury of ten, including Roch jr, only three voted against the new motion – Jacques Giguère, Maryse Grenier, and Gisèle. Everyone else was now strongly in favor.
Castration In The Family
Veer, who had stayed quiet through the whole evening, was obviously not keen to the idea, but Thériault actually talked him into it. He claimed it would cure Veer’s headaches, as well as the excessive masturbation that was “causing” Veer’s respiratory difficulties. Roch explained that in the hierarchy of the group, Veer was a slave, and that if he underwent the castration he would become a eunuch, which would be a step up. He asked Veer to write a letter of consent, and said that he wouldn’t make Veer sign it if he didn’t want to sign it. Veer signed it.
Thériault had Veer lie on the kitchen table as Gabrielle fetched the medical instruments: an elastic band, a razor blade, a magnifying glass, a pair of tweezers, and the ethanol. The operation itself was painless, and the testicles were discarded in a Kleenex; although Veer’s scrotum bled for a week, Gabrielle gave him a new salt-water compress every twenty minutes, and ensured he got plenty of iron in his diet.
Paul Veer Never Complained Of Another Headache
On the other hand, Roch Thériault felt that now Veer was a security risk, and enjoyed tormenting him, beating him, and playing games in which he would instruct his followers to pierce Veer through the chest with knives and bleed him to death, only to call them off, like God called off Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, at the very last minute.
But on November 5, Veer escaped to the village of Saint-Jogues, where he told the villagers that a baby had died after being kicked by a horse. The police raided the compound, arrested Thériault and Samuel’s parents and relocated the seven children to foster homes. They found the child’s remains, and the commune members told the story of Veer beating the child. They also found Veer’s letter of “consent” to the castration operation, and even the ballots that had been used for the vote. No one questioned by the police was at all upset or even embarrassed of what had happened, or of having involved a twelve-year-old boy in the decision process.
Charges Handed Down
After the coroner determined that the group was criminally responsible for the death of Samuel Giguère, the police made the following charges. Roch Thériault, Jacques Giguère, Maryse Grenier, Gabrielle Lavallée and Guy Veer were all charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm to Samuel Giguère. Claude Ouellette (who burned the body) was charged with obstruction of justice. Jacques and Maryse were charged with neglect towards their oldest daughter, now five, and Claude and Solange Boilard were similarly charged for their treatment of Simon Ouellette, now three. Thériault and Lavallée were also charged with bodily harm with intent to mutilate Guy Veer.
All of the accused pleaded not guilty. Jacques, Maryse, Claude, Solange, and Guy Veer were released on their own recognizance on the condition they not return to the cabin; Thériault and Lavallée were denied bail as they were held to be a danger to society.
At the end of the nine-month trial, during which the commune members moved to the town of New Carlisle, where the trial was held, all parties were found guilty of all charges. Maryse and Solange got three years probation. Jacques Giguère and Claude Ouellette received six months in prison and three years probation for child abandonment. Guy Veer was sentenced but later acquitted for mental incompetence and was returned to the hospital. Gabrielle Lavallée was sentenced to nine months in jail and three years probation.
The Sentence For Roch Theriault
Roch Thériault was sentenced to two years less a day in prison and three years probation, on each of two charges, to be served concurrently. He was transferred to the Orsainville Detention Centre in Québec City.
The members of the group distributed themselves between four apartments in Québec City, to be near their leader. The police razed their cabin on the Gaspé to the ground, and bulldozed the ashes. Roch Thériault began to assemble notes for a book (L’Affaire Moïse, published in Québec City in November of 1983). The whole thing seemed to be over. But that wasn’t the case.
Roch Thériault was released in February of 1984. His followers wanted to stay together in the city. But Moses had other ideas. They would go back into the bush and start all over again. This time on Lot 4, Concession 5, in Somerville Township, Burnt River near the town of Lindsay, in Victoria County, Ontario. He had stopped drinking, he told them all, and there wouldn’t be any more violence. After all, as God’s emissary they were obliged to follow him.
They Build Again
In May of 1984, Roch Thériault moved the band to their new home, and began the construction of a new cabin, as isolated as their old home had been. Thériault designed and assembled a rough sawmill from a chainsaw, a snowmobile engine, and some bicycle parts. He also designed a horse-drawn treadmill to mill water from a spring on a neighboring concession.
