Ugo Fredette in coma as search for Yvon Lacasse goes on for 5th day
Police wait for chance to question murder suspect in hope he'll provide clue to missing man's whereabouts
Doctors have been unable to awaken Ugo Fredette since he was anesthetized for medical tests after suffering self-inflicted head injuries in a suicide attempt while in custody last Friday, said Fredette's lawyer, Pierre Gauthier.
On Monday, Fredette, 41, was charged in absentia with second-degree murder in the death of his partner, Véronique Barbe, while he remained in an Ottawa hospital.
Gauthier said Fredette had to be put to sleep before undergoing the tests "because he was too agitated."
"When all the medical tests were completed, they tried to wake him up but without any success," the lawyer said. "So he's been in a coma since Saturday."
Fredette was transferred to Ottawa Saturday from a hospital in Renfrew, Ont., the town where he was being held in custody following his arrest Friday, some 30 kilometres away in the tiny village of Dacre.
Fredette's arrest put an end to the Amber Alert launched Thursday evening when police discovered a six-year-old boy was missing after Barbe was found slain in her home in Saint-Eustache, northwest of Montreal.
The boy was found safe with Fredette and is now in the care of Quebec's youth protection services.
Police focus search on 100-km stretch of highway
The hunt for Fredette and the missing boy took police to Lachute, Que., 40 kilometres northwest of Saint-Eustache, where Fredette's white pickup truck was found abandoned early Friday.
Police believe Fredette stole the Honda CR-V of Gore, Que., resident Yvon Lacasse, who hasn't been seen since late Thursday.
Quebec provincial police spent a fifth day Tuesday searching for Lacasse along a roughly 100-kilometre stretch of Highway 117 between Val-d'Or and Rouyn-Noranda in northwestern Quebec, said Sgt. Marc Tessier.
Tessier said officers are combing the area on both sides of the highway, some walking with dogs.
While Fredette was on the lam, he was seen at a Rouyn-Noranda hotel, where police say he spent the night with the missing boy.
They are urging an important witness — a bearded, blue-eyed man who was seen with Fredette at the hotel — to come forward.
"Officers are still [going] house to house, even businesses, to see if they have any information, video or images that could be helpful," Tessier said.
If the search turns up no clues, Tessier said, "we have other options." Search crews could move on to other roads in the area, including highways 105 and 50.
Police hopeful Lacasse still alive
He said police remain hopeful Lacasse is alive.
"We're still looking for a missing person."
Police are requesting help from residents who live along the route covered by Fredette, asking people to look "everywhere — because we don't have [any] precise information" about Lacasse's possible whereabouts.
Gauthier, Fredette's lawyer, said police had already questioned his client before he ended up comatose in hospital, but police said they are hoping Fredette will provide information about Lacasse's whereabouts when he awakens.
"Hopefully, Ugo Fredette will come to his senses and give out the information so that … all the members of Yvon Lacasse's family find answers," SQ Sgt. Martine Asselin said in an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Friday.
'I'd like to see the recordings'
Fredette is still slated to appear in Saint-Jérôme court Wednesday, although that may need to be postponed, Gauthier said.
The lawyer said he has little information concerning the circumstances of Fredette's suicide attempt, and he doesn't know why it's not being investigated by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
"All the information I have is from the police," said Gauthier. "They say that my client has injured himself; I have no reason not to believe them, but since I heard that there [are] recordings of what happened in the cell, I'd like to see the recordings."
The SIU, the independent body that probes incidents involving police where there has been death or serious injury, said Fredette's injuries did not meet the threshold to invoke its mandate.
With files from Ainslie MacLellan and The Canadian Press