Killer of Canadian cult leader receives life sentence

Religion News Blog — An inmate who murdered jailed cult leader Roch Thériault in February, 2011, has been sentenced to life in prison.

Thériault was in prison for killing his wife by disembowelling her, and for chopping off the right arm of another wife with a chainsaw.

Days before Matthew Gerrard MacDonald was to appear in court to set a date for his jury trial, he re-elected to be tried by judge alone and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Second-degree murder means MacDonald intended to kill Thériault, but that the act was not premeditated.

Justice George Rideout then sentenced MacDonald, 60, to life without parole for 25 years.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Allman explains, “All murders you get life imprisonment; the issue is parole.”

“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.

MacDonald, who was jailed on a previous murder conviction, gave no motive for killing Thériault.

But Allman says he “had expressed some animosity towards Mr. Thériault” because the cult leader was convicted of harming women.

A prison security video recording shows MacDonald entering Thériault;s cell, and exiting two minutes later.

In 1987 Thériault established a survivalist commune in Ontario, where he lived with 8 women, 26 children and other 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 the years leading up to these murders social workers and police were already investigating reports of abuse of the women and children in the commune.

Gabrielle Lavallee, the woman who had her right arm hacked off by Theriault in 1989, wrote a book (French) about her ordeal.

The story of Roch ‘Moses’ Theriault and Lavallee, one of his eight commune “wives,” was also told in Savage Messiah, a 2002 TV movie.

Shortly before he was murdered, reporters said that Theriault was plagued by guilt and overwhelmed with shame for the atrocities he committed.

According to his lawyer Thériault was assaulted often by other inmates over the last two decades.

“He was often a victim of his past. The assaults had nothing to do with how he acted while incarcerated. It was because of his past,” Renée Millette said, adding Thériault had regrets about his time as the commune’s spiritual leader.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday March 6, 2012.
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