COURT FILES REVEAL FRANTIC EFFORT TO FIND QUEBEC GIRL’S KILLER
ELABORATE PROBE FAILED TO TIE LOCAL MAN TO DEATH
When nine-year-old Cédrika Provencher disappeared while playing near her Trois-Rivières, Que., home in 2007, investigators quickly focused their attention on a red Acura TSX seen in the vicinity by a witness and captured on a security camera.
It was a strong lead that soon led them to a local man in his late 20s, a manager at a packaging company run by his father. Jonathan Bettez was one of six people in Quebec who drove a red four-door 2004 Acura matching the suspect car’s description, with chrome handles and sevenspoke rims. And, police allege, he was the only one whose alibi for the night of Cédrika’s disappearance could not be confirmed. Eleven years after the disappearance that transfixed the province, and nearly three years after her remains were discovered, no one has been charged. Bettez, now 38, is facing trial on child pornography charges, and newly unsealed court documents in that case detail the elaborate — but ultimately unsuccessful — measures investigators employed to tie him to Cédrika’s death.
Cédrika had been riding her bike the night of July 31, 2007, with instructions to be home by 8:45. She was wearing a limegreen sundress over her bathing suit, green flip-flops, a pink and mauve Timex watch and a burgundy Supercycle helmet, her mother would tell police. When she failed to return on time, her mother immediately went looking for and then called around to her friends’ homes. By 9:20, she called the police to report her daughter missing, launching an intensive search. Over the summer, the family appealed for help, posters of her freckled face covered trees and utility poles and donations poured in to fund a reward. Within a week, police said they had already received 500 tips from the public.
But the documents unsealed this week, following a request to the court by La Presse and Radio-Canada, show that investigators had almost from the start focused attention on Bettez. They first met with him Sept. 6, 2007, when he confirmed he owned a red Acura and said they could inspect it, but it was at the garage. Later that month, he gave a written alibi for July 31, saying he had played nine holes of golf in the afternoon before driving to his parents house to tend to their plants and swimming pool while they were out of town. Upon arrival, he said, he saw that his aunt was already there, so he returned to his apartment, where he was living on his own. His aunt told police she never saw Bettez that day. “Nobody is able to confirm his alibi between the time he leaves the golf course on July 31, 2007 and his return to work on Aug. 1,” Sûreté du Québec investigator Katherine Guimond said of Bettez in an affidavit sworn in 2015 to obtain access to information about an Internet Protocol address allegedly used to access child pornography.
It was not until Dec. 10, 2007, that police would execute a search warrant on Bettez’s car, and the documents say the search revealed no new evidence. Three times — in 2007, 2012 and 2015 — investigators invited Bettez to take a polygraph test to verify his story. After consulting with his lawyer, he declined each invitation.
In 2015, he set conditions that investigators agreed to, but then he refused, saying he did not want to “restart all that after eight years,” according to the court documents.
By June 2009, investigators were ready to launch an elaborate undercover operation along the lines of the Mr. Big stings used to elicit a confession from suspects.
Generally, such operations aim to make a suspect believe he is dealing with a serious criminal organization, drawing him in to the point where he confesses to a past crime.
In this case, 19 undercover agents would be employed in an unsuccessful effort to ensnare Bettez. It began with a ruse to make Bettez think he had won a weekend at a Mont-Tremblant golf resort in a scratch-and-win contest. He was picked up in a limousine and spent the weekend with other supposed contest winners, all of whom were undercover agents.
One in particular befriended Bettez, and over the next 14 months, they would get together another two dozen times, golfing, dining and going to Canadiens hockey games. The agent began conducting illicit business in Bettez’s presence, and enlisting his help. He loaned Bettez, who the documents say had gambling debts, $25,000 to fund his poker habit.
But in August 2010, Bettez cut ties with the agent and repaid the loan, saying he was not comfortable with his shady business. Through the entire operation, the only potentially incriminating information obtained was a passing comment Bettez made during a round of golf with the agent.
They passed by a house near the 12th hole where a girl aged between 10 and 12 was in the window in her bathing suit, the documents say. “Did you see that bikini?” Bettez asked of the agent. After a pause, Bettez added: “She’s a little young.” After a hunter discovered Cédrika’s remains in December 2015, police obtained warrants to install hidden cameras in Bettez’s home and workplace and to tap the phones of his family and friends, hoping that the discovery of Cédrika’s remains would prompt him to say something.
The documents allege that Bettez used a computer at his workplace to download child pornography. They say he used such online nicknames as LureThem and PantyGuy to access files of girls, mostly aged between eight and 12, engaged in sexual acts.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Bettez was arrested in 2016 and he has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges of possessing and accessing child pornography. He is not charged in relation to Cédrika’s disappearance.
ELEVEN YEARS AFTER HER DISAPPEARANCE, NO ONE HAS BEEN CHARGED.
The remains of nine-year-old Cédrika Provencher, who went missing in 2007, were discovered by a hunter in December 2015. Police quickly keyed in on a local man as part of their investigation.