Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

The Preliminary Inquiries

Suspected by Coroner Jolicoeur of negligence and mistreatment of their daughter Aurore Gagnon, Télesphore Gagnon and Marie-Anne Houde were arrested and taken from Ste. Philomène de Fortierville to the prison in Quebec City, a distance of about 80 kilometres. On February 16, 1920, they appeared before the Sessions of the Peace Court on the accusation of homicide and pleaded not guilty. The judge, the Honourable Philippe-Auguste Choquette, decided to keep them in prison pending the preliminary inquiries.

A separate inquiry was held for each of the two accused in this affair. Télesphore Gagnon’s inquiry was held on February 24 and 25, whereas that of Marie-Anne Houde took place on March 4 and 11. The inquiries were held “in camera” – that is to say, behind closed doors, with no one allowed in the courtroom except the people involved. The private nature of the proceedings was to be respected by journalists, who nevertheless managed to write a few lines about the affair, especially in Le Soleil, the main daily newspaper in Quebec City.

On March 18, 1920, after having heard the witnesses, the prosecutor’s evidence, and the bills of indictment, the judge decided that there were grounds for each of the two accused to be tried on the charge of murder at the “Criminal Assizes” in the spring.

Because the inquiries were held behind closed doors, there was only very limited media coverage of the proceedings. However, anyone who would like to learn more about what happened during the proceedings can consult the legal documents kept at the National Archives of Quebec and, in particular, the written depositions, drawn up by the official stenographer, which record the testimony heard before the court. You can access a selection of these depositions by clicking on the links found below.

Court Documents


Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History