Patricia Pearson, National Post
August 10, 2002
When 19-year-old Theresa Allore went missing from school and then turned up dead on a lonely country road, Quebec police led her family to believe she had died of a drug overdose. Now, 23 years later, her brother John Allore and National Post reporter Patricia Pearson have spent five months investigating Theresa's disappearance. In a three-part series beginning today, Pearson uncovers the story of Theresa's death, which was almost certainly a murder by a serial killer who may still be at large.
We tend to think of unsolved mysteries as a parlour game. But that isn't the case for everyone. For some, like John Allore, treasury manager of the city of Durham, N.C., the mystery he cannot solve is the one that keeps his heart from mending.
Twenty-three years after his sister was found face-down in a creek in Quebec's Eastern Townships, dumped there like garbage by strangers who have never been caught, he cannot unearth the secret of her death. Somebody, somewhere, knows what happened to Theresa Allore, a bright 19-year-old Cégep student who was attending Champlain Regional College in Lennoxville. And that somebody should not own a secret like that, what a girl's last words were, whether she was frightened, or in pain. That is a secret that belongs to the people who love her, and they are the ones who don't know.
When you have lived with an unanswerable and shattering question since the age of 14, as Allore has, there are several tactics you can take. You can stay close to the scene of the crime, as John's brother, Andre, has, living in Montreal, following the French-language papers for any hint that might surface, requestioning the original investigators.
You can gently close the book because you know the answer will not bring your sweet child back, which is what his parents have done.
Or you can run. John Allore opted to put distance, even a national border, between himself and the past. He moved to New York, then to Houston, on to Los Angeles, and finally to Chapel Hill, N.C., marrying a U.S. woman who had never heard of Lennoxville, Que., and had never seen the look on his father's face when he identified Theresa's remains.
But life has a way of catching up with you, and it caught up with Allore in a manner so stark that it bordered on the comical. He had taken a job as treasury manager of the city of Durham; he and his wife, Elisabeth, had two daughters, and felt settled enough to buy their first house, a "fixer-upper" on a pretty wooded lane. One day, less than two months after they moved in, the State Bureau of Investigation, county sheriff and two forensic teams arrived on their doorstep with sniffer dogs. They were looking for the body of a local woman named Deborah Key, who they suspected had been killed in the house by the previous owner.
The Allores watched as the police dismantled their septic tank searching for body parts, while the hounds bounded around the property. One dog finally picked up a scent in the crawl space under the house. It was a trace of the woman, enough to excite the dog, who started pacing and scratching in the rich Carolina clay. Investigators wormed their way underneath the floors and began digging. They got about half a metre down before they realized she had been there, dragged there dead by her captor after vanishing from downtown Chapel Hill, but she must have since been moved. All that remained was her ghost.
"Well, that's just bloody great," John said mordantly to Elisabeth. The house was now as haunted as its owner.
Over the ensuing months, as the investigators doggedly kept up their search for Deborah Key, even bringing over a psychic with her preposterous, only-in-America television crew in tow, John began to feel called to action.
What the police were doing for Deborah Key, he realized, he had never done for his sister. His brother, Andre, had tried, and all but given up. Nobody else, ever, was going to investigate the crime that was her death. He had to try.
In March, 2001, John called me in Toronto. We had been in touch off and on since university, having been high school sweethearts and then wary friends. I had last seen him in Los Angeles in 1995; I was researching a serial homicide case for a book I was writing, and I enlisted his help. We drove around Van Nuys while I checked the apartments and bars where a woman named Carole Bundy and her boyfriend Doug Clark had abducted and murdered several women. Fate does love irony.
Now it was his turn to call upon me for assistance. "What do you remember about what happened to my sister?" he ventured.
I cast my mind back to the autumn of 1979, when I had arrived at boarding school in Rothesay, N.B., and met John for the first time. His family had moved to New Brunswick from Montreal in the summer of '78, leaving Theresa and her brother Andre behind to finish the Quebec version of Grades 12 and 13 at the Cégep in Lennoxville.
I recall being told Theresa had gone missing from her campus, and been found six months later enmeshed in the thawing ice of a creek beside a corn field, stripped down to her bra and panties.
The following autumn, I ventured into the realm of a ruined family with the typical insouciance of a 15-year-old. I still feel ashamed about that, all these years later, how I noticed the silences in the house but didn't really understand them. I remember pictures of Theresa, with her curly auburn hair and dark, amused eyes. Her personality -- intelligent, independent, witty -- shone through the images. I remember sleeping in her bedroom when I received "weekend leave" from school, and noticing her hiking boots lined up neatly by the closet door.
I remember John telling me her story: how the investigators advised the Allores that their daughter, a fearless girl who rock-climbed and sky-dived, had possibly overdosed on drugs, and been taken from her dorm to the creek by panicked friends. There was talk of her choking on vomit, or perhaps having an allergic reaction. Two months after her body was found, the Sûreté du Québec mailed her personal effects -- her wallet, her watch and earrings -- to the family. Apparently, as far as the Sûreté was concerned, she had been pulled under by the riptide of '70s party culture.
"Sooner or later, someone will talk," investigators assured them.
But for 23 years, no one had said a word.
From North Carolina, John asked me if I could write an article, to somehow encourage those kids -- those well-heeled, middle-class Canadian kids who had dumped their friend's corpse -- to break a conspiracy of silence they had apparently observed since 1978, and come forward with an account of Theresa's last night.
I thought about this, but from a different perspective than I would have had at the age of 15, when everything grown-ups said was true.
"I don't buy the theory, John. It doesn't make sense to me," I ventured. "Why would they take off her clothes?" He didn't know. In 1997, his brother, Andre, had contacted several of Theresa's friends in search of the truth, and none had been able to help him.
Questions spun around in my mind, as they had in both Andre's and John's: "Why heave her body into a creek, when it wasn't their fault that she died? I can see them trying to distance themselves from her death, but why hide her? Why not take her to the hospital and leave her on the lawn, or at least leave her on the lawn of the residence where she lived?"