Roch (now calling himself “Rock,” the anglicization of his French name) commissioned an A-frame cabin, a two-storey house with a kitchen, a bakery, a maple sugar shack, a smokehouse, a root cellar, and a stone “sanctuary” or altar upon which he would commune with God. This was all built by his two male and nine female followers – four of whom were pregnant, and all of whom were also responsible for the commune’s ten children, ranging in age from one to fifteen. They worked through the summer in long pants and sweaters, to keep the mosquitoes away.
Roch Thériault Forms A New Order
Rock established a new hierarchy for the group, assigning each of his wives different responsibilities. The lowest of them all was Maryse Grenier. Thériault forbade Jacques and Maryse from sleeping together, and encouraged Jacques to beat her if she talked back to him or to Rock – even though she was pregnant. Rock also convinced Jacques that a birthmark she had looked like “666.” He eventually ordered her to live apart from everyone else in her own hut with her own two children, until Rock later accepted her eldest daughter into the main group.
Nobody who visited the compound from Somerville had any idea of the group’s strict and brutal organization; nor did they have any idea of the group’s past in Québec. The members of the commune were regarded as eccentric, but hard-working neighbours.
Victoria County, however, had different ideas about welfare than they had in Québec. The group was refused funding on the basis that the group constituted an institution, rather than a family. This only served as proof that the outside world was hostile to the group’s way of life, and reinforced their alienation and isolation. As far as Rock was concerned, if the rest of the world wouldn’t voluntarily give them what they needed, they would have to take it. He began ordering his wives to steal from the local grocers of the town of Lindsay: dairy products, vegetables, meat, canned goods, suet, pop, toilet paper, anything and everything they needed but could no longer afford to buy. They even made special jackets with huge inner pockets to facilitate their sprees of petty crime.
A Family Of Thieves
On January 31, 1985, a police officer caught Jacques Giguère shoplifting. Nearby, he tracked down Gabrielle, Claude, Nicole Ruel, and Roch jr (who had fifty feet of rope coiled around his waist). Between the five of them, they had lifted $453.37 in goods. Their sentence was to be banned from shopping in Linsday ever again.
So Rock encouraged his followers to hit up their parents. If the parents refused, it would only reinforce what he had always said about them. If they agreed, the group would have money to continue its way of living in isolation. In fact, Rock had so brainwashed his followers into thinking only negative thoughts about their parents that some of them begged him not to make them call. The typical response, of course, was that the girls could have money, but only if they left Rock. This, of course, was not to happen.
So the group began selling fruit, and later pastry. This proved to be a success, and Rock organized the group into a company. He called them the “Ant Hill Kids” because they worked together like a nest of ants. Though the members of Rock’s group still had to subsist on corn and potatoes, at least now they were making some money, and everything seemed to be going well.
And Then He Got Bored
But as Rock became less desperate to survive, he became increasingly bored. And as he became bored, he began to drink again. He stopped working, again using his aching guts as an excuse. He prescribed himself a case of beer for any pains. When he was drunk, he’d often go on at length about his treasures, which consisted of some worthless costume jewelry. The rest of the group was too terrified to do anything but feign interest.
He would also play the wives off against each other, manipulating their self-esteem to his whim. He would also organize no-holds-barred nude wrestling matches between the women, or he would put a man in the middle of a circle and tell the women to hit and kick him. Sometimes he would join in the matches, but then the rules changed; if you scored a hit on him, it would come out of your food rations.
Sometimes he would beat or whip his followers. Sometimes he would strike them with the broad side of an ax or with a hammer. They were forbidden to go to the hospital. Sometimes he would urinate on them, or force them to perform analingus on one another or smear themselves with each other’s feces. Once he slashed Jacque Giguére’s jugular with a broken wine glass. He also ordered Jacques to be circumcised, his whole glans removed.
God’s Cruel Justice
This all had a cathartic effect on his followers – he had punished them for their sins, and they were now purified as a result. And Rock would always weep the next day, after all the alcohol had left his system; he would beg God, his Master, to stop using him as a vehicle for God’s cruel justice.
On January 26, 1985, somewhere shortly after 9:00am, Gabrielle put her five-month-old baby, Rock’s son Eleazar, in a wheelbarrow. It was snowing, and the temperature was -10°C (14°F). By 10:45am, the baby was dead. Rock had hated the child, and said it bore the mark of the Devil; he had often beaten it. Gabrielle thought that this would be an act of mercy for the infant. The county coroner, Al Lackey, a friend of Roch Thériault, claimed that it had been sudden infant death syndrome. The county Children’s Aid Society began watching the commune like hawks.
