It sounded at times more like the script of a grade-B movie than scenes from the domestic life of one of Canada’s corporate titans. During rivetting testimony in a Calgary courtroom last week, Earl Joudrie—the 62-year-old chairman of Gulf Canada Resources Ltd., Algoma Steel Inc. and Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd.—recounted the bizarre events that occurred at the home of his estranged wife Dorothy on a Saturday morning in January, 1995. After what he described as a “quiet” conversation over coffee, Joudrie was leaving her house through the garage when he felt the first bullet hit him in the back. Then, after several more gunshots, he lay bleeding on the garage floor with six bullet wounds and a broken right arm. Joudrie testified that he called Dorothy over to sit and talk with him because he thought he was dying, only to have her ask: “How long is it going to take you to die?” Initially, he said, her tone was “very controlled, very cold.” But then, from off to his side, he heard a new voice ask: “Oh my God, what have I done?” Dorothy Joudrie, 61, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, ag-
gravated assault and the use of a firearm while committing an indictable offence, all related to the shooting on Jan. 21,1995. The defence is suggesting automatism—that Dorothy Joudrie had no awareness of her actions at the time of the incident. When she took the stand last Friday, Joudrie recounted how she and her husband were talking in her kitchen about their children and about their pending divorce. She testified that she told her husband that it would be easier for him than it would be for her, because he had a new partner—the court heard earlier that he was living in Toronto with his ex-wife’s second cousin—but that she was all alone. And Dorothy Joudrie said that she recalled being very sad. “The next thing I saw was Earl’s face,” she testified. He had a terrible expression, she added, “ashen-looking and wrinkled.” She said she heard him calling for help, as if from far away. And then, she told the court, she saw him lying on the garage floor.
The trial, which continues this week, has
captured the attention of Calgarians. The wealth and social standing of the former couple clearly fuelled that interest— as did the sad testimony about illness and loneliness, heavy drinking and even physical abuse in the Joudrie home. Last week, the Crown called two of the couple’s four children to testify. Both talked about frequent arguments between their parents and about their mother’s consumption of alcohol. And their daughter, Carolyn Murphy, 32, told the court that when she met her $ mother at Calgary’s remand I centre a day after the shoot| ing, her mother talked about § playing bridge and about an £ upcoming meeting. “It upset I me greatly,” she said. Later, * on cross-examination, Mur> phy agreed that it seemed al| most as if her mother was in I denial that anything had hap| pened. She also agreed that £ Dorothy Joudrie had been a caring and generous woman who kept busy with a long list of community commitments. (The court heard that Dorothy Joudrie was involved in charities like Easter Seals campaigns, that she sat on the board of a local golf club, for example, and served as volunteer protocol chairwoman for the International Olympic Committee at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.)
The Joudrie trial reveals a tangled tale of abuse
But the witness who spent the longest time on the stand last week was the victim himself. Earl Joudrie, who suffered a collapsed lung and was left with a heart ailment as a result of the shooting, said that at one point during their conversation as he lay bleeding, Dorothy remarked: “You haven’t changed your will, so I’ll get everything.” After he finally persuaded her to call 911 and the police arrived, he told them that there was a gun around. “My anxiety was that she might use it on herself,” he said. Police witnesses, meanwhile, testified that Dorothy said she wanted to go to the hospital with her husband. And one officer said that when he told Dorothy it would help her husband if they knew what kind of weapon had been used, she told them where to find a .25-calibre Beretta handgun.
By the time of the shooting, the Joudries had been separated for more than five years. But they had previously spent the greater part of their lives together. They met in Edmonton when he was just 16 and she was just 15, attended the
University of Alberta and married in 1957. They started a family and, while Earl Joudrie worked his way up the corporate ladder, they moved from Calgary to Toronto and on to Kentucky. In the meantime, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease—a form of cancer—in 1971, and he spoke last week of the strain that put on Dorothy. But Joudrie also testified about arguments that escalated into “pushing and shoving on both sides” and to several occasions when he struck his wife. The last such time was in 1978, he said, while the family was living in Kentucky, and his wife suffered bruised ribs. Joudrie testified that it was generally something he had or had not done—and that Dorothy was angry about—that sparked their violent arguments. He said that his striking her “was not Dorothy’s fault, it was my fault.” But he also insisted that Dorothy “would never leave anything alone.”
At the time of the Kentucky incident, Joudrie’s job kept him extremely busy and he was travelling so much he was spending little time at home. He decided to quit his job and, in 1979, the family moved back to Calgary. Joudrie testified that he never struck his wife again, although he did punch holes in walls—adding that Dorothy made holes in the walls, too. He also said that his wife had a growing drinking problem and that they sought marriage counselling in the mid-1980s. But their relationship never recovered. Earl Joudrie has moved to Toronto since the couple separated in 1989 and Dorothy moved out of the family home just outside of Calgary in 1990. On the stand last week, he described Dorothy, from whom he was formally divorced following the shooting incident, as a popular person who “was a winner and saw herself as such.” But he also said that she could be quite tough and aggressive and, he said, “periodically, downright nasty.”
On the stand, Dorothy Joudrie also recounted stories about their married life, including an incident early in the marriage when she said that her husband slammed her against a wall. She was shocked and threw a cookie jar at him, she said. She discussed other violent episodes, including one when she said that he broke her nose. And she told the court that Earl Joudrie did not strike her after Kentucky—although they did continue to have arguments in the 1980s and she felt that she was “sort of walking on eggs.” Dorothy Joudrie also told the court about what she described as the “best experience I had in my entire life”— while visiting the Betty Ford Clinic some time after the shooting last year. She said that she learned a lot about herself, including that she had low self-esteem and that she is an alcoholic. As testimony in the highly publicized trial revealed, those were lessons learned in the wake of many turbulent years.
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