Quebec Prisoner With 89 Convictions Charged In Young Girl’s 1994 Murder

Nearly 30 years after the body of 10-year-old Marie-Chantale Desjardins was found behind a shopping center, 61-year-old Réal Courtemanche has been charged with her murder.

Marie-Chantale Desjardins, pictured here, was 10 years old when she was abducted and murdered on her way home from a friend's houes in 1994.

Nearly 30 years after the body of 10-year-old Marie-Chantale Desjardins was found behind a shopping center, 61-year-old Réal Courtemanche has been charged with her murder.

Photo by: Sûreté du Québec

Sûreté du Québec

Réal Courtemanche, a 61-year-old prisoner with 89 criminal convictions, has been charged with murdering 10-year-old Marie-Chantale Desjardins in 1994. The child was killed in a suburb in Montreal, Canada. After nearly three decades as a cold case, the CBC reported that her murder was finally declared solved by the Quebec provincial police in December 2023.

Back on the night of July 16, 1994, Marie-Chantale left one of her friend’s homes in Sainte-Thérèse on a bicycle. Someone saw her on her bike after 9:30 p.m., but that was the last time anyone reported seeing her alive. She was in third grade at the time of her disappearance, shared the Global News. She had only just moved to the area with her mother and half-brother to live with her mother’s partner.

According to the Montreal Gazette, the child’s body was discovered four days later in a wooded area behind a shopping center in Rosemère, a neighboring town. The disappearance, then discovered to be a murder, made national headlines, but despite thorough investigations, the case went cold. Then, 29 years later, investigators from the Sûreté du Québec's (SQ) unsolved crimes division and Quebec's provincial forensics lab worked together to solve the case and identify Courtemanche as the alleged murderer using advanced methods in forensic biology, reported the CBC.

Courtemanche is currently a prisoner at La Macaza Institution in Quebec's Laurentians region, reported The Star. The institution specializes in handling sex offenders, and it’s 170 kilometers north of Montreal.

Courtemanche appeared before a Quebec judge in Decemeber 2023. He shook his head when the charge was read and pled not guilty.

Marie-Chantale’s mother Sylvie Desjardins was in the courtroom as the charge was read. Crown prosecutor Steve Baribeau described this process as a “difficult chapter” for the child’s family, but he noted its importance. He said of the family, "We're bringing all this back into their lives. These are people who have shown great resilience throughout this process."

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