A New Old-School Old Testament Messiah
After a year of having been forbidden to have relations with her pre-cult husband Jacques, Maryse Grenier, the only adult woman of the group Roch Thériault hadn’t taken as his own wife, was permitted to leave with two of her three surviving children – a two year old and an infant. The only condition: that her eldest daughter, the girl she had borne before her days with the cult and who was now nearing puberty, remain behind – destined to become the next of Rock’s wives. Maryse hot-footed it out of there, but after months of learning how to function in the real world after having spent eight years under Thériault’s rule, she decided that she would persue legal action to get custody of the remaining daughter.
Part of this legal action involved testifying on the conditions under which the children of the compound lived. This was all that was needed for the CAS to sweep in and take the kids to foster homes. In their new environments, however, they exhibited disturbing behaviour which indicated that they had been abused on the compound. As the children were asked about conditions in the commune, more and more horrifying details were revealed.
Rock seperated the children of the compound into two groups: his own, chosen children, who enjoyed a privileged position in the commune; and those who were not his own, particularly the children of Maryse Grenier as well as the young Simon Ouellette, all of whom were regarded as animals and slaves. Rock saw to the care of his own children; the mentally deficient Paul Veer had been taken on to look after Grenier’s bastards. Grenier’s children crawled like animals and were severely malnourished; adults and children alike were, for the most part, forbidden from speaking with them. Grenier said later that she actually would have preferred Paul Veer to look after her children, over Rock Thériault.
Although Rock considered his children to be the children of God and the next generation of his religious following, their situation was utterly wretched. Only Moïse was permitted to express any warmth whatsoever towards the children. Sometimes he would hold two women’s children over a fire and threatened to throw one of them in; he loved watching his wives beg for their own child to be spared.
He would also nail children to trees by their clothes, and tell the other children to stone them or knife them – only to call them off at the very last minute, again playing God to the children’s Abraham and Isaac. Some children had mouths full of rotting teeth; some would randomly scream, rock, chant, or bang on things. The children had chores around the commune such as hand-washing the adult women’s sanitary napkins. They were deprived of sleep, of food, and of hygiene.
No Formal Education
The children were also deprived of education – except Rock’s own brands of religious education and sex education. Thériault told the children that God lived underground (because flowers grew up from the ground). He also stressed that God sometimes demanded blood sacrifices – as when, in a secret ritual held just for the kids, a naked Thériault disemboweled a goat that one of his daughters had hand-raised and bathed himself in its blood, arising from a pit with much pomp.
Sex In The family
There were reports of chanting rituals and upside-down crosses. The children also were able to go into great detail about group sex rites which were held in the cabin and involved the whole “family.” Thériault and his teenage son, Roch Jr. also sexually molested and sometimes raped the children. Rock Sr. would sometimes have the children masturbate him, or watch as members of the group masturbated one another or themselves, believing this to be the proper method of sexual instruction.
But the court ordered an independent assessment, and that team, including Dr Rhéal Huneault and Dr Martine Miljkovitch, recommended that the children be returned to Burnt River immediately. In their 300-page report, they celebrated Thériault’s pioneering spirit and experimental attitude regarding sexual education. They accused the government of trying to persecute the group, trying to force them to disband by witholding welfare, a gross infraction of their rights as citizens.
The CAS also launched its own report, of which Thériault seemed to have intimate knowledge right from the start. Rock was sweet-talking everyone who came to assess his dominion.
The Children Become Wards of The Crown
But, in the end, on October 26, 1987, the court ruled that the children all be made wards of the Crown. There was to be no parental access, as the Court believed Thériault to be a manipulative despot who posed a significant risk of molestation and exploitation. The 83-page Court ruling also suggested that the testimonies of Huneault, Miljkovitch, and the sympathetic CAS agents, francophones all, were more the result of a cultural prejudice of sympathy for any French-speaking community in a predominantly English environment, than of objectivity or concern for the welfare of the children in the group.
But there still wasn’t enough evidence to press further criminal charges against Roch Thériault. Even Maryse Grenier wasn’t willing to testify against Rock.
Thériault began networking. He discovered the Mormon Fundamentalist movement, and this was how he met up with forensic psychiatrist and LDS branch president Dr Jess Groesbeck. In addition to dealing with cases of altered consciousness and dissociative disorders, he was drawn to shamanism, and with the history of polygamy. He and Thériault (polygamist and self-proclaimed healer) became good friends. Rock also hooked up with polygamist Alex Joseph of Big Water, Utah – though Joseph didn’t much like Rock’s attitude.
