CANADA

Deadly neighbors

LISA VAN DUSEN June 27 1988
CANADA

Deadly neighbors

LISA VAN DUSEN June 27 1988

Deadly neighbors

CANADA

Locally, the gruesome, executionstyle slaying has become known as “the Rambo murder.” Last August, the mutilated body of Remi Lahaie, 19, was discovered under a tree near his home in the middle-class Montreal suburb of Ile Perrot, where he lived with his parents. Lahaie had been stabbed 14 times, shot in the back, strangled with a garrote and left to die. Five months later, police charged Lahaie’s next-door neighbors—Michel Laurin, 46, his wife, Nicole, 40, and their 21-year-old son,

Daniel —with first-degree murder in the teenager’s death. But they also laid two other charges of first-degree murder against David White, 33, and JeanClaude Legault, 24, coowners of the Mecca Survival Centre, a paramilitary training school in Rigaud, Que., 50 km west of Montreal. During the past two weeks, details of the bizarre killing emerged in court as White faced trial.

Michel Laurin testified at the trial that he paid Legault $1,800 to break Lahaie’s legs because he and his family objected to the teenager squealing the tires of his 1976 Pontiac Grand LeMans in front of their house. But Laurin said that he did not ask Legault to kill Lahaie. In the end, Legault pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sen-

tenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 10 years.

The Laurin family—who all pleaded guilty to lesser charges of manslaughter after claiming that they only hired Legault to beat up Lahaie—are serving a total of 30 years for their role in the killing. But at White’s trial, which was held in Valleyfield, Que., 100 km west of Montreal, the Crown portrayed White as the mastermind of a murder conspiracy. Legault testified that White—whom he said he regarded as his “commanding officer”—instructed him to kill Lahaie. Defence lawyer Jean-Claude Boyer portrayed his client as the victim of a « frame-up by his ex-partis ner Legault. But at g week’s end, a Quebec i Superior Court jury con| victed White of firstz degree murder and senii fenced him to life im5 prisonment with no parole for 25 years.

Lahaie’s murder resulted from a long-standing dispute with Laurin, who repeatedly asked him to stop screeching his tires on their street. Laurin testified that the noise from Lahaie’s high-performance car became so stressful that he began taking pills to calm his nerves. Last July, he asked Legault, a neighbor of his mother-inlaw’s, to punish Lahaie. According to both Laurin and Legault, they and a

hooded man carrying a briefcase met in a wooded area of Ile Perrot to exchange a $1,000 deposit for the job two weeks before Lahaie was killed. Legault testified that the hooded man was White.

Legault testified that he then went to see Lahaie, a casual acquaintance, ostensibly to show him some of his commando weapons—a sawed-off, 20gauge shotgun, a knife and a garrote. After Lahaie examined the weapons, the two shook hands. Legault told the court how he then turned around and shot Lahaie in the back. Lahaie attempted to get up, but Legault strangled him with the wire garrote, stabbed him 14 times, then slit his throat “from ear to ear.”

After Lahaie’s murder, the case took an even more bizarre turn. Nicole and Daniel Laurin, along with Legault and White, now face a trial in September on charges of conspiracy and attempted murder. That trial is a result of an attempt on Michel Laurin’s life last fall. In the wake of Lahaie’s murder, Laurin suffered severe anxiety attacks and had hallucinations of his dead neighbor. Laurin’s wife and son allegedly warned White and Legault that Laurin might suffer an emotional collapse and confess to the police. The four are accused of buying a small quantity of poison for $5,000 and slipping it into Laurin’s coffee in an attempt to kill him. Although Laurin became extremely bloated and ill, he survived and now claims to be reconciled with his wife and son.

For their part, Legault and White were obsessed with the Rambo mystique. The two men trained in mercenary schools in the United States before opening their own commando school in August, 1986. Their Mecca Survival Centre used live ammunition and offered training in guerrilla warfare, hand-to-hand combat, demolition and the handling of small arms. But after a flurry of interest when it opened, the school attracted little business.

As a result of the Lahaie murder, Montreal Liberal MP Warren Allmand asked the federal government last month to investigate paramilitary schools. Said Allmand: “Guerrilla warfare tactics are for the Armed Forces— not paramilitary schools. We don’t even know how many of these schools there are in Canada.” Justice Minister Raymon Hnatyshyn told the Commons that he would discuss regulatory action with the provincial governments. The chilling testimony of the murder trial may focus public attention on the potential social side effects of glorifying a paramilitary lifestyle.

-LISA VAN DUSEN in Valleyfield