A Gatineau jury has found Roger Lepage guilty of first-degree murder in the 1987 shooting of a former Hull mayor's daughter.
Marie D'Amour, a 31-year-old forestry technician, was found dead in her bedroom in Ripon, Que. — an hour northeast of Ottawa — in October 1987, nearly 26 years ago.
One of her colleagues had gone to D'Amour's home, worried after not hearing from her, and found D'Amour on her bed with her chest partially bare and her pants and underwear at her knees.
She had been shot twice in the head.
She was the daughter of Marcel D'Amour, who was mayor of Hull from 1964 to 1972.
Lepage's former girlfriend suspected him, trial heard
During the trial in September, the victim's neighbour, Ginette Lanthier, told the jury she had suspected Lepage was involved. Lepage was Lanthier's ex-partner at the time, and she had kicked him out of their home a few weeks before the murder.
She testified that she found out about Marie D'Amour's death the day after it happened, and that she had found the victim's vehicle registration on her sofa. She said D'Amour's wallet was found hidden in her new boyfriend's pickup truck.
Detectives arrested Lepage four days after the murder but released him due to a lack of evidence.
Lepage had anonymously tried to direct suspicion toward Lanthier's new boyfriend, but detectives quickly dropped that man from the list of suspects.
Lepage moved to Ontario, and the investigation went cold.
Quebec police fake elaborate criminal organization
In April 2011, Quebec police began a six-month operation dubbed Harponner, meaning 'to harpoon' in French, to find out if Lepage killed D'Amour and to get a confession.
During the September trial, a police officer told the jury that Quebec police created a fake criminal organization and approached Lepage, then a mechanic in Cheneville, Que., to do tasks.
Lepage eventually believed he was taking part in trafficking viagra, steroids, counterfeit passports, explosives and contraband cigarettes. Fake missions sent him travelling across Quebec, and at one point the fake illegal transactions hit a value of $250,000.
In October 2011, Lepage met an undercover police officer he believed was the boss of the fake criminal organization. The discussion was filmed without Lepage's knowledge.
Lepage admits shooting to undercover officer
In the video, which lasts an hour and fifteen minutes, the undercover officer questioned Lepage about the killing and said he would help Lepage get out of it if he told the truth.
At first Lepage denied it, but he later described looking for a place to spend the night near his old home after his ex-girlfriend kicked him out.
Lepage said he broke into D'Amour's home, whom he didn't know. When she arrived home shortly after, Lepage was surprised and pointed his firearm at her, according to the video evidence.
He explained that he pulled the trigger the first time by accident, then shot again to make sure she was dead, the video shows. Lepage then told the undercover officer where he dropped the firearm.
Lepage lied to appear tough to fake crime boss, court hears
On the witness stand, Lepage testified that he had wanted to sleep near his old home the night of the killing and decided his vehicle wasn't comfortable.
He testified that he broke into a home he thought was unoccupied and was surprised when D'Amour returned home. He said he pointed his gun at her and followed her to her bedroom to make sure she didn't call police.
He said he accidentally pulled the trigger, panicked, and that another shot went off.
Lepage said he undressed D'Amour to make it seem like a sexual assault and took her wallet to find out who she was.
He testified that he lied to the fake crime boss about the second shot to appear tough.
Under cross-examination by the Crown, Lepage admitted he could have left the home without firing.
Defence lawyer questions credibility of confession
During closing arguments, Lepage's defence lawyer acknowledged his client's actions were unacceptable, but said Lepage never intended to kill her.
The lawyer also questioned the credibility of the confession. He asked the jury to consider that when his client confessed to the undercover officer, he was scared and felt threatened.
The trial began on Sept. 17, deliberations began on Monday and the verdict was reached Tuesday morning.
A jury of six men and six women at the Gatineau courthouse found Lepage guilty of premeditated murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The family was emotional upon hearing the verdict and Lepage left the prisoner's box looking shaken.