The Rutland Herald
By LISA RATHKE, The Associated Press
NORTH HERO — A Montreal woman pleaded not guilty Friday to drowning her 8-year-old son in Lake Champlain and was sent to the state hospital for an evaluation of whether she’s capable of standing trial.
Louise Desnoyers, 48, was taken into the Grand Isle County Courthouse in a wheelchair wearing a hospital gown and socks after being treated for injuries she suffered when she allegedly tried to kill herself after her son, Nicholas Desnoyers-Langlois, was murdered.
She sobbed with her head down as she sat in the courtroom for five minutes waiting for Judge A. Gregory Rainville to preside over her arraignment on a charge of first-degree murder. Her son’s father, Real Langlois, sat in the back of the courtroom, also crying as he watched her intently. A family lawyer said the couple had never married, although lived together for 30 years.
“He was here to support her,” Montreal lawyer Jean-Pierre Rancurt said through an interpreter.
An interpreter also translated the court proceedings into French for Desnoyers and the family.
Desnoyers has told police that she held her son underwater until he died so he would not have to suffer through the separation that she expected. Langlois, who angrily told photographers not to take his picture, refused to talk to reporters.
Rancurt said the couple had discussed a separation on Monday, the same day that Desnoyers disappeared with their youngest son. They also have a 15-year-old son. Rancurt said Desnoyers had problems with depression during the past four years and had taken medication. Desnoyers has taught second grade for 24 years. Langlois is an accountant.
Vermont State Police Detective James Claremont, who said Langlois and two of Desnoyers’ brothers were turned away from visiting her in the hospital, said it was difficult to understand Langlois’ emotions at the arraignment. “I don’t have a good sense whether he was angry or sad,” Claremont said. “He’s devastated.”
There was little discussion of the alleged crime during the brief proceedings, only a back and forth between the judge, the State’s Attorney David Miller and Desnoyers’ lawyer, Michael Leddon, about whether Desnoyers should be held in prison or in the Vermont State Hospital.
“The evidence suggests this act was done knowingly,” Miller said of the 8-year-old boy’s death. He said Desnoyers’ later actions — she allegedly stabbed herself and drank windshield washer fluid in an unsuccessful suicide attempt — “were done with the knowledge that a horrible act had been done.”
But Rainville rejected setting bail or sending her to prison until she’s been evaluated over the next month at the state psychiatric hospital. There are “concerns about competency to stand trial as well as sanity at the time of the acts,” Rainville said. “Before we return her to the general population we have to know a little bit more about her first.”
Desnoyers was found Tuesday in a shed after police were called. Claremont said a girl in Isle LaMotte saw Desnoyers walking on the family’s property and told her father. He found an abandoned car, which had blood stains, and called police. The boy’s body was found later that day in shallow water about 25 feet from shore in the Lake Champlain island community, just south of the Canadian border. His body had been tied to a boat mooring.
Miller said he did not know when the boy was killed.
Canadian gets 15 years for killing her son in Vt.— (The Rutland Herald)
By WILSON RING The Associated Press
NORTH HERO — A Montreal woman who drowned her 8-year-old son in Lake Champlain three years ago was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday after a judge rejected calls for leniency from dozens of her supports.
Louise Desnoyers, 51, a former elementary school teacher, pleaded no contest in March to a charge of second-degree murder in the August 2006 death of her son, Nicholas Desnoyer-Langlois. He was killed off the shore of Isle La Motte, a place Desnoyers had traveled after learning of the impending break up of her marriage.
Before being sentenced Wednesday, psychiatrists for the prosecution and defense offered conflicting versions of her state of mind on Aug. 14, 2006, after she left Montreal and traveled to Vermont. The defense argued she was not sane at the time she held her son under water and drowned him, while prosecutors said she was troubled, but knew what she was doing.
Before that night, Desnoyers had lived an exemplary life as a teacher and friend, Vermont District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith said.
“I am convinced from what I’ve heard and read that Mrs. Desnoyers knew what she was doing,” Kupersmith said. “Whatever her thought processes were, one would think that when one sees one’s child in this situation one would be brought back to reality.”
Desnoyers sobbed frequently during her court appearance. Prior to hearing her sentence, she gave a 40-minute statement in heavily accented English in which she said she was sorry for what she had done and she hoped one day to be able to give something back to society.
“Your honor, I want you to know that the sentence you impose to me can’t be worse than the sentence I have to live with every day, for the rest of my new life. Not a moment goes by without my son filling my thoughts,” she said.
Desnoyers told the court that her husband had told her that morning that their life together was over. She said she didn’t know how she and Nicholas ended up in Isle La Motte, an island in Lake Champlain just south of the Canadian border where her family had vacationed.
Dozens of teachers and friends filled the courtroom. In a video played in court, they described Desnoyers as a caring person who always put the needs of others ahead of her own. When Desnoyers was led out of court after the hearing, many shouted their support for her.
Police found Nicholas’s body attached to a buoy just offshore. Desnoyers was found in a shed where she had tried to commit suicide by cutting herself and drinking windshield washer fluid.
Desnoyers’ attorneys had considered trying to use an insanity defense, but agreed earlier this year to the plea agreement. The defense had asked for a 10-year-prison sentence.
After she is released from prison, Desnoyers will remain on probation for the rest of her life, but she will then be allowed to return to Canada.
Dr. David Rosmarin, a forensic psychiatrist from Belmont, Mass., who testified for the defense said Desnoyers remained an “ongoing, chronic, risk for suicide.”
“This is a woman who had built her life around kindness and concern for children, her own children, the children at the schools where she taught. This was a woman who was meek. She has no history of being able to stand up for herself. There’s no history of verbal aggression with anybody.”
Desnoyers has been held at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. It’s unclear when she would be transferred to the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans, the state’s only prison for women.