"Her wallet was found several miles away from her body," he offered, following my train of thought.
"So, they stripped her of clothes and ID?" They took a friend who had overdosed on drugs and coolly, systematically turned her into a Jane Doe.
John had been assembling a file of miscellaneous notes and official documents, including climate reports from Environment Canada for November, 1978. He sent me photocopies. When the package arrived, I sat down at my dining room table with a cup of coffee.
I looked at the report from the coroner in Montreal. The autopsy was maddeningly inconclusive: "violent death of undetermined nature," the coroner had been obliged to conclude. With the body in a state of advanced decomposition, the pathologist could rule out bludgeoning, stabbing, shooting and organic disease. Not much else. It wasn't possible to determine whether she had been raped. The results of a toxicology work-up on Theresa's body were negative: no evidence of either prescription or illicit drugs had been found in her liver, lungs or other tissues.
Why was the hypothesis a drug overdose? What was the evidence? I sat back in my chair, musing. The investigators had not closed the case of Theresa Allore, so much as they had left the grieving family in New Brunswick with a hypothesis that effectively shamed them.
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John Allore and I met up in Sherbrooke, Que., in March, 2002. Our plan was to review Theresa's police file -- stored away and gathering dust in the Sherbrooke police office.
I was expecting John to be a nervous wreck, but he was quite the opposite. He is a tall man, slender, highly energetic. He had been running around Sherbrooke all day without a coat in spite of the cold, wearing only a light-blue cotton sweater. There was even a jauntiness about him, as if he felt huge relief that he was finally confronting his demons. His hotel room was littered with papers, news clippings, notebooks, the lights of his lap-top winking beside the coffee machine.
He had a surprise for me. "I was just over at Champlain College talking to Gerald Cutting," he said, referring to the director of the Cégep, who had been the newly appointed director of student services in the autumn of Theresa's disappearance. "Cutting told me that the Sûreté thought way back in '79 that Theresa was murdered."
My jaw dropped. It seemed inconceivable that the Sûreté's chief investigator, Roch Gaudreault, could have left the Allore family with the impression that their daughter's death was a mishap, when he himself was chasing suspects and talking to Cutting --with whom the investigator had gone to high school -- about his theories of foul play. Why was the family not informed?
Fourteen years after his sister died, Andre Allore had tracked the retired Gaudreault down for a brief and fruitless phone conversation. Gaudreault reiterated the drug overdose theory, but otherwise had nothing to say. "I got the impression," Andre wrote in his notebook, "that Gaudreault couldn't understand why this was still bothering me."
When I arrived in Sherbrooke, John had already been to the office of the Sûreté du Québec. Corporal Robert Theoret, a handsome, curly-haired man who didn't miss a trick, was cordial and watchful as John pored over sections of Theresa's crime file for seven hours. Theoret had removed from the file -- as we later determined -- the listing of evidence, photographs of the crime scene, certain witness statements, Gaudreault's final report, and all notations about suspects, which remain confidential under Canada's privacy laws.
When he had first written to them from Chapel Hill in early summer, 2001, the Sûreté had offered John broader access to the file, but by March, 2002, they were restricting what he could see. Perhaps they were feeling defensive, or maybe this was standard protocol. They certainly weren't worried about compromising their investigation. John asked Theoret if he would investigate, given the revelation from Cutting that his sister was probably murdered. As he recalls, Theoret was smooth and affable but evinced little interest, pointing out that he was short-staffed. "I have lots of cases," he said. "Why should I investigate this case?"
All right, John said. "I want to investigate it myself, then. What was Roch Gaudreault's final conclusion?"
That information is privileged, Corporal Theoret replied.
OK. What about forensic evidence? Where were Theresa's bra and underwear, which we could perhaps test for DNA?
"We threw them out," Theoret said. (Other detectives we spoke to could offer no reasonable explanation for disposing of evidence in an unsolved crime.)
"Do you have Gaudreault's number?" John persisted, in a subsequent phone call to Theoret. He wanted to question the retired investigator.
"He doesn't want to talk to you," Theoret replied, as if Allore were a pesky reporter from the National Enquirer.
"The Sûreté don't like to be challenged," a law-enforcement source later explained. And challenged they were. John retained a lawyer and filed a Freedom of Information Request. The response sluggishly wended its way back from provincial officials: He could see his brother Andre's statement from November, 1978. That was all.
To say that John Allore felt stymied is an understatement. Who owns the secrets to a young woman's death? The cops and the robbers, apparently.
Nosy family members: Butt out.
We had a quandary. The Sûreté was disinclined to investigate Theresa's death, but wouldn't divulge their findings from 23 years ago. Without access to key parts of her file, John didn't know where to begin. He was just a guy -- an accountant -- who lived hundreds of miles away. I was a former crime journalist. We both had small children, jobs, lives...
We sat in the hotel bar that night with John's brother, Andre, and decided to pool our resources: Andre's prior investigation and the meticulous notes that he had kept, my crime journalism background, John's talent for incisive analysis. "We can do this," we told each other.
That weekend visit to Sherbrooke marked the beginning of a five-month investigation of murder.
The next morning, John and I climbed into a rental car and drove from Sherbrooke southeast to Lennoxville, a 15-minute run down Rue Belvidere and over to Highway 143, which we would later discover was a critical piece of the puzzle.
Lennoxville is a pretty town in the riding of Jean Charest, filled with gabled, clapboard houses and mom-and-pop shops. Champlain College sits at its outskirts beside the older and much statelier Bishop's University, from which it rents some facilities. Amidst the hills of the Eastern Townships and the lush surrounding farmland, the Cégep -- which was founded in 1967 -- would have been a lovely place to attend one's final years of high school.
Unless, like Theresa Allore, one happened to arrive in late August of 1978. Over the previous decade, Champlain College's enrolment had risen to over 1,000 students. Officials faced a housing crisis. Plans were underway to build another dormitory, but in the meantime, as a stop-gap measure, two buildings had been hastily leased in the tiny farming village of Compton, 20 kilometres from the school.