Charged With Obstruction of Justice
During this time, Rock was also charged with obstruction of justice that occurred in connection with an incident in which he and his followers were harassing the daughter of one of Rock’s children’s foster parents. He also assaulted one of his neighbours, a canoe-builder named Jean-Marc Martin, with whom Rock had had previous friendly dealings. He also got into some trouble with the police during his trip to Utah, which resulted in a $75 US fine and a pair of soiled trousers.
His home life wasn’t getting any better, either. It only took a few beers to get him going on about the Master of Life and Death, the Good and Bad Creator. One day, he became enraged at Claude Ouellette, for some reason no one remembers, and ordered him to walk around with an elastic band wrapped tightly around his scrotum. Claude kept it on overnight, which caused irreperable damage to his testicles. This in turn, of course, prompted Roch Thériault to operate. Roch used a razor blade to cut open Claude’s scrotum and plucked out an infected testicle with his fingers. Then he cauterized the wound with a hot piece of iron. After that, he held a vote to determine whether Claude should be stoned to death for offending God. When that motion was defeated, Rock took up an acetylene torch and threatened to open Claude’s stomach.
Run For The Woods
Claude managed to escape into the woods, where he stayed until Thériault was sober once again. In fact, retreating into the woods for a couple of days became a common tactic for Claude, Gabrielle, Gisèle and the others. Gisèle, in particular, would sometimes retreat to her father’s house for a few days, until Rock would call and convince her to come back to her “real” family. He would then treat her nicely for a few days, but invariably she would be punished for running away and bringing him dishonor.
One night in February, 1987, Rock threw a hunting knife at Gisèle, creating a wound three inches deep in her thigh which immediately began gushing blood. Thériault’s response was to go and get another beer and go to sleep. When he awoke two hours later, a clot had formed in Gisèle’s leg, which had swollen. Rock decided to operate, pressing the leg to cause the wound to re-open, probing it with a red-hot iron file, and pouring cup after cup of boiling water on the leg. A week later, the wound was infected, Rock decided to fill the wound with salt, olive oil, and spruce gum. After her leg healed a bit she tried to escape again, but a few days later she went back to Rock. She had to stay with her husband, after all; it was her role in God’s plan.
The Brutality Got Worse
Roch Thériault passed the acetylene torch over Josée’s back until the skin bubbled. He also passed it over Nicole’s tummy the day she gave birth for the first time. Roch hit Jacques in the head with a blunt ax and broke his ribs with a wooden club. He punched his first-born son, Roch Jr. in the face when he refused to wrestle his brother François. Roch beat Nicole, three months pregnant, causing her to miscarry. On another occasion, he shot a .303-calibre bullet through her shoulder. He broke Gisèle’s ribs with his steel-toed boots. Roch methodically sprained Claude’s toes.
Another time he used a piece of broken glass to slice Claude’s arm open. He pulled eleven of Claude’s teeth with a pair of pliers, when there was nothing wrong with Claude’s teeth. Roch had one of his wives break Claude’s legs with a sledgehammer. He squeezed Gabrielle’s and Gisèle’s nipples with vicegrips until they bled. He hog-tied Claude and suspended him from the ceiling for an hour. Roch ordered his wives to pluck Claude’s pubic hair bald. He poured boiling water on Claude and another time he made Claude sit down on a lit stove. Roch beat one of his horses to death with a chain and ordered Claude to burn the body.
Wickedness Grew Out Of Control
Roch made his followers eat excrement and dead mice. He punched Solange in the neck, knocking her out. Roch shot a .22 at Claude. He had Jacques pound Gabrielle’s thigh with a sledgehammer. Another time he squeezed Gabrielle’s hand in a vice. He whipped Gabrielle in the eye with his belt. Roch stuck a hypodermic needle in her back with an unknown concoction in it and twisted it so the tip broke off under her skin. He burned Gabrielle’s breast and genitals with the torch. He had Jaques cut off half of Gabrielle’s left baby finger with a pair of wire cutters. Roch broke Gabrielle’s fingers with a board. He made her cut a hole in the ice of a pond and jump in the freezing water. Roch threw a knife at Francine and at Marise. He broke Solange’s cheekbone when she was six months pregnant.
