Retired judge recalls encounter with cult leader

ALAN R. CAPON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:08 PM ET

PICTON, Ont. - News of the death of convicted cult leader and murderer Roch "Moses" Theriault at a New Brunswick prison reminded retired local Judge George Inrig of the time the infamous cult leader appeared before him in a Lindsay court.

Theriault, 63, who was recently found dead in his cell at Dorchester Penitentiary, led a notorious religious sect in Quebec and Ontario during the 1980s. Known as Theriault, he physically abused his followers and, in 1988, disembowelled his wife Solange Boilard during a cult ritual. He was sentenced to life in prison for her murder in 1993.

Inrig, now retired and living in Picton, recalled there was a commune consisting of two or three men and several women who had come from the Gaspe region of Quebec to the Kinmount area of Victoria County, south of Haliburton. Some members of the commune had appeared before him for shoplifting. They had sewn winter coats with several pockets on the inside and Theriault would send them out with a shopping list of things to steal.

When one of the women in the commune, Gabrielle Lavalee, injured her arm, Theriault decided to amputate it. Without any anesthetic, she was held down and her arm was removed by a jack-knife and a saw. Police learned of this some months later, Inrig said, and Theriault was charged.

He appeared in court and stated that he wanted to plead guilty to the charge. He refused counsel and said in court, "If she says I did it, then I did it." Inrig explained to him that he should have a lawyer represent him on the matter of sentencing. He was adamant that he was going to plead guilty and wanted to be sentenced that day.

"Again, I tried to encourage him to have legal representation," Inrig said, but he refused. Theriault was sentenced to 12 years in the penitentiary and three years concurrent for his attempt to cauterize Lavallee's wound using a steel rod heated with a blowtorch.

"The following day, in the Toronto Star, there was an editorial stating that in Victoria County they knew how to expedite matters," said Inrig.

A week later, a Toronto lawyer wrote to the Star suggesting things had moved too quickly and the matter should have been adjourned until Theriault could hire a lawyer. The lawyer stated that he had represented Theriault on previous matters.

"Obviously, Theriault was not impressed with this fellow as a lawyer or he would have retained him. I gave him lots of opportunity to obtain a remand of the matter until he could retain counsel."

Inrig said he next heard of Theriault last Sunday when the RCMP said  his body had been found in his cell. Another inmate has been charged with his murder.

According to news reports from 1988, Theriault called his mob of followers the "Ant Hill Kids" and the Kinmount-area commune included eight "wives," one of whom was Lavalee and another Boilard, whom Theriault killed by partially disembowelling her. He later buried her corpse on the commune property.

Only after his arrest on four assault charges involving Lavallee did another cult member step forward and tell police about Boilard's death -- which had remained secret for more than a year.

As Theriault stood before Inrig -- and perhaps explaining why he was anxious to have the assault matter dealt with quickly to skirt the issue of murder -- no one outside the Ant Hill Kids knew that Theriault had brutally murdered Boilard in a bizarre "healing" ritual in which she was partially gutted.

The cult leader is dead after being brutally beaten at Dorchester last weekend, but his legacy is a long one as he fathered more than two dozen children with members of his female flock. Some of his former "wives" had even set up a bakery near Millhaven several years ago, to be near their cult master.

Theriault even fathered at least one child while incarcerated at Millhaven: one of the bake shop followers gave birth to a baby conceived with Theriault in a conjugal visit trailer on the Millhaven grounds. Theriault was transferred from Millhaven to Dorchester more than a decade ago at his own request, it was said, to get away from "the anglo media."

-with files from the Belleville Intelligencer


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