The distance of the dorms had already sparked controversy among the students, as John and I learned by reading Champlain's student newspaper from that period, The Touchstone. Students were complaining about the shuttle buses that had been provided as their only means of transportation to and from the dorms. If they missed the bus from Lennoxville, they were obliged to either pay for a 20-km taxi ride, or hitchhike. The student handbook provided a brief list of hitchhiking dos and don'ts.
We drove south down Highway 143 and then headed eastward to Compton down 147, a two-lane black-top that even now is an unlit, rural byway winding its way through hill and dale into the middle of nowhere. It must have felt daunting for teenagers living away from home for the first time. In February, 1978, the winter before Theresa arrived, The Touchstone reported that a Champlain student had been the victim of an attempted rape. Several other assaults were reported that semester. Students were uneasy. Female students said they were afraid to walk alone, and scared to hitchhike. "Will someone have to get raped," one girl wrote, "before the police stop shrugging off the problem?"
The new residence being built closer to campus fell behind schedule, however, and Champlain staff announced in the spring of 1978 that they would have to "run Compton again." Editors at The Touchstone were aghast. "I was enraged," one wrote, "by the smug way in which the fates of two hundred more new students were so easily dispatched."
Over half of the students quartered in Compton were under the age of 18. They had two staff members on site, a 25-year-old named Jeanne Eddisford, and a former elementary school principal named Stuart Peacock. Both slept in King's Hall, a rambling Victorian mansion that had once served as a girl's boarding school. Neither inhabited Gillard House, the squat, co-ed brick dormitory next door. No one conducted room checks. The students were encouraged to make their own meals and to be as independent as possible.
It was an optimistic experiment in free living, but what it meant, in essence, was that 240 high school students were living in an isolated, poorly lit area without adequate transportation or effective supervision. "There is definitely something wrong at Compton," The Touchstone editorialized. "Stuart Peacock is very seldom seen at Gillard House, of which he is the newly appointed director."
The result was wholly predictable. "For most boys and girls, it's their first time away from home," one Compton resident told The Touchstone. "There are no restrictions, no curfews, and especially no parents. They go wild."
Co-ed parties featuring beer, pot and LSD were common enough that the night watchman for the Compton dorms grew fed up. After confronting Peacock about "the drug problem," to no avail, he quit in disgust, according to a statement he later gave to the Sûreté du Québec. Two school officials, Doug MacAuley, director of student services, and Joe Gallagher, assistant director of student services and counselling, abruptly resigned from Champlain around this time. Gallagher said only that his position had become "structurally unsound," making it impossible for him to "accomplish his goals." Gallagher further told The Touchstone he hoped the problems he saw on the campus would be solved, and that those in the position to act upon them knew what they were.
Were they related to the Compton residence, which seemed in danger of spinning out of control?
John and I stood in the foyer of King's Hall, the Victorian mansion in which Peacock and Eddisford slept, and where my mother once resided as a boarding-school student in the 1940s. It was now an inn, with guests scurrying back and forth past the oak reception desk as we looked around, out of place and out of time, contemplating the carpeted staircase where Theresa Allore was last seen.
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Friday, Nov. 3, 1978, was gloriously mild for late autumn in the Eastern Townships. Theresa left her room on the second floor of Gillard House early that morning and walked across the lawn in a long, beige sweater-coat, wearing a diminutive pair of Chinese slippers, no socks and a flowing green scarf that her mother had given her for her 19th birthday.
She joined her girlfriends, Jo-Anne Laurie and Caroline Greenwood, in the pretty dining room at King's Hall, where sun streamed through the French doors. She made herself toast, perhaps, or scrambled eggs. They chatted about their weekend plans, and then the three girls boarded their shuttle bus and parted ways on the main campus to attend their Friday classes.
Theresa was an excellent student, curious, creative and sharp, pulling down straight-As in art as well as physics. She was not much inclined to "go wild," according to her friends, because she had already lived away from home for a year, working in a ski factory while she shared an apartment with girlfriends in Pointe Claire, Que. She was happy to be re-engaging her quick mind. She paid little attention to campus parties, for she was in love with a young man who had gone out West to work. She spoke to him on the dormitory telephone using handfuls of quarters. I imagine her with her feet up against the wall, twisting her fingers in the telephone cord, the way I used to, murmuring and smiling.
Theresa also spoke frequently to her parents, whom she had last seen less than a month before on Thanksgiving weekend, when they celebrated her 19th birthday in their new house in Saint John. A fog rolled in from the Bay of Fundy on the day she and Andre were to fly back to Montreal. Marilyn Allore remembers their flight being cancelled. She and her husband drove them to the train station instead, for both children were anxious to get back to school for exams.
"I remember there was a billboard in the train station advertising Mexico," Marilyn told me, "and I said to Theresa, 'Whatever you do, do not run off to Mexico. Because you can get arrested for drugs there and that kind of thing.' I remember that." She paused, reflecting. "And I remember that Theresa kept getting off the train. She must have come off that train five times, to hug us goodbye."
"Was that unusual for her?"
"Very." She chuckled. "I remember going home and feeling really happy, and yet thinking something wasn't right. It's hard to explain. I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window, and I just had the feeling, that feeling of happiness, and the sense that something was about to change."
Of course she remembers these details: My heart breaks listening to her on the telephone, her light voice calm, but poised, careful, because she has steeled herself for the stirring of these waters. She remembers the fog, the billboard, the goodbyes, everything, because it was the last time she ever saw her child.
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Theresa planned to spend the weekend of Nov. 3 working on a book report about Zen Buddhism for her psychology class. She declined an invitation to go to her friend Caroline Greenwood's family farm. At supper time, an acquaintance ran into her in the dining hall on the Champlain campus. Theresa bummed a cigarette, and the girls agreed to meet up later in Gillard House to listen to new albums. (What was playing that year? Genesis, the Alan Parsons Project. What Theresa listened to, her little brother, John, picked up on and later introduced to me.)
