Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

The King versus Télesphore Gagnon

The trial of Télesphore Gagnon began on Friday, April 23, 1920, two days after his wife was condemned to hang. The Honourable Justice Joseph-Alfred Désy of Trois-Rivières was the presiding judge; Justice Pelletier, it appears, was exhausted from having recently pronounced three death sentences. This trial was not as long as Marie-Anne Houde’s (it lasted five days instead of eight), even though proceedings were prolonged by an unusual circumstance: everything had to be translated for an English-speaking jury member who did not understand a word of French.

During the trial, it became clear that Télesphore Gagnon had participated in the abuse that had caused his daughter’s death. Would his fate therefore be the same as his wife’s? Would the judge and jury accept the arguments of the defence? The court found that Gagnon had beaten Aurore but believed that he had done so only because he was manipulated by the real guilty party: Marie-Anne Houde. The lawyers had argued that Télesphore Gagnon, who was away from home every day, was manipulated by his wife, who told him outrageous and untrue stories about the way his daughter behaved.

As you will see, the law showed more clemency towards Télesphore Gagnon than towards his wife. The trial ended on Thursday, April 29, with a verdict of guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. Judge Désy did not pass his sentence the same day. Télesphore Gagnon had to return to court on May 4 to receive his sentence of life imprisonment.


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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History