December 03, 2012
DRUMMONDVILLE, QUE.—One year ago Sonia Blanchette lost the right to unsupervised visits with her three children.
Then the 33-year-old removed the photographs of Laurélie, 5, Loic, 4, and Anais, 2, from the walls of her apartment. Seeing them without being able to touch them, said a friend, was too difficult to bear.
The name “Laurelie” and a child’s crude drawing remain visible on the front window of the second-floor residence, but the children are gone now. Their lifeless, blanket-wrapped bodies were removed from the home by Drummondville’s coroner Sunday evening.
Blanchette was taken on a stretcher to hospital where police wait with a battery of questions about how the three children were apparently drowned during a weekend visit.
The incident was discovered at 4 p.m. on Sunday when Blanchette’s mother, Nicole Grenier, arrived at her daughter’s apartment and then ran out into the streets, her cries piercing the crisp December air.
Police won’t say what they believe happened inside the home but friends and colleagues who passed by Monday with flowers, teddy bears and tears in their eyes fear the worst.
Last year, when Blanchette’s son was about 3 years old, neighbours found him walking along their quiet street at 7:30 one morning clad in a one-piece pyjama.
She later told friends that the boy must have sneaked out of the house while she was making breakfast. The police and child protection authorities were called in all the same.
Just before Christmas last year, Blanchette was in court on charges of abducting Anais, then 14 months, according to L’Express, a local newspaper. She was released from custody, but under restrictions that she only saw her children every second Sunday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and then under the supervision of her mother. The father, Patrick Desautels, was granted full custody.
In a statement Monday, Desautels said he loved his children and will miss them for the rest of his life.
“We are currently together as a family and this tragedy leaves us without words,” he wrote. “The police investigation will tell us more about the circumstances of the tragedy. What has taken place is inexplicable.”
Blanchette was scheduled to appear in court on the abduction charges in January.
Her difficulties seemed particularly pronounced last spring and she spoke about them openly, said a colleague who worked with her for two months this spring at a garden centre.
“She was a girl who had her problems. With the kids after the separation with the father, it wasn’t easy,” said the woman, who refused to provide her name.
Blanchette’s friend, Nancy Latraverse, stopped by the home Monday morning to leave two white roses for Laurélie and Anais and a blue carnation for Loic.
“She wasn’t an angry person. She smiled all the time,” said Latraverse, who has been friends with Blanchette for about a year.
She said she would try to keep Blanchette’s spirits up during her custody battles. She would bring the clothes that no longer fit her own son to give to Loic and encourage her not to lose hope. But the battle was getting the best of her, Latraverse said.
Recently, she removed the children's’ photographs from the walls.
“She didn’t want to see them so that it would not cause her pain.”
Just how the three kids fell victim to the horrid incident in the dying hours of their mother’s allotted twice-monthly visit is now the job of Sûréte du Québec investigators who, so far, only consider Blanchette to be an “important witness” to a “tragic incident.”