Theresa missed the 6:15 shuttle bus. Another one was not scheduled to take students out to Compton until 11 p.m. Did she position herself on the gravelled edge of Highway 143, illuminated by a street lamp, and stick out her thumb? She was fearless about hitchhiking, as I would have been at that age. Grow up loved and think the best of the world.
Who picked her up? No one has ever come forward to say that a petite redhead in a beige sweater-coat climbed into their car. She did come back to the village of Compton. A friend named Sharon Buzzee saw her on the stairs in King's Hall -- where students watched television, fixed snacks and ostensibly studied -- at around 9 p.m. on the night of Nov. 3, shortly before she was planning to head over to Gillard House and listen to records.
Perhaps she was on her way up to the second floor to visit her brother Andre, who wasn't in. Did she descend that central staircase once again, walk through the vestibule and out onto the lawn? Did she return to her room in Gillard House? Or turn the other way, and walk down the circular driveway and set off along Highway 147 toward Compton Village?
These questions bob up and down in the mind like horses on a carousel, they do not still just because the police lost interest. This summer, Marilyn Allore walked from King's Hall along the gravelled side of the highway until she picked up the sidewalk in Compton, passing the faded clapboard houses with people staring suspiciously out of windows, the handful of stores, walking along in silence, a quiet, graceful woman whom I shall always picture with her luxuriant black hair swept into a chignon. Wordlessly retracing a possible route that her daughter took in her little Chinese slippers, sporting that long flowing scarf like Isadora Duncan, before vanishing thereafter into darkness.
Champlain College, it appears, did not notice that one of its students was missing for close to a week. Theresa's friends began to worry much sooner -- as they returned from their respective weekend adventures, and knocked on her door to gossip with her, only to find her absent. None of them were confident enough to raise an alarm. "Theresa didn't need anyone to worry about her," Greenwood later stated. "She always told us not to be her parents," Laurie said. They didn't wish to seem nosy or neurotic. But when she still hadn't appeared on Tuesday, they kept checking around, telephoning friends of hers in Montreal, poking through her room for clues. Laurie and her boyfriend, Ian Catteril, opened Theresa's locker and tried to glean from its unassuming contents where she had gone.
On Friday, Nov. 10, her brother overcame his own fear of "checking up on Theresa," and called home. His parents were more confident in their judgement. They immediately notified the Lennoxville Police, and jumped into their car to drive westward from Saint John.
The cold month that followed was one scene among many in a parent's worst nightmare. Few people offered to help the Allores. This was not like the recent searches for Chandra Levy in Washington, D.C., or Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was more nearly the experience of the thousands of families in North America whose missing children are neither famous enough nor young enough to compel wide sympathetic attention. No one organized a search of the farmland and woods surrounding Compton, where Theresa would lie one kilometre from Gillard House through the winter. Robert Allore went knocking on doors, a desperate, frantic father, asking everyone everywhere, in shops and houses and farms and rectories throughout the Eastern Townships, if they had seen his daughter. People merely shook their heads and shrugged.
The police were reluctant to expend much effort on a probable runaway, who they imagined had hitchhiked directly from Lennoxville to points unknown. Still, Detective Leo Hamell of the Lennoxville police took a picture of Theresa to show border guards in Vermont. He checked with her old roommates in Montreal. He gathered statements from students in Compton but didn't search the premises.
Marilyn Allore recalls that he was compassionate, but she thought he might be somehow out of his depth. Corporal Roch Gaudreault of the Sûreté, who would later become the lead investigator, told Robert Allore that there was little they could do, that Theresa's body would probably turn up when the snow melted. The comment, Allore said later, was like "a nail between the eyes."
Meanwhile, at Champlain College, Stuart Peacock, Director of Residence, did not make himself known to the Allores. Comptroller Jean Luc Gregoire continued to bill the Allores for Theresa's tuition and board, with interest and penalties accruing.
Campus Director Bill Matson suggested to the family that Theresa may have had problems.
"Dr. Matson," Robert Allore wrote in notes he made at the time, "gave me the theory that Theresa may have had lesbian tendencies. He said Theresa, if found, would need psychiatric treatment, by court order if necessary. He asked us if Theresa was an adopted child." (A question that Leo Hamell reiterated.) "He said he had indications that Theresa may have gone somewhere where disturbed people go (and) advised us to go back to New Brunswick, get back to normal and wait for something to happen."
Instead, the Allores hired a private detective.
Robert Beullac of the Bureau D'Investigation Metropol arrived on the scene in late November, and immediately searched for physical evidence at Gillard and King's Hall. He noted that Theresa's purse was still in her room, as were her hiking boots, which she invariably took with her when she left the village overnight. He uncovered the fact that Sharon Buzzee had seen Theresa at King's Hall, thus unravelling Matson's theory that she had hitchhiked off into the wild-blue yonder to pursue her lesbian tendencies with disturbed people.
Both Dr. Matson and Detective Hamell implied that Buzzee's statement wasn't credible, as Buzzee told John Allore this year. Hamell had already speculated in the local press that Theresa may have headed off to Vermont, and in December, one month after she disappeared, he began to speculate that she had been involved in drugs. Sherbrooke was rife with drug dealers at that time. It just took a gargantuan leap in logic to conclude that a studious girl who had arrived in the area six weeks earlier had been whacked by a drug associate.
So why were the police thinking in this way? Was it a function of the times, to implicate a young woman in her own disappearance? Or were other factors at play?
Interestingly, we discovered that earlier in the year of Theresa's disappearance, a young man was found dead of exposure on a golf course, having laid there, apparently for several months, after wandering off drunk from the Bishop's University pub. Private Investigator Beullac had determined that on November 3rd, 1978, two Gillard House students were taken to hospital after imbibing an intoxicating blend of LSD and booze.
One was found face-down on the lawn after midnight, and ferried to Sherbrooke by the disgruntled night watchman.
