Montreal

Man charged with killing 13-year-old Lachute, Que., girl was a family friend

François Sénécal, 51, kept his head down, never uttering a word, barely making eye contact with the judge in the Saint-Jérôme, Que., courtroom Friday as he was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of 13-year-old Océane Boyer.

Océane Boyer was 'a little ball of love,' says another friend, Roger Louis Seize

The parents of 13-year-old Océane Boyer arrived at the Saint-Jérôme courthouse Friday morning. François Sénécal is facing a charge of first-degree murder in connection with Océane's death. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Océane Boyer's parents sat in the front row of the courtroom in Saint-Jérôme, Que., Friday, staring at the man who was their longtime friend. The man's daughter burst into tears as her father entered the room.

François Sénécal, 51, kept his head down, never uttering a word, barely making eye contact with the judge as he was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of 13-year-old Océane.

After Sénécal's appearance, Océane's mother, Caroline Sarrazin, left the room visibly upset.

Océane's body was found on the side of a road in Brownsburg–Chatham Wednesday morning. Sénécal was arrested a day later.

The two families had been close for years.

"No. No, I can't believe it," the accused's daughter, Alexandra Sénécal, 24, told reporters at the courthouse Friday afternoon.

Devastated by the tragedy, she said her father "had his faults," but she could never have imagined he might be capable of hurting anyone as he's alleged to have done, especially someone he was close to.

Alexandra Sénécal, the daughter of the accused, spoke through tears with reporters at the Saint-Jérôme courthouse on Friday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

She said her father and Océane were very close. Océane even called him "mon oncle François." 

He had never shown any kind of suspicious behaviour toward the girl, she said.

François Sénécal remains behind bars and has been ordered not to communicate with Océane's family.

He is set to be back in court March 4.

Océane's body was found on the side of a road Wednesday morning. Sénécal was arrested a day later. (Facebook)

'Full of love'

Océane was "a little ball of love," family friend Roger Louis Seize told reporters outside the courtroom Friday.

Louis Seize knew the teen from a campground in Rigaud, Que., where he works and the family used to visit. He said she used to come around and help out.

He said she was so friendly and outgoing that he once asked her to help with the 50-50 draw, to do the calling at the microphone.

"I'm telling you, that girl was so full of enthusiasm and so full of love, everybody would come up to her," Louis Seize said. 

Louis Seize says he'll always remember fondly when the winner of the draw gave Océane a portion of his winnings —and what she ended up doing with the money.

Watch Louis Seize tell the story of Océane and the 50-50 draw:

Roger Louis Seize tells a story where he knew that Océane Boyer, found dead earlier this week, was someone special. 0:56

Océane last seen Wednesday

After Sénécal was charged, Crown prosecutor Steve Baribeau spoke with reporters.

While a suspect can be charged with first-degree murder when the killing is premeditated, Baribeau said, the charge may also be applied for other reasons, such as there's an allegation of sexual assault or confinement.

"We're waiting to hear from the DNA experts," said Baribeau.

Océane was last seen leaving her Lachute home Wednesday morning. It's not known whether she made it to her high school, Polyvalente Lavigne.

Support for peers and school staff

The Rivière-du-Nord school board said they offered psychological support to students Friday at Océane's school.

Psychologists and psycho-educators were on site all day, conducting individual as well as group meetings, said a school board official, Nadyne Brochu. 

Two dogs were also at the school, providing pet therapy.

Help for students and staff will be available as long as necessary to help the community get through this hard time, said Brochu.

School is closed for March break next week, but the board will continue to offer students support, she said.

The youth centre Océane frequented, Univers Jeunesse Argenteuil, has also been offering support to teens there.

"They're all very sad, and no one can comprehend what happened. But we're just trying to listen to them and be there for them," said the youth centre's director, Julie Desrosier, on Thursday.

The Town of Lachute says it will fly its flag at half mast until March 6 in memory of Océane.

With files from CBC's Lauren McCallum and Radio-Canada