MONTREAL – A notorious cult leader, who ran a commune in Quebec and Ontario in the 1970s and 1980s with as many as 12 women and two dozen children, was found dead in his jail cell in New Brunswick Saturday morning.
Roch (Moses) Theriault, 63, was attacked “in the vicinity of his cell” and died from his injuries, said Sgt. Greg Lupson of the RCMP.
A 59-year-old inmate at the detention facility in Dorchester, N.B., has been arrested in the case.
Theriault, a self-styled prophet, was sentenced to life in prison in 1993 after he was found guilty of second-degree murder for killing his wife Solange Boislard.
Theriault killed Boislard while trying to disembowel her with a kitchen knife during a cult ritual.
Her body was found in 1989 at the cult’s camp near Coboconk, Ont., northeast of Toronto.
In the fall of 1978, persuaded that the world would end the following February, Theriault and a group of followers set up camp in a log cabin in the Gaspe bush about 15 kilometres from New Carlisle, Que. When the world failed to end, they stayed on at the Eternal Mountain retreat until 1981, when Theriault and three cult members were charged in the death of a two-year-old boy.
Evidence at the coroner’s inquest suggested that the child had been beaten for crying and that Theriault used scissors sterilized with alcohol to cut into a lump on the child’s penis.
When the boy died, his parents – also members of the cult – had the body burned.
In November 1988, Theriault used pliers to remove at least eight teeth of one of his concubines after she had complained of a toothache.
The next year, he used a knife to cut off an arm of the same woman.
Before his capture, Theriault proved brilliant at manipulating both the legal system and vulnerable individuals.
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.
In 2002, Theriault was denied parole by the National Parole Board on the grounds he represented an ongoing danger to society.
He had been at the Dorchester prison, a medium-security facility, since 2000.