BY ANDY BLATCHFORD, THE CANADIAN PRESS DECEMBER 7, 2012
DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. - A portrait is emerging of a Quebec mother accused of killing her three young children.
She is described as someone who worked harder than she had to in her restaurant job because toiling away in that kitchen helped her forget the pain of missing her kids.
Colleagues say Sonia Blanchette was a doting mother who talked frequently about her children. But she also spoke of not being able to see her children, to whom she only had restricted access due to a custody order.
A former colleague in a casual Greek restaurant, where she worked as a full-time cook, said she liked to show off photos of her kids on her cellphone.
Daniel Jones said Blanchette had a positive attitude at work — but often spoke about how deeply she missed seeing her children.
"She frequently told me, 'I can't wait to see my kids, they're coming over on Sunday,' " said Jones, a night-time kitchen supervisor at Cite Grecque, in an interview this week.
Blanchette is now facing three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Anais, 2, Loic, 4, and Lorelie, 5, whose bodies were found at her home Sunday in Drummondville, about an hour from Montreal.
A funeral for the children is planned for Saturday in the town of Acton Vale.
Jones described her as a tireless worker who was always cleaning something in the kitchen, when she wasn't preparing dishes like souvlaki and surf-and-turf.
He recalled that Blanchette sometimes cleaned stoves on consecutive days, which wasn't necessary.
"She was a scrubber — she was working all the time," he said.
"She would say, 'It does me good because I don't think about my children.' "
A court decision had limited Blanchette to supervised access to the kids every second Sunday.
Blanchette, 33, will undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine if she's fit to stand trial. Her next court appearance is December 14th.
Jones worked alongside Blanchette for about nine months until September, when she left the restaurant on friendly terms to take a job at a garden centre.
He said she had taken up running in an effort to lose weight while they worked together and that she had an unusual habit of addressing colleagues with the formal French pronoun "vous."
Jones said he was sad to see her leave, particularly since she was always smiling and joking around at work.
"She spoke loudly and when she started laughing ... she laughed so hard that sometimes (she was told), 'Not so loud, be quiet, we can hear you laughing in the front (of the restaurant),' " Jones said.
The restaurant's owner said Blanchette, whom she hired in January, was a good employee and that she never had any trouble with her.
Manon Rougeau, whose employees were shaken up after news broke about the murder charges, was aware that Blanchette was involved in a custody battle over her children.
"She adored them, that's for sure," said Rougeau.
"She was always happy to see her kids."