OTTAWA – Camille Cleroux bludgeoned two of his wives to death with a rock and killed his neighbour because she wouldn’t give him her apartment before burying all three women in shallow graves, an Ottawa court heard Tuesday.
Cleroux, 58, admitted to killing ex-wives Lise Roy and Jean Rock and neighbour Paula Leclair, 64, over a two-decade period beginning in 1990.
Cleroux pleaded to first-degree murder in the killing of Leclair. He pleaded to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of the other two women.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny told Cleroux the best place for him was behind bars after hearing the “terrible, stomach-churning facts” about how he killed the three women to get them “out of his way.”
Ratushny sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Roy’s body was found buried in the yard of the couple’s former Ottawa home. Leclair was found in a wooded area near the old Ottawa train yards near Walkley Road in June 2010. She had lived in the same apartment building as Cleroux.
Rock’s bones were fished out of the Rideau Canal in 2006 but remained unidentified until this year.
Court heard how Paula Leclair’s son grew worried when he had not seen or heard from his mother in May 2010. He used a spare key to open the door and found her belongings and furniture missing. There were boxes everywhere.
At that point, Cleroux arrived at the apartment. He told Leclair’s son that she had gone on a trip and had left the apartment to Cleroux, court heard. Leclair’s son went to police who started an investigation that unravelled “a plot to conceal the murder of Paula Leclair,” court heard.
Cleroux told police that he did not like his own apartment and wanted to move in to Leclair’s because it “had a better view” and was larger, court heard.
When Leclair refused to share her apartment with her neighbour, Cleroux invited her for a walk on May 20, 2010 in Fairlea woods where he killed her in “cold blood” and buried her in a shallow grave he had dug ahead of time.
Prosecutor James Cavanagh said Cleroux forced her at knifepoint to the grave, stabbed her in the back with a knife he stole from the restaurant where he worked and then bashed her head in with a rock.
He then made his way back to her apartment to move her belongings into a dumpster.
It wasn’t his first murder.
Court heard Cleroux married Lise Roy in 1987. Roy already had a daughter when the couple had a son. In 1990, he killed Roy with a rock after a heated argument and buried her in the backyard of their home, leaving the two young children without a mother.
Court heard that Cleroux “concocted a story” that Roy had assaulted him and left by bus to Montreal. All evidence of her existence ended in April 1990, aside from occasional claims by Cleroux that he had seen Roy.
A neighbour later saw Cleroux hauling heavy garbage bags to a wooded area. Cleroux was an eccentric and the neighbour thought little of it.
It wasn’t until Oct. 31, 2011 – the same day witnesses were to start testifying about Roy’s disappearance in Cleroux’s preliminary hearing when city work crews found leg and other bones buried in the back yard of Cleroux’s former home. The bones were wrapped in butcher’s paper and appeared to have been moved to the garden from another spot.
Rock went missing in 2003. Court heard Cleroux buried her in a wooded area in Fairlea Park, but twice dug up her bones. The first time was when he noticed construction in 2004 on what is now Kiwanis Court. He moved Rock’s remains to another area of the park, but dug her up a second time in 2006 when he saw animals had disturbed them.
He eventually put the bones in a mesh produce bag and pushed them in a shopping cart from the spot they were buried near Albion Road to the Bronson bridge over the Rideau Canal. He weighed the bones down with rocks and dropped them into the water.
The bones were discovered in October 2006, but never identified until 2012, when Cleroux told them about it.
Though Rock had not been seen since a doctor’s appointment on Aug. 8, 2003, she was not reported missing because family members received handwritten letters signed by Rock two or three times a year between 2004 and 2010. Court heard that Cleroux paid a friend who had handwriting similar to Rock’s to write letters for $10 a piece. The letters said that she had left Cleroux and was now living with a trucker named Pierre. Over the years, the letters announced the birth of three children, including photos.
Cleroux sat with his arms crossed in the prisoner’s box as Cavanagh described his crimes. A tight white sweatshirt clung to Cleroux’s pot belly while his long white beard and grey hair were unkempt.
Moments after the Crown had finished describing the letters, Rock’s father, who had been sitting in the front row, went into a seizure. As he was being helped out of the courtroom by family members, John Rock could be overheard saying “he’s an animal” and “how could he do that? Three women.”
Prior to the seizure, John Rock seemed agitated and kept walking in and out of the courtroom, often muttering under his breath about Cleroux.
Paramedics arrived to tend to him, but John Rock eventually was able to walk out of the courtroom.
In his victim impact statement, John Rock said he should have seen through Cleroux’s “mask.”
“I welcomed him, a monster, into our home and feel sick,” he wrote.