New Brunswick

Inmate suspected in cult leader's death: RCMP

The New Brunswick RCMP say an inmate is under investigation after a cult leader who was found dead in his prison cell on Saturday morning.

Warning: This story contains graphic details

The New Brunswick RCMP say an inmate at a medium-security prison is under investigation after a former cult leader was found dead in his cell on Saturday morning.

Dorchester Penitentiary, which is southeast of Moncton and holds roughly 440 inmates, was locked down on Sunday and a 59-year-old inmate was being investigated in the death of Roch Thériault, 63.

The RCMP say the inmate who is believed to be involved in Thériault's death has not been charged.

Thériault, who was also known as Moses, was serving a life sentence for murder and other violent crimes in the 1980s.

Sgt. Greg Lupson said early indications are that Thériault's death came as a result of an assault.

"It's an ongoing investigation, so like all other homicide investigations there's very little information that can be communicated to the public," Lupson said.

"At a later time, if a charge is laid, there will be a court process and at some point during that court process the details of exactly what happened to Mr. Thériault would become public."

Thériault was a notorious Canadian figure as the leader of a fringe religious cult in Quebec and Ontario. He fathered more than 20 children with several women.

The cult was called the Ant Hill Kids, named for their hard work and self-sufficiency.

One of his victims was partially disembowelled with a kitchen knife and another had her right arm cut off with a cleaver.

Gabrielle Lavallee, who was a commune wife and had her arm severed, spoke to CBC News in 2002 after Thériault was denied parole.

"I went through hell for 12 years. We worked just like slaves," she said.

Prison safety

Étienne Chiasson, a spokesman for Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), said the penitentiary is co-operating with the RCMP and coroner's investigation.

"The safety of the inmates, of our staff and the public are paramount for CSC," Chiasson said.

"That's why in such events under any circumstances and no matter who the inmate is or the victim, we take that seriously and it's important to us to investigate and find out what happened."

This is the second homicide at the prison in recent months.

Daniel Pépin, 44, of Quebec, died after an altercation with another inmate in September. Joshua Robert Terry, 24, was charged with first-degree murder in provincial court in Moncton in December. The RCMP said in February that Matthew Ryan Robinson, 25, of Heathland, N.B., was also charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault with a weapon.

Tries to sell prison art

Theriault made headlines again in 2009 when he tried to sell his artwork on a U.S.-based website, which called itself a "true crime auction house." The website was willing to sell some of Theriault's drawings and poetry.

CSC had to step in to stop Theriault's work from leaving the Dorchester Penitentiary. Stockwell Day, the federal public safety minister at the time, wrote to the CSC to express concern that the killer was benefiting from work in prison.