A man who ranted about his family, claiming they lacked generosity because they cut off his free room and board, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder after a shooting rampage that left three women dead in a pair of quiet Quebec villages.
Sylvain Duquette, 51, appeared in court Thursday in Shawinigan, Que., a day after the deadly attacks that left villagers shaken in the central Quebec region near La Mauricie National Park.
The dead are Jocelyne Pellerin, 70, identified by friends and family as the suspect's stepmother; Denise Halle, 61, his sister-in-law; and Janet Toupin-Lauzon, 56, a friend of Ms. Halle's who was visiting from Prescott, Ont., and was accompanied by her three-year-old grandson, who was unharmed.
The boy's parents retrieved him Thursday, according to family.
The suspect's 80-year-old father, Claude Duquette, was present during the attack on Ms. Pellerin but escaped without serious injury, according to the Sûreté du Québec.
The gunman tried to torch the homes where the attacks took place, and black soot ringed the windows of one of the homes. Sylvain Duquette also faces charges of arson and kidnapping.
Neighbours said he moved in with Ms. Halle and his brother, Jocelyn Duquette, last fall after he fell on hard times and had trouble holding down a job. His brother was diagnosed with leukemia shortly thereafter and died Dec. 1. Ms. Halle later told neighbours she no longer wanted to live with Mr. Duquette and asked him to leave by April 1.
"He lived there and she didn't want him there," said Michel Grenier, a neighbour and family friend of the victims. "He was very upset about it."
One day before his eviction date, Mr. Duquette took to Facebook to express his displeasure. "My father dropped by and didn't even look at me or offer me $5 to help knowing very well I will be tossed to the curb tomorrow like a dirty undesirable to make room for visitors and friends," he wrote. "Payback comes eventually, but sometimes it takes a long time. But I'll get payback from those who deserve to pay."
His only kind words were for his mother, Pierrette Gélinas, who died some years earlier. He said she set an example with her generosity.
Police would not confirm if the eviction was considered a motive in the case. "It's too early to get into that," Annie Thibodeau of the SQ said.
Police said that on Wednesday, at about 7 p.m., the gunman drove to the home shared by Claude Duquette and Ms. Pellerin in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, north of Shawinigan. The suspect bound the woman and shot her. Mr. Duquette was splashed with fuel but managed to escape to a neighbour's home.
The gunman then drove a few kilometres to Saint-Gérard-des-Laurentides, to the home where he had been staying. There, he shot Ms. Halle and Ms. Toupin-Lauzon, who had time to call 911, according to her mother, Jean McCargar.
It was not clear how Ms. Toupin-Lauzon's grandson was spared. An SQ spokesperson had no information about the child, and Ms. McCargar said details are only trickling out slowly to the family.
Sylvain Duquette was arrested at midnight at a gas station in Shawinigan, where a red gasoline jug and ammunition were left strewn on the ground in the aftermath.
It was a special trip for Ms. Toupin-Lauzon, according to her mother. Ms. Halle "was Janet's best friend and her grandson was very excited about taking the train," she said. "We all love her so much."
Ms. McCargar said Ms. Toupin-Lauzon was aware of trouble with a brother-in-law when she left for the trip but did not see him as a threat.