Disappearance of Cédrika Provencher
|Disappeared||July 31, 2007 (aged 9)|
Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada
Remains found December 11, 2015 in Saint-Maurice
Cédrika Provencher (born 29 August 1997) was a Canadian girl from Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada, who disappeared aged 9 on . Her disappearance resulted in one of the biggest police search in Québec's history. She was declared "missing" on 31 July 2007 (but some commentators in the media already believed that she was kidnapped), and "likely abducted" 72 hours later. Despite the offer of a reward, her whereabouts remained unknown for more than eight years.
On 12 December 2015, Québec provincial police (SQ) announced that her remains had been found by hunters in a woody area not far from Trois-Rivières. Nobody has yet been charged in relation to this.
Disappearance and search
It is believed that Cédrika was asked by a man to help search for a lost dog, and agreed to help. She cycled around the area, knocking on doors and asking residents if they had seen the dog. She was seen emerging from a wooded area with a friend, closely followed by a man. She was then seen on her bike in a local park and on various nearby streets. At 8:30 pm, her bicycle was found leaning against a fire hydrant on the corner of streets Chabanel and Chapais. On 2 August 2007, 72 hours later, municipal officers suggested that she had been abducted, even though it was already known since day one that a man asked her about a dog. The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) therefore took over the investigation from the smaller Trois-Rivières police service, as per law. Neither police forces declared the AMBER Alert. Hundreds of citizens assisted in the search for Cédrika, to no avail. On 13 August, while around 60 investigators are working full-time on the case, a reward of C$80,000 is offered in exchange of information. It was raised to C$170,000 in 2009.
Between August 2007 and July 2008, various newspapers published information on various aspects of the search, but no concrete information surfaced to be able to find Cédrika or even to establish whether she was still alive.
Discovery of remains
On 11 December 2015, three hunters stumbled upon a set of human remains in the woods in Saint-Maurice, a small town near Trois-Rivières close to Highway 40, about 15 km from the last place Cédrika had been seen. On 12 December, it was confirmed that the remains were Cédrika's although police had no further information at the time and said they would need to carry out further investigations. On 16 December, Radio-Canada revealed that investigators were still looking for a person of interest who had been seen around the area where Cédrika disappeared.
Jonathan Bettez has been considered a prime suspect since early on, but has never been indicted due to a complete lack of direct evidence.
The fact that he was the main suspect was publicly revealed by journalists on 29 August 2016 after he was arrested and charged with six counts of possessing and distributing child pornography. He was however acquitted on 12 October 2018 by judge Lacoursière, before the beginning of hearings, as the proof against him was considered to have been obtained illegitimately. In December 2015, a day or two after the finding of Cédrika's remains, investigators involved in the case decided to look into whether Bettez, the sole suspect, could be a user of such pornography. Without any warrant, they were given by Facebook inc. 12 IP addresses associated with his account within the last year or so. Their request was motivated by a sense of "urgency" inherent to the recent finding of the corpse, and worry that evidence could be imminently destroyed (judge Lacoursière found however that there was no urgency and that a proper warrant should have been obtained).
The querying of an international police database then showed that one of the IP address, which investigators learned was from his place of work (a small company owned by Bettez's father, with more than a dozen of employees using a computer), had been used to view and share illicit content between 2010 and 2011. With this in hands, police officers chose, instead of asking a judge for a specific search warrant, to only request a "general warrant" from a justice of the peace, which is easier to obtain and was only intended as an "overview browsing" of Bettez's seized goods. The detailed and thus unauthorized inspection of his electronic devices subsequently revealed traces of a number of illegal files that had been deleted.