Added to the reported sexual assaults of the previous year, the shuttle controversy and a housing crisis, and rumoured affairs between teachers and students, one would be naïve to think that Champlain had no concerns about its reputation. Gerald Cutting wrote a letter to John Allore this summer, stating that the college had done all it could to assist with the search for his sister.
Perhaps it had, but Suzanne DeRome, who was on the College board, recalls that the disappearance and death of Theresa Allore was not discussed board meetings. And Sharon Buzzee remained unaware that Theresa was dead until someone mentioned it to her in the 1990s. Another woman I spoke with whose husband taught at Champlain in those years was shocked to learn – in 2002 – that a student had died.
No one from Champlain sent the Allores a note of condolence, as John Allore pointed out in a letter to Cutting. There were no candle-light vigils and no posters. It was almost as though Theresa had vanished without a trace.
Sitting in my office late one night, leafing through Robert Allore's notebook from that time, I came upon a page where he'd jotted down what Sharon Buzzee saw at King's Hall. It was dated December 4th, 1978. The notation was terse: "Bottom of main stair case. One foot on bottom step. Going up."
Beneath this he added, with heart-sinking poignancy, "7:15 p.m. -- Broke down."
My God, of course. I have a daughter now. I understand the hunger for that foot on the stair, the hunger to reach for it, to pull it to safety, and to know about where it stepped next.
Unsatisfied with the way the police and the college were handling the case, the Allores hired a private investigator, Robert Beullac, of Bureau Metropol. Mr. Beullac managed to retrace Theresa's movements a week before she went missing. She had gone hiking with the assistant director of her residence, Jeanne Eddisford. She had gone to a Halloween party on the Lennoxville campus at Champlain College, and to a birthday party for her brother Andre. She had hitchhiked to Montreal to stay overnight with her friends. She had attended all of her classes. She was neither depressed nor stressed out. Life was normal.
In the absence of any other evidence, however, the police knew that on the night she disappeared, some students at Gillard House, an off-campus residence in nearby Compton where Theresa lived, had taken LSD. What if the kids doing acid had invited Theresa to join them? the police speculated. What if she had had an allergic reaction, or the acid had been laced with something more toxic? What if she had overdosed? Would the kids have panicked and hidden her body, terrified of being caught out?
But it was all speculation. Theresa liked testing her limits. "She was into extreme sports before they became a trend," as her brother John put it. But she wasn't the type to get whoo-whoo drunk, or party overboard. In a statement to the Sûreté du Québec, her friend Jo-Anne Laurie said that Theresa occasionally smoked pot, but "wasn't into drugs."
Other students echoed this view. The students who had done acid insisted, in their statements, that they hadn't even seen her that night.
Still, you never knew about these things. What if she had yielded to a sudden impulse and dropped acid that night? The possibility wormed its way into the Allores' mind. You never know what your kids are really like. They remain miraculously strange -- of you, but not of you.
This was particularly true for parents who had grown up in the Forties and Fifties and were then faced with the alien landscape of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. And it was reinforced by things the Champlain College officials suggested to the Allores. Kids today. Deviant. Lesbian. Into drugs. You never knew.
Or did you?
Christmas came and went with no news of Theresa.
Officials at the college, it appeared, had a hard time coping with the disappearance. In January, the director of Gillard House, where Theresa lived, quietly resigned, citing "personal reasons." His replacement, Jeanne Eddisford, later confessed to John Allore that she had felt overwhelmed and alone in her job that winter, with 240 adolescents almost hysterical with anxiety over the missing student. In January, she called in the Lennoxville Police and a number of students were carted away for marijuana possession. At the same time, a neighbouring residence, King's Hall, was shut down, and all the students -- including Theresa's brother Andre -- were herded over to the dorm where Theresa had lived. Rumours and anxieties flared.
On Valentine's Day, 1979, Robert and Marilyn Allore and their younger son, John, were having dinner around their pretty glass dining table at their house in Saint John, N.B., knives and forks clattering gently, the conversation quiet, when a piece of plaster suddenly loosed itself from the ceiling, and fell to the table in the shape of a heart. I remember John telling me about this when I later sat at the same table for dinner. We had met at boarding school and had begun to date, and John told me how he knew then -- how they all knew, in that instant -- that Theresa wasn't missing. She was dead.
Her body was found on Good Friday, April 13, 1979. To this date, her death remains unexplained.
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Twenty-three years later, John Allore, who was now living in North Carolina and working as treasury manager of the city of Durham, called to enlist my help in trying to get to the bottom of his sister's death. In March of this year, we met in Sherbrooke to review the evidence. One morning, we pulled out of the driveway at Gillard House, where Theresa had lived for six weeks before she disappeared and, for a minute or two, followed Hwy. 147 leading out of Compton before turning south on Compton Station, a local concession road -- unpaved and unlit in the '70s -- that cuts south between acres of corn fields in the direction of Vermont.
In early spring, the corn fields are dark and stubbled, still covered in tattered strips of snow. The landscape would have looked virtually identical on the day that a muskrat trapper, walking along the edge of the road, saw Theresa's body, partially submerged in ice and caught in the forked branch of a tree.
We slowed the car and pulled over to the shoulder on the right. Here was a very small creek, flowing toward the road and then away from it in a U shape, necessitating a small bridge where the water trickled underneath before seeping into the field on the other side of the road. The water was so shallow that the creek bed would be dry in high summer. In the autumn, it would have been little more than a ditch.
We stepped into the mud and matted corn stalks, and followed the creek away from the car. John stopped where the creek curved. He pointed. "You could drive to this point in November, no problem. There are no street lights on that road, no houses around. Nothing. You could leave her right here." He was gesturing calmly toward the ground. "The farmer who owned this land told the Sûreté that the water rose eight to 10 feet that spring. She got caught in the spring runoff and floated toward the bridge."
