Author Topic: Claire Gagnon | 16 | Homicide | Dieppe NB | May 24, 1970  (Read 4161 times)

Concerned

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Claire Gagnon | 16 | Homicide | Dieppe NB | May 24, 1970
« on: March 18, 2012, 07:28:26 AM »
I'm surprised we didn't have anything on file for this case. A 16 year old girl murdered in the 70's.

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Gagnon, Claire - Homicide

On May 24, 1970, 16-year-old Claire Gagnon of Gould Street in Dieppe N.B. did not return home for Sunday dinner at 5 p.m. This was out of the ordinary for the teenager and concerned her parents. The last confirmed sighting of Claire Gagnon was sometime between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. that same day. On May 25, 1970, some 24 hours later, her body was discovered not far from her home. Follow up investigation confirmed Claire Gagnon was the victim of a homicide. Over the 40 years since her death, there have been numerous leads and investigators assigned to the file, however, to this date the person or persons responsible for her death have yet to be identified.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Codiac Regional RCMP, Major Crime Section at (506) 857-2403 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477).
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/nb/prog_services/unsolved_crimes-crimes_non_resolus/index-eng.htm

GSAR_Mbr

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Re: Claire Gagnon | 16 | Homicide | Dieppe NB | May 24, 1970
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2017, 12:30:46 PM »
Conducting research produced this news article published in the The Times - Transcript; Moncton January 29th 2000

Gagnon case left police baffled It's been 30 years since polite Dieppe teenager was strangled

By all accounts, 16-year-old Claire Gagnon was a polite, quiet, average teenager.

A good student and a good child, she was the daughter of Emilien and Mathilde Gagnon, who lived in Dieppe with Claire and their other six children at 255 Gould St.

Like many area residents in 1970, Emilien worked for Canadian National Railways, one of the largest employers in the region. He was a carman, and by that year he had been employed with CNR for 27 years.

And it was Emilien who made the call on the night of Sunday, May 24, 1970 to report to police that Claire was missing.

It was a call that would begin a massive investigation by police. Because the next day, Claire's body would be found laying in a growth of brush and trees in a field just a few houses -- some 500 feet -- away from her own. Around her were trees and ragged grass; a chicken wire fence badly in need of mending.

There was no doubt she had been murdered, strangled. She was found laying on her back, her face covered with a cloth. Neither her arms nor her legs were bound.

Her left shoe was off her foot; it lay nearby. Also found nearby was an electrical cord.

Claire was 5-foot, two inches tall, weighed 95 pounds, had a slim build and good teeth. She was wearing grey slacks with a white stripe, a brown suede jacket and white sneakers -- clothing suitable for a late May day with seasonal temperatures and north-northwest winds gusting to 48 km/h (30 mph).

Yet despite the investigation that followed, despite a coroner's inquest two years later, despite every effort by authorities, Claire Gagnon's killer has never been found in the 30 years that have elapsed since that fateful day.

Perhaps most baffling is the apparent lack of motive. For Claire Gagnon had not been sexually molested. Her body was fully clothed when discovered.

So why would someone strangle a 16-year-old girl? And why Claire, who as everyone would later attest was the kind of girl who did not have an enemy in the world.

After 30 years, the answers to those questions remain unknown. But what is known is that the last confirmed sighting of Claire came at about 2 p.m. that Sunday. She had been to visit a friend of hers, 16-year-old Helen Leger. She had dropped off a school book at Helen's house, located not far from her own, at 225 Gould St. Helen and Claire were classmates in Grade 7 at nearby St. Theresa School.

It was at about 2 p.m. that Helen asked Claire if she wanted to come for a drive with herself and her boyfriend, Paul Belliveau. Claire declined the offer and the two said their good-byes before Claire left Helen's house.

Although there were reports of people having seen her shortly after, confusion still surrounds those reports and it is quite possible that aside from her killer, Helen was the last person to see her alive.

It was at about 10 p.m. that Const. Raymond Gallant of the Dieppe Police Force received the call from Claire's father, Emilien. He would write in his report that Emilien related how his daughter had failed to make it home for supper, and by 10:30 p.m. the family had exhausted every possible avenue in tracking her down. They had telephoned her friends, asked around the neighborhood, but could find no trace of her.

Emilien also told Gallant that it was unlike his daughter to fail to show up for supper. It was a house rule that everyone be there unless they had previously obtained permission to be absent. Claire had never been late before.

"It was the first time she ever did not show up for supper," her father would relate later at the inquest.

A missing person's report was filed, but it is unclear even to this day whether an exhaustive ground search of the area was undertaken at that time. There would be no need for such a search by the next evening, because at about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 25, 1970 a neighbour's boy -- eight-year-old Jackie Thibodeau, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Thibodeau of 224 Gould St. -- discovered her body.

"I found some birds' eggs in a tree and went looking for others," he told police. "Then I saw her.

"She was lying on her back," he said. "I lifted the cloth off her face and saw that it was Claire."

Claire had babysat Jackie and his siblings on numerous occasions. He immediately ran to tell what he had found.

It had been 30 hours since Claire had last been seen.

