Intentional communities can be places of terrible abuse, injustice and cruelty. Take the case of one serious sociopath; Roch Thériault. This French Canadian founded a small religious group based near Burnt River, Ontario, Canada. Between 1977 and 1989 he controlled the lives of 12 adults and 22 children. Thériault was able to persuade his followers to sell their belongings, sever ties with their families, and move to a commune near Burnt River, about 100 km northeast of Toronto. Thériault convinced the women that all of them were his wives, and that they should bear him children. Even while he was in prison, three of his wives continued conjugal visits and two of the three bore him more children. The group was based primarily on religious themes, such as women’s obedience to men, polygamy, harsh punishments, the righteousness of the leader and the sinfulness of the followers, and living miracles. Thériault was called “papy” and re-christened all members with biblical names. During his reign of terror, Thériault mutilated several members of his “family”. He once used a meat cleaver to chop off the hand and part of the arm of Gabrielle Lavallée, one of his concubines, also removing eight of her teeth. He was accused of castrating a 2-year-old boy, as well as at least one adult male, and of murdering his legal spouse, Solange Boilard, by disembowelment, purportedly while trying to perform surgery on her, in 1988. He also claimed to be a reincarnation of the prophet Moses, and demanded the respect appropriate for such a figure. He allegedly tried to resurrect one woman he had killed by sawing the top off her corpse’s skull and masturbating into the cavity. One day a social worker Paula Jackson, a child protection specialist started investigating Theriault’s group after a series of incidents brought some of his wives to her office, seeking help for their children. Paula Jackson dug-up atrocity after atrocity, discovering a sect based around its leader’s sexual dominance over his herd and his gradual descent into madness. Group sex, humiliation, submission, torture, necrophilia, the total package. Theriault was finally arrested for assault in 1989, and convicted of murder in 1993. On this day in 2011 he was found dead near his cell at the Dorchester Penitentiary, in New Brunswick. His murderer was his cell mate, Matthew Gerrard MacDonald. MacDonald stabbed Theriault in the neck with a homemade knife. Afterwards, he walked to the guards’ station, handed them the knife and proclaimed, “That piece of shit is down on the range. Here’s the knife, I’ve sliced him up.”
– Douglas Racionzer (find all of Doug’s “day” writing on http://serendipiday.blogspot.
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