John stood there in his cheerful blue cotton sweater, musing. Did his big sister come here, to this bend in the creek, in her bra and underwear? Walking barefoot through the corn? Or was she hauled out of a car that turned off the road and juddered along the bank of the creek, driven by someone who knew exactly where he was, how invisible he would be?
Where were her clothes? Where were those Chinese slippers? Why had the police found women's clothing in a garbage bag 300 feet from the body, clothes that didn't belong to Theresa?
If she died here, why weren't her clothes here?
We stood there staring for the longest time, as if the earth itself would reveal a memory, as if we could will ourselves to see what happened in this quiet place of mud and corn stalks.
Later, John e-mailed me: "I keep seeing her walking barefoot across the corn stubble."
He sees other things too, as his family does. They are haunted by dreams, and images. John was shaken to the core by the drowning face in water that he saw in the movie Night of the Hunter.
He remembers hitchhiking with Theresa along the freeways through Montreal. He envies his older brother, Andre, who has more memories of her, more moments to retrieve and to contemplate: a peculiar kind of sibling rivalry. Once, he went to hear James Ellroy read from My Dark Places, the famous crime author's memoir of never knowing how his own mother was killed. Afterward, the two of them talked, bonding in the rarity of their misery.
- - -
For a time, John and I chased the ghosts of whispered suspects, pondering the teachers at Champlain (a possible affair?), considering the students, as Andre and Robert Allore had done. We tracked the movements of a sex murderer newly arrested on Montreal's South Shore. We were committing the classic mistake of novice investigators. "Work from the evidence," a homicide detective I know advised me. "Never work from the suspects."
I phoned an acquaintance in Washington, D.C., a profiler named Kim Rossmo who directs research at a criminological think-tank called the Police Foundation. Originally from Vancouver, Rossmo was a beat cop who earned his doctorate from Simon Fraser University by pioneering a technique called geoprofiling, that maps the local pathways of serial offenders. His technique --and the software he developed -- is now used by the RCMP, the FBI, and Scotland Yard.
Rossmo became famous in Canada for arguing a serial killer was behind the disappearances of dozens of prostitutes in B.C. long before his superiors conceded those vanishings were linked. His arguments ultimately led police to undertake the ghoulish dig at a pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., which allegedly continues to yield human remains to this day.
I described to Rossmo what had happened to Theresa, how she had been found, and the theory of her death the police had proposed -- the overdose and the panicking friends. He questioned me carefully and then said: "The theory doesn't fit."
"Because she was found in her bra and panties. What you've described appears to be a sex murder."
"But the pathologist didn't find any evidence of rape."
"That doesn't mean anything. He could have used a condom. He could have had a deviance that didn't include intercourse."
I nodded, and followed his logic. Perhaps the assailant had forced her into oral sex. I thought about something I read in the autopsy report, how Theresa still had 300 centimetres of "stomach contents" when she died, meaning that she had not thrown up. Yet traces of vomit had been found in her throat.
Had she gagged? On what? On the man who was assaulting her, or because of the way she was dying?
John sent Theresa's autopsy report to a pathologist, and had it re-analyzed. Was it possible that she had been strangled, we wanted to know?
"Yes," he said, "it is possible." This was the kind of case, he added, where police work was vital to solving the crime.
- - -
If Theresa Allore was murdered on the night she vanished, on Nov. 3, 1978, the question that her brother John and I asked ourselves now was: where? How, we wondered, could Theresa have been killed at her student residence without anybody noticing? This was a problem with all of the theories.
How could she have died of a drug overdose without any witnesses? There were students milling about everywhere that evening. There was a night watchman outside. How could someone have laboriously stuffed her body into a car and dumped her one kilometre away?
We re-examined the buildings, and then we re-read the original statements. Then, suddenly, I got it. Theresa had bummed a smoke from Josie Stephenhorst, a fellow student, at 6 p.m on the evening of Nov. 3.
The week before, according to private investigator Beullac, she had turned up at the Entre Deux restaurant in Compton to buy Player's Light cigarettes from the vending machine. I phoned Andre Allore to ask if Theresa was a regular smoker. She was, he said.
The restaurant was a quarter of a mile down Hwy. 147 from her residence. A quick walk on a warm, dark night. Maybe she left her residence and went to the restaurant in Compton to buy cigarettes before meeting up with her friends to listen to records.
That's why no one heard her scream. She went out on to the unlit highway with nothing but her wallet, and on the dark stretch of road before the sidewalks of Compton village begin, she met someone who stole her away.
That someone was driving. And with Theresa in the car, he doubled back, past her residence, and turned left onto the concession road at Compton Station where he left her.
Once we had established the possibility that Theresa was out on the highway, we could think about the assailant's route. Panicking students, for instance, would have returned to Gillard House where Theresa lived, or perhaps to a student residence in Lennoxville. But Theresa's wallet was found on a road that leads directly into the city of Sherbrooke. The Sûreté du Québec, actually, had never mentioned to the Allores that a farmer found the wallet on his property one week after Theresa's body turned up, on the south side of Macdonald Road, a kilometer north of where she disappeared. They had simply handed it back to the family two months later, on the afternoon that Roch Gaudreault, the chief investigator in the case, had told Robert Allore that someone, eventually, would talk.
It was Andre Allore who later determined where his sister's wallet was found. As someone who had lived in the area and completed his schooling in Sherbrooke, Andre knew Chemin Macdonald was a back door route into Sherbrooke -- a concession road that locals used to bypass Lennoxville if they were heading north from the villages in Compton and Stanstead Counties.
Chemin Macdonald comes off Hwy. 143 before you get to Lennoxville, and runs steeply uphill past a few houses and farms before becoming Rue Belvidere, a boulevard that takes you straight into south Sherbrooke. Whoever left Theresa Allore on the side of Compton Station did not return to Compton, or head into Lennoxville. They drove up to Sherbrooke.
If you follow Rue Belvidere into the city, you come within a block of the intersection of two streets in a working-class neighbourhood of south Sherbrooke: Rue Union and Rue Craig. And it was at this intersection, John Allore and I learned, that a 10-year-old girl named Manon Dubé had vanished on a Friday evening in January, 1978. That was just nine months before Theresa disappeared.
