New Brunswick

Cult leader Roch Thériault's killer gets life

A 60-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for slaying notorious cult leader Roch Thériault at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick last February.

A 60-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for slaying a notorious cult leader at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick last February.

Matthew Gerrard MacDonald, of Port au Port, N.L., was scheduled to have a jury trial date set Monday in Moncton Court of Queen’s Bench on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his fellow inmate Roch Thériault.

But MacDonald re-elected to be tried by judge alone and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, said Crown prosecutor Anthony Allman told CBC News.

The Quebec-born Thériault, 63, was found dead near his cell at the Dorchester institution on Feb. 26, 2011. At the time, police reported that he had been involved in an altercation with another inmate and died as a result of his injuries.

MacDonald was seen on a video from the institution going into Thériault’s cell, said Allman.

"He then is seen emerging and pulling a shank from Mr. Thériault’s neck," Allman told CBC News. "And then he goes to the guards and says in rather cruder words than these that he just killed Mr. Thériault."

Second-degree murder means MacDonald intended to kill Thériault, but that it wasn't premeditated.

MacDonald "had expressed some animosity towards Mr. Thériault" and his prior convictions for killing a woman and maiming another.

"He said some things about Mr. Thériault’s prior record for convictions which involved girls and women."

Thériault led a cult from 1977 to 1989, first in Ste-Marie de Beauce, Quebec, then in Gaspé, and then Burnt River, Ontario, where he lived with eight women, his 26 children and several followers.

He killed his wife, cult member Solange Boislard, by disembowelling her, and chopped off the right arm of another commune wife, Gabrielle Lavallee, with a chainsaw.

In 1993, Thériault was sentenced to life in prison at Dorchester, a medium-security facility southeast of Moncton that houses about 400 inmates.

Since MacDonald is already serving a life sentence for a previous murder, the Crown didn't have to make any submissions for the sentencing.

"All murders you get life imprisonment; the issue is parole," said Allman.

"If it's a second-degree murder, it's normally 10 years or whatever the court orders. But where it's a second-degree murder by a person who already has a murder on his record, then the automatic sentence is life without parole for 25 years," he said.