The case against him, at least what was revealed in media, is strictly circumstantial and goes as follow. Around the presumed time and place of the kidnapping on 31 July 2007, someone witnessed a "suspicious" red sedan car with chromed door handles. Since this car was also recorded by a surveillance camera at a nearby gas station, the police managed to boil it down to the 2004 red Acura TSX model, which is assembled with such handles. The news that the police was looking for a "red Acura" quickly spread through media outlets. In the summer of 2007, there were 258 vehicles of this model and color registered in the province. Only six exactly matched the characteristics that were sought and Bettez was the only owner whose alibi could not be corroborated. He met with investigators for the first time on 6 September 2007, and on five more occasions before 24 October. From then, he has been the object of intense police surveillance, including the use of hidden cameras and wiretapping. On 6 September he initially accepted to let his vehicle be searched, but at that time the car was in a repair shop to have bodywork done on its rear. Investigators only gained access to the car in December after obtaining a search warrant, but no meaningful forensic evidence was retrieved. In the meantime, the SQ announced through media in November that it was "certain" the infamous Acura rouge car was involved in the kidnaping.
Bettez has always refused to take a polygraph test one way or the other, and according to crime journalist Claude Poirier, he was at some point planning to flee to Switzerland, a country which has no extradition treaty with Canada. According to court documents filed during pre-hearing and obtained by journalists, he was the object in 2009 of a year-long undercover operation similar to the "Mr. Big technique", so as to elicit confidences concerning Cédrika — to no avail. Even before 2016 he was already rumored to be involved in the case. In 2011, a journalist from the investigative television program J.E. tried to interview Bettez, which he declined on camera. At the time, the segment aired on TVA channel but the suspect was kept unnamed and his face blurred.
- "Il y a un coupable et il se connaît | Jean-Marc Beaudoin | Le Nouvelliste". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Où est Cédrika? | Marie-Eve Lafontaine | Le Nouvelliste". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Over 200 police on scene as Cedrika Provencher investigation continues | CTV Montreal News". montreal.ctvnews.ca. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
- "Les ossements de Cédrika Provencher retrouvés".
- "Site Officiel - Fondation Cédrika Provencher". Fondation Cedrika Provencher (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Cédrika: apprendre à vivre sans sa fille | Clément Sabourin | Actualités". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Des méthodes policières critiquées | Clément Sabourin | Actualités". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "La formation des policiers était-elle adéquate?" (in French). TVA Nouvelles. 2017.
- "Cédrika: le meurtrier est "très nerveux en ce moment", selon Claude Poirier" (in French). Le Journal de Montréal.
- ICI.Radio-Canada.ca, Zone Regions -. "Voilà déjà une semaine | ICI.Radio-Canada.ca". Radio-Canada.ca (in French). Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Affaire Cédrika Provencher: Découvertes insolites - Faits divers - L'Hebdo du St-Maurice". www.lhebdodustmaurice.com. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Le Matin". Archived from the original on 2011-01-19.
- "Cédrika Provencher: récit d'un enlèvement | Marie-Eve Lafontaine | Le Nouvelliste". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 2015-12-11.
- "Des restes humains trouvés en Mauricie". tvanouvelles.ca.
- "'We felt it was related to Cédrika Provencher,' says hunter who found remains of missing girl". CBC.
- "Man flagged in 2007 remains person of interest in Cédrika Provencher case". CBC.
- "Décision - R. vs Bettez - 2018 QCCQ 7274". SOQUIJ (in French). 12 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
- "Les autorités échappent leur suspect". La Presse+ (in French). 2018-10-13.
- "La thèse de l'Acura rouge confirmée". Radio-Canada. 2 November 2007.
- "Affaire Cédrika Provencher: des détails sur l'enquête finalement rendus publics". La Tribune (in French). 2018-07-12. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
- "Affaire Cedrika: le suspect voulait quitter le pays, selon Claude Poirier • Actualités • 98,5 fm Montréal". www.985fm.ca. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
- "Affaire Cédrika Provencher : des documents montrent l'ampleur de la traque de Bettez" (in French). Radio-Canada. 2018-07-10.
- "«J.E.» avait rencontré Jonathan Bettez". TVA Nouvelles (in French). Retrieved 2018-10-20.