At one point, Gabrielle’s uterus prolapsed. After a hard day of working, the organ actually protruded three inches outside her vagina. Rock attempted to fix it himself, punching the uterus back inside Gabrielle’s body and fashioning a wooden cone and truss to plug everything up. Although Gabrielle fled to a women’s shelter, she returned to the compound instead of seeing a doctor. Rock’s next treatment was to tie a piece of string around the exposed portion of uterus and yank at it like a loose tooth. It was a whole year before Gabrielle would have the opportunity to get a partial hysterectomy at the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, when Rock was on his first trip to Utah.
They Always Held Roch Thériault Blameless.
In the fall of 1988, Solange had begun to feel ill. Thériault convinced her that there was something wrong with her liver and that there would have to be an operation. One afternoon, he got exceedingly drunk. He started strangling the women, asking if they knew that their breath belonged to him.
Then he decided to put on his jewelry. He then turned to Solange and said, “Rachel, are you ready? I’m going to treat you tonight.” Leading them to the bakery, he cleared off the table, and Solange undressed herself and lay down. Rock roughly tried to insert an enema tube into Solange’s rectum. The enema fluid was a mixture of molasses, oil, and water. He spent a half an hour trying to get this done and encouraged her not to be embarrassed about losing control of her bodily functions. He started pressing and punching Solange’s stomach. When she put her hands up to fend him off, Rock simply told her to move her hands and she did. Then he inserted a tube down her throat and told everyone else to blow and suck on the tube.
The Disembowelment Of Solange
Taking a knife, Rock made a five-inch vertical incision on Solange’s right side, below the ribs. Then he pulled out a strip of tissue, about four inches long and a quarter of an inch thick, and tore it off, telling her, “There. You’re going to be all right.” Then he had someone else sew her wound closed and Solange got up. Everyone went back to the cabin. Rock ordered a warm bath for her, filled with cherry. This made her feel worse. Then Rock gave her a cold bath. When she went back to her bed, blood started coming out of her mouth, and she died. The doctors later said that she had died of acute perionitis, an inflammation of the peritoneum caused by digestive fluids leaking into the abdominal cavity. It was fatal.
At first, Rock was distraught and tried killing himself in a number of ways. He tried to get Jacques Giguère to shoot him. Then he tried to overdose on Tylenol Extra Strength tablets, and finally he tried to drown himself.
But then, according to a letter Thériault wrote to the spirit of the deceased, “a strange force entered my arms and tore the bindings from me. I came out of the water yelling, ‘God doesn’t want me to die!'” After sending Jacques to fetch Gisèle from her parents’ house, he made a call to Dr Jess Groesbeck. Travelling to Utah on October 16, 1988,
The Guide of Roch Thériault
Thériault told Dr Groesbeck that Solange had died suddenly in the woods from a spontaneously-erupted vein in her esophagus. Dr Groesbeck reassured Thériault that there was nothing Rock could have done to save her, but Thériault informed Groesbeck that God had named Groesbeck as Thériault’s guide. Thériault explained that he had been having strange dreams in which Solange was inside Thériault’s body. Dreams in which Solange takes shape from Rock’s spilled semen. Thériault and Groesbeck convinced themselves that Solange was to be the first “reverse birth,” a spiritual rebirth through the belly of the male to parallel the carnal rebirth through the womb of the female. Rock became convinced that he was pregnant with his deceased wife, Solange.
Roch Thériault convinced Alex Joseph to perform a postmortem marriage by proxy for himself and Solange, to make “official” what he had only recognized for himself. That being the marriage between “Moïse” and “Rachel”. Joseph even threw in an ordination for Thériault, which named Roch Thériault as king over Lot 4, Concession 5.
Roch Returns To His Kingdom
Roch returned to Ontario and, after a couple of days, ordered Claude to exhume Solange’s body. He had Gabrielle open Solange’s body and pour vinegar on her internal organs, to keep worms away. Then they buried her again. But a few days later, he had them dig her up again.Her body was beginning to decay, but Thériault had big plans. He got Jacques to make a hole in Solange’s skull with a hand drill.
Then he masturbated into the hole, spilling his seed onto Solange’s rotting brain, convinced he would be able to resuscitate her.
Gisèle told Thériault that Solange’s wish had been to be cremated, and Rock agreed to have the group burn Solange’s body. Before the cremation, he had Gabrielle remove one of Solange’s ribs, which Rock kept in a leather wrapping to carry around with him. After the cremation, everyone took some of the bones to keep. Rock collected some fragments and put them in a jar with olive oil as a preservative. He would regularly masturbate into the jar, in his “sanctuary” and in his bedroom, in an attempt to bring Solange back to life through reverse birth.
