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Murder of a young boy

Cold case of the murder

By jt tohPublished 6 months ago 6 min read
Murder of a young boy
Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

Gregory Villemin was born on August 24th, 1980, to his parents, Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin, in Lepanges-sur-Vologne, a town in eastern France. After receiving a promotion, Jean-Marie worked as a factory foreman while the family resided in their recently constructed house. They had relocated to this new home shortly before the birth of their son, who brought joy and brightness to their lives.

The Villemin family, who appeared to be content and prosperous, encountered a sudden and alarming twist in their lives. They started receiving anonymous letters and menacing phone calls, targeting Jean-Marie and vowing vengeance. The unsettling messages and calls failed to disclose the reason behind the sender's desire for retribution, leaving the family perplexed about the motive behind these acts.

For a span of more than four years, the threats persisted and extended to encompass Jean-Marie's parents as well. However, a pivotal moment occurred on October 16th, 1984, when four-year-old Gregory vanished while playing in the garden. Christine promptly realized that her son was no longer present in the front yard and immediately contacted the police, initiating the search for Gregory.

As the police initiated their search, Christine anxiously drove through the neighboring small village in a state of distress. Despite their efforts, there was no sign of the four-year-old boy. Meanwhile, during the ongoing search, Gregory's uncle received an anonymous phone call conveying a chilling message: "I have kidnapped the boy. I have strangled him and thrown him into the river Vologne. I have achieved my revenge."

The following day, before any further investigations could unfold, Jean-Marie stumbled upon a letter that seemed to have been mailed to them around the time Gregory went missing. The contents of the letter were deeply unsettling, stating, "I hope you suffer immeasurable grief, boss. Your wealth cannot resurrect your son. This is my way of seeking revenge against you."

Later that same day, Gregory's lifeless body was discovered near Docelles, in close proximity to the Vologne River, merely seven kilometers away from his home. Tragically, he had been drowned, with his hands and feet tightly bound, and his wool hat pulled over his face. The horrific discovery left his family utterly devastated, engulfed in profound sorrow and anguish.

The shocking murder of Gregory Villemin captivated the French public and became widely known as l'affaire de Gregory. The perpetrator was soon dubbed Le Corbeau, meaning "the Crow," drawing inspiration from a renowned French film that shared thematic similarities with the ominous letters received by the Villemin family. Through diligent investigation, the police made significant progress by enlisting the expertise of handwriting analysts to scrutinize the threatening letters and relying on a crucial witness statement. These efforts led to the identification of a prime suspect in the case.

In 1985, Bernard Laroche, who happened to be Jean-Marie's cousin, was apprehended and subjected to interrogation following a statement provided by his 15-year-old sister-in-law. However, Laroche vehemently denied being the person behind the Crow persona. Subsequently, his sister-in-law retracted her statement, claiming that it had been coerced, adding a layer of uncertainty to Laroche's involvement in the case.

Following Bernard Laroche's release after being cleared of the charges, a dramatic turn of events unfolded. Jean-Marie, standing in front of reporters, made a startling declaration, expressing his firm belief in Laroche's guilt regarding his son's murder and vowing to take matters into his own hands. However, the case took yet another shocking twist on March 25th, 1985, when handwriting experts concluded that Gregory's own mother, Christine, could potentially be the author of the threatening letters. This revelation cast a cloud of suspicion over Christine and added a significant layer of complexity to the investigation.

Merely four days later, driven by his determination to avenge his son's death and unwilling to accept his wife's potential guilt, Jean-Marie confronted Laroche at his workplace. In a tragic turn of events, Jean-Marie shot and fatally wounded his own cousin as Laroche was exiting the building. Subsequently, Jean-Marie was found guilty of murder and handed a five-year prison sentence as a consequence of his actions. The devastating events further compounded the grief and turmoil that enveloped the Villemin family.

In July of that year, Christine, who was pregnant with twins, faced charges for the murder of her son. Despite her pregnancy, she embarked on a hunger strike to protest her innocence. For a grueling period of 11 days, she steadfastly refused to eat. Eventually, her conviction was overturned on appeal, as it was determined that the evidence against her was weak and lacked a substantial motive for the crime. As a result, Christine was ultimately freed from the charges, bringing an end to her harrowing ordeal.

Unfortunately, the ordeal for Christine continued to unfold in a tragic manner. Upon her release from custody, she experienced a physical and emotional toll, collapsing and reportedly suffering a miscarriage of one of her unborn babies. It wasn't until 1993 that she was officially cleared of all charges, signifying a long and arduous journey towards exoneration. Meanwhile, Jean-Marie, who had been sentenced to five years in prison, was released after serving only two-and-a-half years, leading to his early release in 1987. The events surrounding the Villemin family's tragedy left lasting scars and marked a deeply distressing chapter in their lives.

Despite enduring immense turmoil, the Villemin family remained in a state of uncertainty regarding the identity of Gregory's killer. The case continued to haunt France for decades following the tragic event. It was repeatedly reopened and reexamined, with extensive testing conducted on the letters, the rope used to bind Gregory, DNA analysis on his clothing, and even saliva found on the stamps used to mail the threatening letters. However, all of these efforts yielded inconclusive results, leaving the mystery unsolved and contributing to the persistent sense of frustration and bewilderment surrounding the case.

In 2017, a significant development occurred as the case of Gregory's murder was reopened once again. This time, new evidence emerged, leading to three arrests that sent shockwaves throughout France. Among those taken in for questioning were Gregory's great aunt, great uncle, and aunt, along with additional individuals, including more members of the family. The latest turn of events reignited public interest in the case and prompted a fresh round of investigations aimed at uncovering the truth behind Gregory's tragic demise.

The aunt was eventually released, while the great aunt and great uncle remained uncooperative, refusing to speak to the police. None of them were ultimately convicted in relation to Gregory's murder. Tragically, the magistrate Jean-Michel Lambert, who had been in charge of the initial investigation, took his own life due to the immense pressure and criticism he faced, compounded by the fact that the case remained unsolved even after 33 years since Gregory's death.

The motive behind Gregory's death has never been definitively determined, though some speculation suggests jealousy within the Villemin family could have played a role. Others have considered the possibility that the references to Jean-Marie as "boss" in the letters could indicate a connection to his work. Nonetheless, no concrete evidence or suspect has been discovered, leaving the case shrouded in mystery. Nearly everyone in the family has faced suspicion at some point throughout the ongoing investigation.

In December of 2020, the case of Gregory Villemin's murder underwent yet another reopening, driven by the determination of the police to finally unveil the true identity of the Crow. Fresh interviews have been conducted, and a novel technology known as stylometrics is being utilized. This cutting-edge technique analyzes the style, syntax, punctuation, and linguistic patterns employed in the threatening letters to potentially identify the perpetrator.

Remarkably, a new suspect has been identified, although their name has not been disclosed at this time. It seems that the long-standing mystery surrounding Gregory Villemin's murder may be on the verge of resolution as the investigation continues to unfold.


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