Killer cult leader is denied parole

CP/July 12, 2002

Dorchester, N.B. -- Cult leader Roch Theriault, who once used a meat cleaver to amputate the arm of a concubine, was denied parole yesterday on the grounds he represents an ongoing danger to society.

The three-member National Parole Board panel also ordered Theriault, who called himself Moses, to undergo a series of psychiatric evaluations.

Gabrielle Lavallee, who had her right arm hacked off by Theriault in 1989, said yesterday he deserves to stay in jail forever.

"The population, myself included, will be able to have a long night's sleep tonight," Lavallee, 52, said after the parole hearing.

"Sitting behind him (at the hearing) brought back all the memories of the time, when I weighed 80 pounds and had to help the authorities capture him.

"I felt a lot of emotion."

Theriault had earlier told the board he wanted to remain behind bars at the Dorchester Penitentiary near Moncton because he feared for his safety outside prison.

Theriault, 57, was sentenced in 1993 to life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Solange Boislard, a long-time member of the survivalist cult.

Her body was found in 1989 at the cult's camp near Lindsay, Ont., 70 km northeast of Toronto. She had been partially disembowelled with a kitchen knife during a cult ritual.

Before his capture, Theriault proved brilliant at manipulating both the legal system and vulnerable individuals. But he also had a maniacal streak that triggered brutal punishment and even torture.

The charismatic Quebecer established a commune near Burnt River, Ont., in 1987, where he ruled over his concubines, 26 children and other followers.

His religious cult became increasingly bizarre and cruel, and soon social workers and police were investigating reports of abuse of the women and children and eventually the deaths of Boislard and an infant.

Lavallee testified against Theriault during his trial, describing years of brutal abuse that included having one of her teeth ripped out of her mouth with a pair of pliers.

She later waged a campaign to keep the cult leader behind bars and also wrote a book about her ordeal.

The story of Theriault and Lavallee is told in Savage Messiah, a new TV movie airing on The Movie Network and Movie Central.

Theriault continues to cast a spell over some of his followers, and conjugal visits with three remaining wives have allowed him to father a number of children while in prison.

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