Manon had been walking with her eight-year-old sister, Chantal, to their little house on nearby Bienville Street. Chantal ran ahead, because she was cold.
She last saw Manon in a salmon-pink toque and blue snowsuit, walking behind her across the icy yard of Saint-Joseph Elementary School. The girls were within 500 yards of their house, but Manon did not make it home. Her body was found on Good Friday, 1978, lying face-down in a creek near Kingscroft Road in the village of Ayer's Cliff, dumped six kilometres east of where Theresa Allore's body was found at Compton Station.
To get to the creek from where Manon was last seen, you would drive down Rue Belvidere, across Chemin Macdonald, and south on Hwy. 143 -- the exact route that Allore's assailant took when he disposed of her wallet.
Manon Dubé's autopsy, like Theresa Allore's, revealed no determinate cause of death, for she was equally decomposed and there was no lasting evidence of trauma: no bone fractures or bullet wounds. Except for a superficial gash in her forehead, which may have occurred post-mortem as she was transported in the trunk of a car or rolled into the creek, the reason for Manon's death remained a mystery.
The Sherbrooke Municipal Police theorized Manon had been struck by a car and the panicked driver drove her body to the creek. The case was never solved.
I explained the hit-and-run theory to Kim Rossmo, an expert in serial crime and the pioneer of a technique called geographical profiling. Rossmo, formerly of Vancouver and now head of a criminological think-tank in Washington, D.C., called the theory bizarre, and reminded me of the "least-effort principle" in criminology.
Criminals minimize their effort. If they hit, they run. They do not stop, gather up the body, lift it into their vehicle, drive it several kilometres, drag it through the woods in deep snow and dump it in a creek. That would be what you call "most effort."
Last year, Chantal Dubé, now an adult, demanded that her sister's case be reinvestigated. The detective who took on the job, Patrick Villmeuin of Sherbrooke Municipal Police, was appalled to discover the evidence -- as in the Allore case -- had been tossed out.
John and I began to look more closely at newspaper stories. The family's hired private detective, Robert Beullac, who had remained bothered by his inability to solve Theresa's death, sent us a clipping about the case of Louise Camirand -- the third unsolved death of a petite, dark-haired female near Sherbrooke within an 18-month period.
Camirand was 20 years old in 1977, and worked part-time in the archives of a Sherbrooke hospital on Portland Street while she prepared for her wedding in May. On the evening of March 19, she left her home on Bryant Street -- several blocks north from where Manon Dubé disappeared -- and headed to the variety store at the intersection of Rue King and Jacques Cartier Boulevard. Then she vanished.
On Friday, March 24, Camirand's nude body was found in a snowdrift along McDonald Road, a dead-end street in the countryside near the village of Magog.
This time, because the body had barely decomposed, the pathologist was easily able to determine the cause of death. Camirand had been raped and strangled. A military boot lace had been tied around her neck. Her pants and suede jacket were left beside her body, but there was no sign of her blouse or undergarments. Her purse was never recovered. According to an uncle, Camirand was a member of the Army Reserves.
Eighteen months after her murder, and two days after Theresa Allore disappeared, two young men walking along a wooded road between Magog and Austin came across a pair of woman's slacks and a shirt, draped across a log. When Theresa was reported missing some days later, the men called Detective Leo Hamell, who went over to investigate. The clothes could no longer be found.
I checked Hamell's notes, which John had copied from his sister's file, and studied my map of the Eastern Townships. The road where the young men had seen the women's slacks and shirt was Rue Giguere. It is the only road that intersects the narrow McDonald Road, where Camirand was dumped.
I telephoned Kim Rossmo with a burgeoning suspicion.
Experience has taught Rossmo to be prudent and highly skeptical. "First, you have to confirm that it's a cluster of homicides," he said. "You need to know how many female stranger murders there are, on average, in the Sherbrooke area. You need to confirm this as an unusual cluster."
I telephoned around. I hit the books. Murder in the Sherbrooke region is -- not surprisingly -- quite rare. This small city and its rural environs have an average of two homicides every year, with occasional spikes to four or five, largely due to the presence of bike gangs. In 1978, there were 42 murders in all of Quebec. Of these, only a tiny fraction were sex murders. Not that they didn't grab headlines, but ironically, it was the U.S. cases the Canadian media sensationalized that year. In 1978, the Hillside Stranglers were murdering young women in Los Angeles, while John Wayne Gacy was arrested in Chicago for the killings of 33 boys, and Ted Bundy was preying upon young co-eds in Seattle.
In Canada, over the period from 1974 to 1986, sexual homicides accounted for 4% of all homicides. Fifty-seven of these murders occurred in Quebec, or roughly four per year. Montreal and its south and north shores accounted for the lion's share, as one would expect. I'm talking about a lion's share of four.
Three dead females dumped on roadsides in the Sherbrooke region within 18 months of one another may, unaccountably, have failed to generate headlines. But in the context of those Quebec statistics, it was almost certainly "a cluster."
Rossmo was sufficiently suspicious to have me draw up a map, marking the sites of the abductions and the bodies. He wanted to see what the geographic connections were. I sent my map to Washington and while I awaited his report I ruminated about Theresa's wallet.
The wallet bothered me. I found it weirdly coincidental that the wallet would be found one week after the body, even though climate reports told me snow didn't fall in Sherbrooke that year until December. Why did it lie undetected through November and why was it found where it was on April 20, 1979?
John Allore went home to New Brunswick and at my urging examined the wallet.
It was a Buxton wallet, cherry-red, which his parents had given to Theresa one Christmas. Apart from some salt stains and a touch of mildew, it was in fine condition. I checked with some leather craftsmen.
A wallet that has been left outside for six months in rain followed by snow followed by rain, will turn uniformly darker and also stiffen.
