Cult leader Roch Theriault dead in jail

The Canadian Press/February 26, 2011

Infamous cult leader Roch Theriault, serving a life sentence for murdering one of his cult members, was found dead inside his prison cell in New Brunswick, early Saturday, CTV Montreal has confirmed.

Corrections Canada spokesperson ├ętienne Chiasson confirmed to there was evidence Theriault was the victim of an assault. An RCMP murder investigation is now underway at the corrections facility in Dorchester, N.B.

A 59-old old inmate has been arrested for the crime.

Theriault, 63, 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 kilometres northeast of Toronto. She had been partially disemboweled 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, 22 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.

Theriault was engaged in physical and sexual abuse of members of the cult, including the amputation of the hand of one woman, Gabrielle Lavallee. Lavallee wrote a book about her experience.

"It's a miracle that I survived such barbaric aggression," Lavallee told The Canadian Press in 2002.

"That night, July 26, 1989, he hacked off my right arm, not only my hand, he took off part of my right arm."

Two of Theriault's children, Roch-Slyvain and Francois, also wrote a book two years ago about their lives growing up with their father.

A French-language film about Theriault and his cult was realeased in 2002.

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