|Part of prelude to the Quebec Biker war|
|Location||Lennoxville, Sherbrooke, Quebec|
|Date||March 24, 1985|
|Target||Hells Angels (North Chapter)|
|Perpetrators||Hells Angels (South Chapter)|
|Convicted||4 of first-degree murder|
The Lennoxville massacre, or Lennoxville purge, was a mass murder which took place at the Hells Angels clubhouse in Lennoxville, Quebec on March 24, 1985. Five members of the Hells Angels North Chapter, founded by Laurent "L'Anglais" Viau and Yves "Apache" Trudeau, were shot dead. This event divided rival outlaw motorcycle gangs in Quebec, leading to the formation of the Rock Machine club in 1986, a rival to the Hells in the 1990s.
In the 1960s-70s, one of Montreal's more prominent biker gangs were the Popeyes, who were led by Yves Buteau. In the 1970s, the Popeyes had successfully fought against the Devil's Disciples and Satan's Choice biker gangs, and as the journalist Patrick Lejtenyi noted: "The violence that ensued cemented Quebec's reputation as one of the most dangerous places for organized crime to do business in North America." The journalist James Dubro told Lejtenyi: "There's always has been more violence in Quebec. In the biker world it's known as the Red Zone. I remember an Outlaws hit man telling me he was scared of going to Montreal." The Hells Angels, who had been looking to expand into Canada, decided that the Popeyes were the best gang to take into their organization. On 5 December 1977, the Popeyes "patched over" to become the first Hells Angel chapter in Canada.
As the Hells Angels continued to grow, in September 1979 the Montreal chapter was divided into two, with a Montreal North and a Montreal South chapter. Confusingly, the Montreal North chapter was based in Laval while the Montreal South chapter was based in Sorel. The North chapter consisted mostly of former Popeyes members, and still retained Popeye attitudes, in marked contrast to the South chapter headed by Réjean "Zig Zig" Lessard, who were more disciplined. And as long as Yves "Le Boss" Buteau, the Popeye president who taken his club into the Hells Angels, lived, rules were more or less enforced. Lessard had joined the Angels in 1979, and did not have the Popeye mentality.
On 8 September 1983, Buteau and another Angel, René Lamoureaux, were having lunch at a restaurant, Le Petit Bourg, with Guy "Frenchie" Gilbert, the president of the Kitchener chapter of the Satan's Choice biker gang, who was considering "patching over" to join the Angels. As the three bikers were leaving the restaurant, a member of the Outlaws, Gino Goudreau, opened fire, killing Buteau and Gilbert while wounding Lamoureaux. Goudreau was a prospect with the Outlaws and believed he would be rewarded with "full patch" status if he could assassinate the leader of the Canadian Hells Angels. After Buteau's assassination, Michel "Sky" Langlois became the president of the Canadian Hells Angels while Lessard continued to lead the South chapter. In a division of labour, Langlois focused his efforts into expanding into the rest of Canada while Lessard had effective operational control of the Angels in Quebec. In contrast to Buteau, the man who succeeded him as president of the North chapter, Laurent "L'Anglais" Viau, had a more tolerant attitude towards violence and drug use. The Laval chapter, which had often chaffed at and had broken Buteau's rules about not using drugs, swung out of control under Viau's leadership as Viau himself was addicted to cocaine, alcohol and prostitutes. The rest of the chapter followed his example.
Other Hells Angels felt that the North Chapter bikers were too wild and uncontrollable. They often used drugs they were supposed to sell and were suspected of skimming drug profits that were meant for other Hells Angels chapters. The North chapter had taken at least $60,000 that were meant for the other chapters for themselves while their gratuitous aggression frequently led them to being arrested for minor offenses, which put the entire Hells Angels operations in Quebec at risk. André Cédilot, the crime reporter with La Presse newspaper told Pierre Obendrauf of the Montreal Gazette: "At that moment [in 1985], the Hells Angels were doing a cleanup to become a real criminal organization. Before that, they were disorganized and unruly. They were like a street gang...The [Laval] guys weren't following the steps the others were taking. They fit the traditional image of bikers...It was going against the new philosophy of the Hells Angels. The other Hells Angels wanted to be businessmen." The other organized crime groups that the Hells Angels did business with such as the Mafia and the West End Gang had pressuring the Angels to bring the Montreal North chapter based in Laval under control. The Hells Angels assassin Yves "Apache" Trudeau later testified for the Crown that relations between the Montreal North and Montreal South chapters of the Hell's Angels were "ice cold" by the beginning of 1985.