Why not this wallet? Why weren't its contents damaged by water? Was it left on Chemin MacDonald after Theresa's body turned up, as a statement of some kind?
Inside the wallet, police had found Theresa's driver's licence, her health card and a ticket stub for a play in Montreal, dated Friday, Nov. 7, 1975. John watched a home movie and noted, with hair rising on his neck, that he and his siblings opened their Christmas presents of Buxton wallets in 1977, Theresa's last Christmas. The ticket predated the wallet by two years and Theresa's vanishing by exactly three.
It was a ticket to a play called Crime and Punishment.
I was in the process of double-checking our geography for the crime map when we came across a clue to this mystery. The man who found the wallet on his property told John that his daughter had also been attacked. On Oct. 3, 1978, she was an 18-year-old student at the local French-language Cégep, a petite brunette with dark eyes -- like the other victims.
That evening, she had taken her dog for a walk along Chemin MacDonald. Across the road and slightly behind her, a man suddenly jumped out of his car and began running at her on a diagonal across the two-lane black-top, like an animal sprinting toward its prey.
Instantly, she understood her life was in danger. She had been approached before by cruising men, had been heckled, lured. "Baby, baby. Wanna party?" The woman wanted John to know -- when he called her -- that this was not that. She was immediately terrified. She ran into her father's apple orchard, thinking, "I can outwit him, I know the area better, I've got my dog." The man followed, chasing her through the shadows.
She felt as if she'd fallen out of her life and into a horror movie.
In a remarkable stroke of good fortune, a police car belonging to the Coaticook Detachment of the Sûreté du Québec came down the steep hilly road. The officers saw the man and grasped at once that his behaviour was alarming, even though they didn't see his intended victim. They leapt out of their cruiser and rounded him up. She was so terrified that she remained hidden in the orchard, scarcely daring to breathe.
The next morning, her mother coaxed her into phoning the police to describe what had happened. The officers told her they had run a check on the man. He had convictions for sex offences in Manitoba. Since no crime had taken place, they had let him go. All she can remember about him now is that he was small. A small man with a prior conviction and a feverish appetite for predation.
One month later, Theresa went out at the same time of night and was never seen alive again.
It needs to be said that the police investigating the Allore case were a different group than these officers in Coaticook, who were, in turn, different than the investigators for Dubé, who were distinct from the ones looking at Camirand. These were not co-operative men. As one source in Sherbrooke's complicated and rivalrous law enforcement system told me: "Back then, it was terre de chasseur. Hunter's turf. We didn't talk, we didn't share files. We were the greens and they were the blues."
Adds private investigator Beullac: "When I went down to Sherbrooke from Montreal in that period, I used to call it my Chinatown." The scene was unruly, all of my sources agree. Every one had their turf. "We were making the rules of investigation up as we went along," says one cop.
Ironically, this was the year in which the Canadian Police Association ran an ad in Montreal's The Gazette to protest the repealing of the death penalty. "Too Many People In Canada Are Getting Away with Murder," the ad said. Indeed they were. In Quebec in 1978, 23 homicides went unsolved.
Kim Rossmo studied my map of the abductions and dump sites, using his expertise in geoprofiling, a criminological technique that can link crimes, or localize the areas in which a serial rapist or killer lives, by analyzing the geography of the attacks. There are several premises behind geoprofiling, which Rossmo pioneered for his doctoral thesis at Simon Fraser. One is that predators will operate along routine pathways in their work and home lives. They seldom stray into unfamiliar areas to attack. On the contrary, they will often have passed the same victim -- or type of victim -- dozens of times at a bus stop or a parking garage near their work, before they summon the nerve to attack.
Where victims disappear and where their bodies are found are significant clues in geoprofiling. For one thing, they can tell you whether three disparate murders are linked. Rossmo sent me this formal report:
"Each of these incidents involve multiple locations that, when combined, form a persuasive pattern," he wrote "Camirand disappeared in Sherbrooke, close to where Dubé went missing. She was later found in Magog, near what may have been Allore's clothes. Dubé, in turn, was found a few miles from Allore's body outside Compton, just off a route linking Compton to Magog. Allore's wallet was found just south of the area where both Camirand and Dubé disappeared, very near an attack on a fourth woman. The last link is that Allore's wallet was recovered near the place where Dubé's body was found, by Hwy. 143, which leads back to Lennoxville and Sherbrooke.
"The locations associated with these three deaths are intertwined, woven together in the landscape south of Sherbrooke. Three murders of low-risk young women in a 19-month period, in such a tight geographic cluster, is highly suspicious, and not likely to be a chance occurrence. These cases should be fed into ViCLAS (Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System), and re-examined as a group of potentially linked sex murders. Serial murderers typically live closer to the victim encounter sites than body disposal locations.
"This offender was most likely based in Lennoxville or south Sherbrooke during the period from 1977 to 1978."
- - --------------------------------------------------------------------------
We are, as you read this, turning our investigation over to detectives with the Sherbrooke Municipal Police. We have identified two likely suspects, both of whom are now in custody for sex murder. Both are unusually short, as our witness described, and have family addresses in the area that Rossmo identified as a likely base. One of them was in the Canadian Forces at the time. Louise Camirand was a member of the Reserve Forces, and was found strangled with a military-issue boot lace. That suspect, described to me as "highly impulsive" by a criminologist who has interviewed him, was convicted for a rape and attempted strangulation in Quebec in early 1980s. He went on to rape and strangle a waitress in the West, for which he is now serving a life sentence.
In the last year, for the first time since this cluster in the late 1970s, four women have gone missing from the Sherbrooke area. One of them was found in July, strangled, wearing nothing but her bra, lying face-down in a creek.
We can only hope that homicide investigators in the Eastern Townships have improved their approach in the last two decades, and will not leave friends and family members to investigate a murder on their own.
To Corporal Robert Theoret of the Sherbrooke District of the Surete: you asked John Allore why the case of his sister, Theresa, should be reopened.
The culprit was likely a serial killer. We need to know who he is and where he is now. That is why.