Robert Tanguay seemed to know what was coming as he was being driven to the trap that would end his life.
The 32-year-old was killed on August 9, 1997, and the man who is alleged to have orchestrated everything, John Boulachanis, 42, is on trial at the Gouin courthouse in northern Montreal, where he is charged with first-degree murder.
The Crown’s theory is that Boulachanis killed Tanguay with help from two accomplices whose names cannot be published because of a court ordered issued by Superior Court Justice Michael Stober, the presiding judge in the trial.
One of the accomplices, a 58-year-old man who was convicted of manslaughter in 2003 for his role Tanguay’s death, testified as a Crown witness in Boulachanis’s trial for the first time Tuesday morning. When he was sworn in as a witness Tuesday morning, the man refused to provide his occupation. Stober allowed him to provide a generic reference to what he did for a living and the witness replied: “trucker.”
He also described himself as a “repentant civilian” while explaining that he has already finished the nine-year sentence he was left with when he was convicted of manslaughter in 2003.
The witness said he drove Tanguay to the sandpit in Rigaud where Boulachanis and the other accomplice where lying in wait. During 1997, all four men had been involved in a stolen car ring together. They would purchase badly damaged cars from auctions and then seek out matching vehicles and steal them. They would then switch the vehicle identification numbers on the cars and resell them on the used car market.
The witness said Boulachanis told him Tanguay “had to be eliminated” because Boulachanis suspected he was an informant for the police. All three men who took part in the plot are alleged to have prepared a ruse where Tanguay was told there was a stolen Oldsmobile Cutlass waiting for him at a sandpit just four kilometres from his home in Rigaud. The 58-year-old was sent by Boulachanis to pick Tanguay up at his father’s house. The 58-year-old man said it had to be him because Tanguay was no longer on talking terms with Boulachanis.
The witness said that during the short drive Tanguay obviously sensed something was wrong.
“He asked me ‘is this a trap-shot (a setup)?’ I said no,” the witness said. “I was nervous. I was stressed.”
When they arrived at the huge commercial sandpit, the witness said he pulled up close to a wooded area that was part of the property and told Tanguay his Oldsmobile was nearby. Shortly after Tanguay got out of his car, the witness said, he heard one shot go off.
“Then I heard Mr. Tanguay say, ‘I won’t stool on you (name removed due to publication ban). I won’t say anything about you,” the witness said. He also described how he saw Tanguay briefly after the words were uttered and noticed that the victim was holding his hand near one of his kidneys. He said he then saw Boulachanis, holding an automatic firearm, chase after Tanguay in the woods. He then heard two shots go off.
The three men then dragged Tanguay’s lifeless body to a hole in the sandpit that they had prepared hours beforehand.
“Everyone took their turn (digging the hole),” the witness said, adding the trio soon realized they had not dug the hole deep enough. The 58-year-old told the jury that as they continued to work to hide the body in the hole — including pouring a bag of lime on top of it to make it decompose faster — he looked at Boulachanis and began to doubt the supposed motive behind the slaying.
“I wanted to know if it was true that (Tanguay) was a stool,” the witness said.
“(Boulachanis) said, ‘don’t ask questions.’ He was pointing a gun at me.”
When asked by prosecutor Joey Dubois if he believed Tanguay was actually an informant, the witness replied: “No. I think (Boulachanis) was just afraid (that he was one).”
The jury heard testimony on Monday, from Tanguay’s sister, that suggested Boulachanis had slept with Tanguay’s wife shortly after he was killed.
The 58-year-old accomplice’s testimony in Boulachanis’s first-degree murder trial resumes Tuesday afternoon.