Couple charged with confinement, extortion of Trois-Rivières seniors

Couple charged with confinement, extortion of Trois-Rivières seniors
Couple confined to Trois-Rivières basement by caretakers, police say
“We had to … finally create a link of trust (with the alleged victims) for them to tell us what happened to them,” police say.

The suspects and alleged victims did not come to the notice of police until November 2017. Jerome Delay / AP

Trois-Rivières — Two people have been arrested and charged in what police in Trois-Rivières are calling a case of manipulation and control that saw a couple in their 60s allegedly held prisoner in the basement of a local home for four years while their captors took control of their finances.

Guy Boileau, 55, and Marie-Jeanne Côté, 54, appeared at the courthouse in Trois-Rivières Friday, Boileau on crutches and Côté hiding her face in her hands.

They were charged with forcible confinement, extortion using threats or violence, uttering death threats and assault against two people.

Police said the alleged victims — who are both in their mid-60s, but can’t be named because the judge ordered a publication ban — made the acquaintance of Côté in 2010, when all of them lived in the Rimouski area. At some point, Côté “took charge” of the couple.

When Côté moved to Trois-Rivières, the couple followed her there, and when Côté decided to move in with Boileau in 2014, they did as well, taking up residence in an apartment in the basement.

The suspects and alleged victims did not come to the notice of police until November 2017, when an anonymous resident alerted authorities that locks had been installed on the outside of doors leading from the basement, even though it was clear there were people living inside.

Trois-Rivières police spokesperson Luc Mongrain said it took a year after they received the tip to complete the investigation because of the number of witnesses who needed to be interviewed and the difficulty they encountered in getting a statement from the alleged victims.

“What you have to understand is, as is the case with conjugal violence, the (couple) were at first hesitant to give us information because they feared reprisals, that their situation would get worse,” he said. “We had to … finally create a link of trust for them to tell us what happened to them.”

He also said the alleged victims were not confined 24/7. “At certain times of the week, they could leave to do groceries and return. Then they could be confined for two or three days in a row.”

Mongrain said the woman finally left the basement in August 2017 because of a fall down a stairway and eventually decided not to return to the house. Her husband remained in the basement until June 2018 when, after an argument with the suspects, he, too, left.

At the well-kept single-family house on the outskirts of Trois-Rivières, where the suspects and the alleged victims lived for four years, Côté’s daughter said it was awful what was happening — that it was all over the newspapers and television.

“I don’t think they did anything wrong,” the young woman said. “They lived with us for four years and came and went as they pleased.”

Côté and Boileau were released on bail, but must abide by a long list of conditions, including 24-hour house arrest, except for when they need to go to work. They are also prohibited from communicating or going to places frequented by the alleged victims, working with seniors, providing housing to anyone but members of the family, and possessing firearms.

Two people accused of confining and extorting a couple they were caring for appeared in court in Trois-Rivières today.

Local police say the alleged victims, a couple in their 60s who are mentally impaired, were intermittently locked in the home while they lived with the suspects — in the case of the male alleged victim, from September 2014 until June 2018. 

The female alleged victim did not return to the home after she received medical treatment for a fall in August 2017, and the man escaped the home nearly a year later, in June 2018. 

Sgt. Luc Mongrain said the delay between the two victims' escapes might have been due to their vulnerability. 

"These were people who were psychologically manipulated. I can imagine they feared there would be consequences and reprisals," he said.

He said the investigation began after local fire prevention services saw locks outside a door leading to the basement while they were inspecting the home last year.

Police had to meet several witnesses to corroborate the story and obtain arrest and search warrants, Mongrain said. The suspects, a man and woman in their 50s, were arrested Thursday at the home on Pics-Bois Street.

Mongrain said it appears the male alleged victim escaped during a time where the door was not locked. The suspects tightly controlled the lives and finances of the couple, he said, but allowed them to go into town now and then.

He said the couple has been under the female suspect's care since 2009, when they lived in Rimouski. In 2014, she moved to Trois-Rivières to live with her new boyfriend, the male suspect.

The couple moved with her. It is unclear whether they were being extorted while living in Rimouski, Mongrain said.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.