It was Friday morning when Kurt Roufosse picked up the phone and learned that Darcy Richard Bertrand, the man who had viciously murdered three members of his family in 1995, had died in prison a few days earlier.
“You never hope for someone to die, you would rather see him behind bars for the rest of his life,” Roufosse said. “But we were kind of worried he would get out in five or 10 years…so it’s justice in a sense. There’s no way he deserved to be out.”
It was Thanksgiving Sunday in 1995 when the 29-year-old Bertrand, in a simmering, jealous rage, went to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Maillardville and waited for the parents of his former common-law wife, Annette Roufosse, to leave church.
When Mass ended just before noon, Henry and Celine Roufosse, along with their eldest grandchild, headed outside. Bertrand stabbed first the 60-year-old Celine, then her 63-year-old husband when he came to her aid. Annette’s seven-year-old boy witnessed the event and ran away.
Bertrand then drove a short distance to the Roufosse’s home on Therrien Street, where he tried to kick down the front door. He smashed through the front door window and, when he started walking toward a neighbour, Annette Roufosse, 29, walked out of the basement.
She was carrying her and Bertrand’s one-year-old baby, with their three-year-old beside her, when Bertrand stabbed her 11 times. He then grabbed the children and drove to his parents’ south Burnaby home, where he was arrested a short time later after he called 911 for an ambulance to treat a severed tendon in his finger.
At the time, Bertrand was under a court order not to contact Annette or her children after being charged with assault and sexual assault involving one of her children.
The killings gutted the Roufosse family and stunned the close-knit Maillardville community.
“Henry and Celine’s door was always open and their help, advice and good company they gave without limit,” said Fr. Stan Frytek, the parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes in 1995, at their funeral. Just five days earlier, Frytek had rushed outside the church to perform the last rites on his dying friends in the church parking lot.
In June 1996, on the day his trial was to start in B.C. Supreme Court for three counts of first-degree murder, Bertrand stood up to plead guilty to second-degree murder.
“He should get life, of course,” said Gerry Roufosse, the eldest of Henry and Celine’s four children, said outside the courtroom at the time.
Bertrand was later sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. At the hearing he broke down in sobs, saying he couldn’t ask for the family’s forgiveness because he couldn’t forgive himself.
“I only wish there was a death sentence for my deeds,” Bertrand said.
Just 10 years into his sentence, however, Bertrand applied for escorted day passes so that he could see his mother and buy plants for his prison projects.
The application was denied, though Bertrand was eligible to re-apply for day passes after six months. He would have been eligible for unescorted leaves this year, and for full parole in September 2015.
Kurt Roufosse, Annette’s cousin and nephew to Henry and Celine, said the family is relieved they won’t have to endure Bertrand’s attempts to gain freedom.
“With a heinous crime like that, there’s no way…he deserves to get out.”
And he said Annette’s three children, two of whom are grown and living on their own, are doing okay.
“They seem to be doing all right, they’re working, they’re living their life,” he said.
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Bertrand was found unresponsive in his cell at the medium-security Mission Institution and later died in hospital.
Regional coroner Vincent Stancato said the BC Coroners Service is in the early stages of its investigation to determine the cause of death. There will not be an autopsy but investigators will conduct a post-mortem examination and toxicology tests.
The decision to conduct an autopsy “depends on whether or not there’s an indication of what the cause of death may or may not be,” Stancato said. “In some cases the cause of death might be more clear to the coroner.”