Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Plea deal made in Labossiere case
It was a crime unlike any other in Manitoba -- a murder-for-hire that saw three members of the same family executed inside their rural farmhouse, the house burned to the ground and a family member arrested and charged.
And now, as the case wends its way through the court system, justice officials have struck a plea bargain with one of the killers.
Jeremie Toupin pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of second-degree murder in exchange for the Crown dropping more serious charges of first-degree murder. Sources say Toupin, 24, will be called as a witness to testify against the remaining two accused, Jérôme Labossiere and Michael Hince. Prosecutor Daniel Chaput would only say Monday Toupin will not be sentenced until after Labossiere and Hince have concluded their cases. No trial dates have been set, but lawyers are aiming for the spring of 2011.
Toupin remains in custody. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. A judge has the option of raising that up to 25 years, which is the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder. Canadian law does not allow for consecutive sentences for multiple murders.
Labossiere family members declined to comment Monday on the developments in the case.
Court documents previously obtained by the Free Press revealed the November 2005 killings of Fernand, 78, Rita, 74, and Remi Labossiere, 44, in St. Leon, Man., were allegedly "bought" for $5,000 and supposed to look like suicide. Accused killer Jérôme Labossiere is a Hells Angels associate who is the brother and son of the victims. Hince and Toupin were his longtime friends.
Search warrant affidavits reveal details of an exhaustive three-year police investigation that ended with arrests in May 2008. Concerns were expressed about other members of the Labossiere family being marked for death -- fears that would be realized in April 2008 when Jérôme Labossiere's nephew, Joël Labossiere and his pregnant wife, Maggy, were shot execution-style in their home, leaving their one-year-old daughter an orphan. Kelly Clarke, a co-worker of Jérôme Labossiere, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Winnipeg police have not said what, if any, connection there could be to the triple murder. Clarke remains before the courts.
Last year, Jérôme Labossiere was hit with three new charges of counselling to commit murder. He allegedly discussed plans with a fellow inmate at Stony Mountain prison to kill three targets, including his sister, nephew and a former friend. None of them was harmed as police became aware of the plans almost immediately.
The unprecedented wave of family violence has been linked in court documents to an ongoing civil case over Fernand, Rita and Remi Labossiere's $1.3-million estate. At the time of his death, Joël Labossiere was involved in a court battle with Jérôme Labossiere over the estate and had recently taken out a protection order barring Jérôme from con--tacting him and his immediate family. Jérôme Labossiere had appealed the order, saying he was not a threat to anyone.
Police believe a copy of Remi's will Jérôme Labossiere produced after the killings -- which purported to leave the entire estate to him and his family -- was a fraud. A previous will from Remi Labossiere had left everything to his six nieces and nephews. Police started phone taps on their suspects in March 2007. Investigators said in court documents getting people to co-operate in the investigation was difficult because many witnesses expressed a fear of retribution if the killers found out they provided information to the police.
I still remain strong in my opinion about mandatory minimum sentences. I completely disagree with them. All they do, is lead to further prison overcrowding. They treat all criminals as equal by imposing the same sentence, when in reality, all offenders and all crimes are very different and deserve to be treated as such. MMS completely remove all judicial discretion in considering all the circumstances of the offender and the crime in deciding upon a sentence which they feel is fair and appropriate. This is completely wrong.