Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

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Le Devoir, April 14, 1920, p.8



Quebec City, 14 (D. N. C.) – Yesterday afternoon, at the Criminal Assizes, testimony began in the case of the Marie-Anne Houde woman, wife of Télesphore Gagnon, of Ste. Philomene de Fortierville, accused of having caused the death of her husband’s child, Aurore Gagnon, due to mistreatment. The trial is expected to be one of the most grave and difficult in the annals of Quebec City's criminal courts.

The case will give rise to a number of controversies on the cause of the victim's death. The Crown began, yesterday afternoon, by hearing Dr. Marois, a medical examiner who, for three hours, was examined by both parties on the results of the autopsy and who categorically declared that the young girl, who was only 13 years old, succumbed to the mistreatment inflicted upon her.

Dr. Lafond and Dr. Dagneault were also examined on the subject by the Crown, and later the court heard Doctors Achille and Albert Paquet and Emile Fortier testify for the defence, to counter the theory of the Crown doctors and to try to show that the death of the victim could have been due to natural causes.

In his testimony, Dr. Marois declared that the body on which he performed the autopsy was covered in sores.

Dr. Marois attributes the death to an overall weakened state due to the numerous wounds sustained by the child. The infection that resulted from the wounds caused the collapse leading to death.

The condition of the wounds indicated that the deceased received no medical care. The wounds could only result from blows to the child with blunt instruments.

Several instruments were produced in court, including several switches, an axe handle, a pitchfork handle, a curling iron, a poker, and a lid lifter found at the home of the accused, that Doctor Marois indicated could very well have caused the injuries evident on the body of the deceased. Ropes were also produced that could have, according to the doctor, caused the symmetric injuries identified on the hands and feet.

Dr. Marois could not say if the injuries were in fact burns.

The testimony by the medical examiner was strongly disputed by Maître Francoeur, attorney for the accused, to whom the witness categorically declared that the death could not be attributed to any cause other than those he had identified. He admitted that he had not examined the spinal cord because it did not appear to show signs of abnormality and that, as such, the autopsy was sufficient enough to convince him that there was no other cause of death.

The victim had been treated at the Hôtel-Dieu, from September 16 to October 17, and had been released in perfect health. Her injuries were therefore caused subsequent to that date.

Detective Laurent Couture then recounted the arrest of the Gagnon couple, the day of the child’s funeral. He testified that he had gone into the room that he was told was that of the victim, where he found a straw mattress spattered with blood. There was also blood on the floor and on the bedroom wall, near the straw mattress. The nightgown that the victim wore and that was handed over to him by a relative, Madame Lemay, was also bloodstained.

Detective Couture produced the instruments listed previously and given to him by members of the family: one of the switches was found in the bedroom of the deceased.

The witness also presented to the Court letters addressed to her family by the child, while she was at the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec City. The contents have so far not been disclosed.

The trial continues today. The crowd in attendance is substantial.

Source: Correspondant Le Devoir, "Une femme aux Assises," Le Devoir (Montréal), April 14, 1920.

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