Police began questioning anyone and everyone who might have seen Claire, in hopes of determining her movements and how she came to end up as she did. There were no eyewitnesses to any suspicious activities. There was little to indicate whether Claire had headed straight home from Helen's or not because those who were at Helen's house when she left did not even see which way she walked when she departed.

In the meantime, an autopsy was performed at 11:45 a.m. on May 26 at The Moncton Hospital morgue. The report filed by pathologist A. Bastarache indicated the cause of death, later confirmed by the findings of a coroner's inquest, was strangulation and/or asphyxiation. There were large bruises on her neck.

She had been dead for more than 24 hours when she was discovered, indicating she had died within the five or six hours after she was last seen by Helen.

The investigation continued and police announced they had detained four suspects for questioning in the case -- but all four, between the ages of 16 and 20, were released. Dieppe Police Chief Bliss Noiles said samples of Claire's blood and clothing, and other evidence seized at the scene, had been sent for analysis at the Sackville Crime laboratory. Even that effort, however, failed to pay off with any concrete leads.

Later that same week funeral mass was celebrated for Claire Gagnon at St. Theresa's Church, attracting 1,200 mourners. Rev. Yvon Barrieau conducted the mass, telling those assembled that Claire had set an example for young and old alike "for life is not what we see or make it but in serving others."

She was interred in Our Lady of Calvary Cemetery.

That was Thursday, May 28. There were still no leads; no trace of how, or by whose hands, Claire Gagnon had met her death.

Although scaled down and mired in failure, the investigation never ended. In fact, a spark of hope was ignited six months later, in January 1971. It came in the form of reports that the investigation had uncovered sightings of Claire on the day she died. But the reports led to more questions rather than answers.

Residents -- including Claire's hockey coach, Arnold Cormier and her next-door neighbor, Dismas Brun -- reported they believed they had seen Claire in the company of another girl at the corner of Notre Dame and Champlain streets, not far from where she lived. That fuelled speculation she may have been headed for Lakeburn to see her boyfriend.

A third person, 13-year-old Claudette Richard, said she drove by the pair of girls on Champlain Street around the same time and that Claire had smiled at her.

Police made a massive effort to find the girl who might have been with Claire that day. They released a sketch matching the descriptions given by eyewitnesses.

Three people called police to say they knew of a girl matching the description. But in each case, the lead proved to be false. The question of who the girl might be remained unanswered -- and does to this day. Eventually police began to suspect the girl either did not exist or that if there was such a girl seen walking along Champlain Street, she was in the company of someone other than Claire Gagnon.

The investigation also revealed that Claire had never been in Lakeburn that day. If she had been headed there, she never made it.

Public attention on the Gagnon case faded. But it was to be revived yet again in June 1972, a full two years after Claire's death, when a coroner's inquest heard testimony from 13 witnesses -- pathologists, family members, neighbors and friends. It was seen as a last-ditch effort to determine what had happened, and possibly bring fresh leads.

The inquest, presided over by James R. Wolfe, lasted two days. It came, however, to few conclusions. At its end the five-member jury ruled that Claire had died by "strangulation, asphyxiation, or a combination of both." The members signed a declaration that "We feel strongly that foul play is involved. Note: cloth and rope."

The declaration further stated that "We feel that more evidence could and should be sought relating to Claire Gagnon's death."

Although police continued to work at the case, it faded again from public view for years. Little was heard of the case in the ensuing decades, in fact.

Until October 4, 1993.

It was on that date that police arrested and charged Roger Romeo Melanson, 56, of Melanson Settlement Road, with the murder of Claire Gagnon.

Melanson wasn't unknown to police. Twenty years earlier, on Oct. 10, 1974 he was charged with the murder of 54-year-old William John Moulaison of Melanson Settlement, who had been shot to death just days before. Melanson was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment and was later found not guilty of manslaughter by reason of insanity. He was interred as a patient at a psychiatric facility.

In 1990 he was ruled to be "cured" and released.

When he was charged with Claire's murder in October 1993, it was quickly learned that Melanson, a patient at a Campbellton psychiatric facility, had confessed to the murder and residents everywhere breathed a sigh of relief that the case had finally been closed. But it was not to last. It soon became apparent that evidence uncovered after Melanson's apparent confession showed he could not have been the murderer. He was, in fact, locked up at the time the murder had occurred -- an involuntary patient at Centracare in Saint John.

Records obtained by Melanson's lawyer showed he had been given medication at 7 a.m. and again at 8 p.m. on May 24, 1970 -- the day of Claire's death -- as well as the day before and the day after.

The charges against Melanson were allowed to expire.

This coming May will mark 30 years since the murder in Dieppe. Claire's father has reportedly died, although her mother is said to still be living and it is believed there are still family members in this area.

As for the killer, there is little more known now than the day the murder occurred. Police say, however, that a fresh review of this case -- and several others -- will apply advanced technology that was not available at the time. The mystery of Claire's death may yet be solved, says Const. Gary Clements of the Codiac Regional RCMP, the man assigned to oversee a review of the area's "cold cases."

"All these files are open until we come to a resolution," he says.

Residents with knowledge of this or any other crime can provide information to the Codiac Regional RCMP by calling 857-2490, or calling Crime Stoppers at 1- 800-222-8477.

GSAR_Mbr