Christine Lepage became a suspect in the murder 19 years after it was carried out.
A woman who once claimed she was forced into falsely confessing to a murder because she felt cornered by an elaborate sting operation by the RCMP now admits she did carry out the murder for hire.
The stunning admission is described in detail in a recent decision made by the Parole Board of Canada as Christine Lepage, 63, prepares for an eventual release on her life sentence. The sentence was automatic when she was convicted by a jury in May 2005 of the 1981 first-degree murder of Germain Derome, a 56-year-old funeral home director, and the attempted murder of his partner, Julien Bessette.
Lepage became a suspect in the Brossard murder 19 years after it was carried out. Initially, homicide investigators were unable figure out whose fingerprints were recovered from a glass inside Derome’s home. A Longueuil police investigator working on cold case files in 2000 asked that the fingerprints be run through a national database and that provided a match to prints recorded in 1974, when Lepage was arrested for shoplifting.
While the Longueuil police finally had a face behind the fingerprints in 2000 they had no other evidence and no motive to link Lepage to the murder. So they asked the RCMP to carry out a so-called Mr. Big sting operation. In 2001, the RCMP placed Lepage under surveillance to get a portrait of her life. Then, in 2002, they began a lengthy and very elaborate operation during which they used several undercover officers to gradually convince Lepage she was being drawn into a criminal organization. The goal was to convince her she could make a lot of money working for the organization. The final part of the operation placed her alone in a hotel room with “Mr. Big,” the leader of the fictitious criminal organization.
During the meeting at the hotel, held on Nov. 21, 2002, the man posing as Mr. Big pretended to have connections with the police and told Lepage he knew her fingerprints were recovered inside Derome’s home after he was killed. He told Lepage that if she wanted to continue making money with his organization he had to know everything about her, including her past crimes.
The meeting was recorded as Lepage admitted to the murder. But some of the details she provided did not match key evidence — notably what she did with the firearm after she killed Derome. She told Mr. Big she tossed the gun in a river when, in fact, the firearm was recovered near the victim’s home. It was the sort of detail that only the killer would have known and it appeared to create a glaring hole in the sting operation.
In March 2005, Lepage testified at her murder trial that she was indeed at Derome’s home on the night in question but that he had hired her as a call girl. She said she and Derome were discussing what she would be paid for her services when Bessette walked in on them and became upset. She said she left the home as Bessette and Derome argued.
She also said she confessed to “Mr. Big” because she found him intimidating and feared for her life. The jury clearly did not believe Lepage and convicted her of the murder and attempted murder. Despite this, critics of Mr. Big operations have pointed to Lepage’s case as an example of how such operations can potentially produce false confessions.
According to a written summary of the parole board’s decision — allowing Lepage escorted leaves for the next 12 months — she now admits she carried out the murder.
The document described how Lepage told the parole board how “influenced by your spouse at the time, you decided to help him in his crimes. You have said that (the crimes) weren’t committed for money, even though you received $10,000 after the fact. You have said you ignored your values, notably because of your drug use (at the time of the murder).”
She also told the parole board she fired a shot toward Bessette to convince him to stay put and not in an effort to kill him. She has also admitted that abuse she suffered as a girl later generated “murder fantasies” when she was an adult.
“The (people who have helped Lepage prepare for an eventual release) note that recent years have been marked by a change in your openness toward your crimes after you initially maintained your denial at the start of your incarceration,” the author of the summary wrote.
The parole board agreed with Lepage’s request to be allowed temporary leaves escorted by a Correctional Service Canada guard, so she can visit family. As the parole board notes in the decision, the goal of the leaves is to allow Lepage to “evolve in a less restricted environment than a (penitentiary), but still offer certain constraints. The board considers that it is important to help you acquire personal and social autonomy in the perspective of your return to society.”
Lepage will be eligible for full parole in 2030.