When the leader of the Hells Angels' Halifax chapter, David "Wolf" Carroll, paid Trudeau $98,000 dollars for a killing he had done, he learned that the Montreal North chapter was actually entitled to one-quarter of the money, and that Trudeau had used the money to support his cocaine addiction. As the Halifax chapter was poorer than the Laval chapter, Trudeau's behavior was considered to be especially crass. Carroll went to Montreal to meet with Lessard, demanding that he take action against the Laval chapter. Lessard needed little encouragement from Carroll, and spent most of the meeting railing against the North chapter, whom he called a menace to the existence of the Angels in Quebec. Also attending the meeting was Georges "Bo-Boy" Beaulieu, the president of the Angels' Sherbrooke chapter, who agreed with Lessard and Carroll that the Laval chapter needed to be liquidated. In March 1985, at a secret meeting in Sorel, the Montreal North chapter were declared to be in "bad standing" with the Hells Angels and hence were to be killed. The plan devised by Lessard, Carroll and Beaulieu called for two members of the Laval chapter to be forced into retirement, another two members to be given a chance to join the South chapter and the rest to be all killed. Lessard and Carroll in particular wanted Viau and Trudeau dead. Robert "Ti-Maigre" Richard, the sergeant-at-arms of the Sorel chapter announced that a party was to held at the clubhouse of the Sherbrooke chapter on Saturday, March 23, 1985 to be attended by the Sorel, Laval, Halifax and Sherbrooke chapters, which were all of the Angels' chapters in eastern Canada at the time. The four Hells Angels chapters in British Columbia did not attend the party.
North Chapter members were invited to a meeting at the Sherbrooke Chapter's Lennoxville clubhouse on March 23, 1985. Lessard had planned to ambush the Laval chapter as they entered the clubhouse, but his plan failed when most of the targets failed to show up. Lessard now extended the party for a second day, and announced that participation at the party was mandatory. Most of the North chapter now showed up with the notable exceptions of Trudeau, who was in rehab being treated for his cocaine addiction, and Michel "Jinx" Genest, who is in the hospital recovering from a failed assassination attempt by the Outlaws. The founding member of Hells Angels Canada and president of the North Chapter, Laurent "L'Anglais" Viau, and four of its members: Jean-Guy "Brutus" Geoffrion, Jean-Pierre "Matt le Crosseur" Mathieu, Michel "Willie" Mayrand, and Guy-Louis "Chop" Adam attended. When the five North Chapter members arrived, they were ambushed and murdered. Lessard with 41 men under his command forced the victims into the center of a room in the clubhouse, where they were all shot.
Three members of the Laval chapter who attended the party; Gilles "Le Nez" Lachance, Richard "Bert" Mayrand, and Yvon "Le Pere" Bilodeau were ordered to remove the bodies and wash away the blood. Lessard then told Mayrand and Bilodeau that he was fond of them, and so he was giving them the option that they were to retire from organized crime forever or be killed while Lachance was offered membership in the South chapter, which he accepted. Together with Jacques "Le Pelle" Pelletier and Robert "Snake" Tremblay of the South chapter, Lachance went to see Genest to inform him that he could either join the Sorel chapter or be killed; he chose the former. To confirm his loyalty to the new order, Genest killed Claude "Coco" Roy, a prospect with the Laval chapter who was considered to be close to the murdered men, and handed over the five bags of cocaine that Roy had with him to the South chapter. Over the next few days, the Laval clubhouse was looted with all the money and drugs stored in it being taken together with the six Harley-Davidson motorcycles at the clubhouse. Despite the original plan to kill Trudeau at the Sherbrooke clubhouse, he was contacted at the clinic he was staying at in Oka to be told he had been expelled from the Angels, but could rejoin if he killed three people whom Lessard wanted to see dead. One of the people whom Lessard wanted Trudeau to kill was Ginette "La Jument" Henri, the accountant to the Laval chapter and Mathieu's girlfriend.
Pierre de Champlain, a former RCMP officer and a specialist on biker crime told the journalist Patrick Lejtenyi: "They [the police] noticed that the Laval chapter's garage that served as their bunker was closed. The girlfriends of the guys who'd disappeared were approached and asked, 'Have you seen your boyfriend lately?' and things like that. Then they realized that these people had disappeared, but they didn't know they were dead." In June 1985, a fisherman on the St. Lawrence caught part of the decomposing body of Geoffrion, and alerted the police. At the bottom of the St. Lawrence River, police divers located the decomposing bodies of the victims wrapped in sleeping bags and tied to weightlifting plates. Also found with the bodies in the St. Lawrence was the skeleton of Berthe Desjardins, who had been missing since February 1980. Desjardins was the wife of a Hells Angel liquidated by Trudeau as a possible police informer and while he was at it, Trudeau had killed her to ensure her silence. The name that the media gave to the massacre, namely the Lennoxville massacre, is a misnomer; the killings took place in Sherbrooke, and the misconception that the killings took place in Lennoxville arouse from the fact the victims had stayed and partied at a motel in Lennoxville before going to the Sherbrooke clubhouse.
