Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

Suspicious Death

The death of Aurore Gagnon profoundly dismayed the inhabitants of Ste. Philomène de Fortierville. How could such a thing happen among them, in their peaceful parish, within a respectable family? But several people close to the family seemed to suspect that all was not well in the Gagnon family, including a neighbour, Exilda Auger, whose words at the time of the death were unequivocal: "People will talk, and rightly so."

As "people" began to talk and to judge, the State intervened through its judicial system. Officers of the provincial government -- a coroner, a police officer, a medical examiner -- went to the village in order to carry out the autopsy and to assess the situation. The first stage of the judicial process following a mysterious death is a coroner's inquest. In this particular case, it was held in the parish church and established that the child had not died of natural causes. Charges of negligence and mistreatment were subsequently brought against Télesphore Gagnon and Marie-Anne Houde. They were arrested, taken to Quebec City and imprisoned while awaiting their appearance before the Sessions of the Peace Court, where they faced a preliminary inquiry on a charge of homicide. This inquiry would serve to determine whether the evidence against the two accused was sufficient to justify criminal trials before the Court of King's Bench.

This section of the site features the initial judicial documents and the first newspaper articles concerning the Gagnon affair. These texts allow you, first of all, to find out what the neighbours and extended family knew of the mistreatment inflicted on Aurore Gagnon and then to follow the progress of the first stages (coroner's inquest, autopsy, arrests, preliminary inquiries) of the long judicial intervention triggered by this "suspicious death."

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History