Thériault would make another visit to Utah, this time to entrust his next baby, by Francine, to Joseph’s care, so that it couldn’t be taken by CAS. But during that visit, Joseph and Thériault had an argument, apparently over the way Thériault treated his wives. Joseph successfully stood up to Rock, and this made an impression on Rock’s wives. Someone had stood up to Moïse and triumphed. Roch Thériault was not all-powerful.
Roch Has To Maintain Control
This, however, only motivated Rock to be ever more despotic in order to keep control of his family. This wasn’t entirely successful. Josée Pelletier left Rock for good in the winter of ’88-’89. However, Rock did succeed in concealing the birth of two more children, as well as hiding all knowledge of Solange’s death from her family and from the police.
July 26, 1989, Rock became drunk. This was not unusual, and Gisèle, Claude, Francine, and Marise all managed to sneak away into the bush to hide.
Gabrielle, however, did not. Thériault remembered that Gabrielle had a stiff pinky finger (the one that he hadn’t already cut off with the wire cutters), and told her to put her hand on the kitchen table. Instead of looking at the finger, however, he stabbed her hand with a hunting knife, pinning her to the table. Blood began to pour out of the hand, but Rock just went to get another beer. Gabrielle forced herself to remain conscious, and after forty-five minutes, Rock came back over to see that Gabrielle’s whole arm had turned blue.
The Amputation Of Gabrielle’s Arm
“It’s not looking so good, is it?” he said, fetching a carpet knife. Roch began whittling her arm away halfway between the elbow and the shoulder. He whittled it all the way to the bone. Too drunk to finish, he called Chantal over to finish the job. She cleared away a narrow band of exposed bone that went all the way around Gabrielle’s arm. Then, Rock dislodged the hunting knife which was pinning Gabrielle’s arm to the table, and took her over to a stump that was sticking out of the kitchen floor. Taking a dull meat cleaver, Thériault swung at the exposed bone. His first swing missed. His second swing amputated Gabrielle Lavallée’s arm completely off.
Gabrielle hadn’t cried out the whole time. The next day, she went to a women’s shelter, but returned to the compound on prompting from Jacques. A couple of days later, Thériault decided that Gabrielle’s stump was gangrenous. He used a pair of scissors to cut out the infection. He also cut a chunk from her breast. Then whacked her on the head with the side of an ax. She fled into the bush.
When she came to her senses, two days later, she found that insects had laid eggs in her head wound. She returned to the cabin, only to find Thériault still drunk and itching to operate. Jacques used the acetylene torch to cut a piece off the drive shaft of one of the old junk cars they had in the yard. Rock heated this metal until it was red-hot and pressed it against Gabrielle’s stump. He was so drunk he kept dropping it on Gabrielle’s body before he finally finished.
On August 16, 1989, she made it to a hospital, and concocted some story to explain the missing arm. But the police were called, and the constable filed a charge of aggravated assault against Roch Thériault. But when the police arrived on August 19 with a warrant for Rock’s arrest, the compound was deserted. Rock Thériault, Jacques Giguère, Chantal Labrie, and Nicole Ruel, together with the two youngest babies, had fled to Québec. The others had gone home to their families, Rock’s spell finally broken.
It took the police six weeks to find Thériault. And it was not until October 6, 1989 that Gisèle decided to tell anyone about Solange’s death – unbeknownst to Gisèle, the very day Rock was apprehended by the police at last. Everyone pleaded guilty to all charges laid against them relating to Gabrielle’s amputation. Rock netted twelve years (later reduced to ten years because of Rock’s “genuine remorse and concern for the victim” – in the words of the court), Jacques five years, Chantal two years less one day, and Nicole eighteen months.
The police also pressed charges against Rock for first degree murder, but when the Court found there was insufficient evidence that the murder had been premeditated, Thériault was committed to a trial for second degree murder. Rock’s lawyers made a deal that Rock would plead guilty to this charge if no further charges were brought against him.
Sentenced To Life
On January 18, 1993, Rock Thériault was sentenced to life in prison. He was eligible for parole in 1999. Francine, Chantal, and Nicole – Hogla, Ruth, and Debora respectively – remain loyal to Rock. The others have tried to adapt to a new life without him. His many children (over twenty) are distributed among foster homes across the continent. That would include the 12-year-old boy who lives in Utah with Alex Joseph.
Even while in prison, three of his wives continued conjugal visits. Two of the three bore him more children. And the prison staff always spoke very highly of the charismatic Roch Thériault.
credit – murderpedia