Turning Crown's evidence
Lachance, who was profoundly troubled by the massacre he had seen, contacted the Sûreté du Québec to state his willingness to work as an informer and to wear a wire. One of the participants in the killings, Gerry "La Chat" Coulombe, a prospect with the South chapter, was so troubled by the massacre that he also turned informer and wore a wire for the Sûreté du Québec. Yves "Apache" Trudeau, a Hells Angels from the Montreal North chapter who did not attend the Lennoxville meeting as he was in rehab being treated for his cocaine addiction, was offered a deal by the Sorel chapter to kill 3 other people associated with the Laval chapter in exchange for his life. Trudeau killed one of the three people, but was arrested for possession of illegal weapons in July 1985. While in prison, Trudeau realized that he would probably be killed, cut a deal with the Crown, where for testifying against the Hell's Angels leadership in Quebec, the Crown would treat the 43 murders he committed between 1970-1985 as manslaughter, and for which he would serve 7 years in prison. As result of Trudeau's testimony, 90 murders were solved and 19 Hell's Angels were convicted. Given that Trudeau committed 43 murders first as a Popeye and then as a Hell's Angel, his lenient sentence attracted much controversy.
Several members of the Hells Angels were present and played a role in the slaughter, but only four – Jacques Pelletier, Luc "Sam" Michaud, Réjean "Zig-Zag" Lessard and later Robert "Snake" Tremblay – were convicted of first-degree murder. The others were convicted of lesser related crimes. One of the Angels present at the massacre, Richard "Bert" Mayrand, was the older brother of one of the victims, Michel "Willie" Mayrand, refused the Crown's offer to testify against his brother's killers, saying the Hells Angels were his family and he would never betray his "brothers" who had killed his brother. Mayrand later returned to the Hells Angels and served as one of the lieutenants to Maurice Boucher during the Quebec biker war. David "Wolf" Carroll, the leader of the Halifax chapter of the Angels who at very least was present at the massacre was charged with first degree murder, but was acquitted in 1987. Carroll moved to Montreal in 1990 and was to play a very prominent role in the Quebec Biker War. He fled Canada in March 2001 to escape an arrest warrant and has not been heard or seen since.
Pelletier, Michaud, Lessard and Tremblay were given life sentences for the murders with no chance of parole before 25 years. They were all granted parole nonetheless on the faint hope clause and ended up serving between 17 and 22 years each. Robert "Ti-Maigre" Richard, who issued the invitations to the massacre, was acquitted of all charges and died of a heart attack at his home in 1996. Michaud was released on full parole in June 2005. Pelletier were granted day parole in October 2008. Of the men convicted of the massacre:
- Robert "Snake" Tremblay was granted full parole on 30 August 2004 and is living in Montreal. Tremblay told the parole board: "I sincerely deplore having taken the life of another person. I am very aware that I have to watch out for who I associate with and that I have everything to lose if I return to the criminal world."
- Luc "Sam" Michaud was granted full parole on 6 May 2005, denying killing anyone, but stated he regretted his involvement with a crime that put him in prison for 20 years. Michaud, described as a zealous Hells Angel at the time of his conviction, returned to Roman Catholicism while in prison and was expelled from the Angels in 1993. He is living in Montreal at present.
- Réjean "Zig Zag" Lessard, the leader of the plot behind the massacre converted to Buddhism while in prison and left the Angels in 1989. Lessard was granted day parole on 3 February 2006, telling the National Parole Board that he had become a vegetarian, a pacifist and a Buddhist, saying: "You can't be a Buddhist and be in that milieu." Lessard was granted full parole on 11 August 2010 and is living in Montreal.
- Jacques Pelletier was granted full parole on 6 May 2013, but he was sent back to prison in 2014 after he violated the terms of his parole by associating with Hells Angels.
Quebec biker war
The event was considered extreme even for the criminal underworld, and it gave the Quebec's Hells Angels a notorious reputation. Salvatore Cazzetta found the event an unforgivable breach of the outlaw code and rather than joining the Hells, he, along with his brother Giovanni, formed their own smaller gang, the Rock Machine, in 1986.
Maurice Boucher, future Quebec Nomad chapter president, did not share Cazzetta's concerns and after finishing a 40-month sentence for armed sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl, he later that year joined the Hells Angels and began to rise through the ranks. For years, the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine co-existed peacefully. Police officials believe this was due to Boucher's respect for the Cazzetta brothers, who had connections to the Montreal Mafia, also known as the Rizzuto crime family, the only organized-crime group the bikers were unwilling to attack. In 1994, Salvatore Cazzetta was arrested at a pit-bull farm for attempting to import eleven tons of cocaine. The recently promoted Hells Montreal president Boucher began to increase pressure on the Rock Machine shortly after the arrest initiating the Quebec Biker war.
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