He was one of Quebec’s most famous criminals, a cold-blooded killer who was given a chance to rehabilitate himself but chose instead life as a fugitive.
Less than two weeks after he escaped from a penitentiary, former Hells Angels hitman René Charlebois was found dead as provincial police closed in Wednesday night on the suburban house where he was hiding.
The Sûreté du Québec was executing an arrest warrant at a home on Île aux Fantômes, in the Sorel area, southeast of Montreal, when they found a man without vital signs, Constable Raphaël Bergeron of the Montreal police said Thursday morning.
The case is now under investigation by Montreal police detectives because of the death of the suspect during the SQ operation.
Constable Bergeron said the dead man's identity hadn’t been confirmed but a source said it is the 48-year-old Mr. Charlebois.
A former member of the elite Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, Mr. Charlebois was a key figure during the bloody biker turf war of the 1990s that left more than 160 dead in Quebec.
He pleaded guilty to the murder of a police informant and court testimony implicated him in the killing of another biker and the shooting of a passer-by who was mistaken for a prison guard.
Mr. Charlebois had been behind bars since 2001. When he escaped on Sept. 14, he had been eligible for day parole for six months but the National Parole Board says he did not apply. He would have been eligible to apply for full parole within three years.
Apparently Mr. Charlebois had not forgotten his wedding day, when he donned his biker leather vest and toasted his guests by saying: "My brothers, I love you. My heart, my blood and my life belongs to the Hells Angels."
His August 2000 wedding caused an uproar in Quebec because two famous crooners, Ginette Reno and Jean-Pierre Ferland, performed during the lavish celebrations at the home of the Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher.
Mr. Charlebois was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
He had been charged for the 2000 slaying of a police informant, Claude De Serres, who had been lured to a remote cottage and shot in the head. Mr. De Serres wore a wire, and police later recovered an audio tape of his death. His identity had been compromised after the Hells Angels stole the laptop of an OPP biker expert.
Testimony in court also implicated Mr. Charlebois in two other plots.
A biker turned informant, Stéphane Sirois, testified that he and Mr. Charlebois went "on the hunt" and tried to kill Rock Machine associate Marc Belhumeur. They didn't find him but Mr. Belhumeur was eventually murdered in January of 1997.
The gang leader, Mr. Boucher, then devised a plan to ensure the loyalty of his men by asking them to kill prison guards, prosecutors, judges and other law-enforcement officials.
On June 28, 1997, two days after the assassination of the first jail guard, two men on a motorcycle fired four times and severely wounded a civilian employee who conducted Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at Saint Vincent de Paul Penitentiary in Laval. The informant Stéphane Gagné told investigators that Mr. Charlebois was one of the gunmen.
Life as a drug-trafficking Hells Angel was lucrative for Mr. Charlebois. He drove a Cadillac, owned three houses and had a cellar of the best Bordeaux – Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Haut-Brion, Château Cheval Blanc. Police searching his home in 2001 found $12,000 in cash strewn around the property, including five $1,000 casino chips.