Montreal Gazette

The man behind the letters

JUDGE TO SENTENCE NICK PACCIONE, who spoke out for the first time about the bizarre case this month

- PAUL CHERRY pcherry@montrealga­

Nick Paccione, a serial sex offender who was involved in a bizarre correspond­ence triangle with a killer and a probation officer, will be sentenced today for his role in the affair. Paul Cherry takes an in-depth look at the sordid tale after Paccione testified for the first time this month about his role in the affair.

When the man at the centre of one of the most bizarre criminal cases brought to the Montreal courthouse in the past decade finally gave his side of the story, he was amazed to see no one showed up to hear it.

On Sept. 5, Nick Paccione, 45, a serial sex offender who was declared a dangerous offender in 2000, testified for the first time about his role in a triangle of twisted correspond­ence that went on for months between himself, from prison, Angelo Colalillo — who murdered 14-year-old Jessica Grimard during a crime spree in 2002 — and Marlene Chalfoun, a probation officer with whom Paccione had been correspond­ing for years.

Colalillo is believed to have killed Grimard while correspond­ing with Paccione, whose letters seemed to encourage Colalillo to acts of violence. Meanwhile, Paccione was writing letters to Chalfoun describing what Colalillo was capable of.

Chalfoun and Colalillo were charged with conspiring to commit sexual assault in 2002, while Paccione was charged in 2006.

Chalfoun was acquitted after testifying she believed her letters were only meant to feed Paccione’s violent fantasies, not to be carried out in reality. Colalillo took his own life just before he was about to be tried with killing Grimard, along with two other women who were murdered in 1993.

Because Paccione’s prison sentence is indefinite, this case has been considered less of a priority, and has been plagued by delays for years. He quietly pleaded guilty to counsellin­g another person to commit an indictable offence on Nov. 3, 2010, and acknowledg­es he may never set foot outside a penitentia­ry no matter what Quebec Court Judge Pierre Labelle decides on Friday.

“I want anybody and everybody to know that I know how terribly bad were the things that I wrote. And I am genuinely sorry and profoundly ashamed, not only of the things that I wrote, but also of all the bad things I’ve done over the years — especially of all the harm or the hurt that I have caused, be it directly or indirectly.

“I am not saying these things to sway you toward leniency. This is going to sound harsh but I don’t care what sentence you render. It’s not going to change anything for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get out one day. I’m serving an indefinite sentence. I’ve been declared a dangerous offender and I don’t know if I’ll ever get out, at least not after much more time has passed, and I’ve resigned myself to this.”

While reading from a statement for Labelle on Sept. 5, Paccione made repeated references to the fact that the courtroom was empty that day. He was perhaps oblivious that just hours earlier, Richard Henry Bain, 61, was arrested in the fatal shooting outside a nightclub where Pauline Marois was giving a victory speech after being elected premier, so media attention was otherwise occupied. (The Gazette obtained a recording of the hearing afterward.)

While Paccione’s disappoint­ment initially sounded like the words of an attention-seeking narcissist, he eventually told Labelle he hoped his testimony would send a message to anyone suffering from the same sexual obsessions he has lived with since age 12. He said he hoped they would seek profession­al help for their problems and not ignore them, as he did.

“I also want to make it perfectly clear, if I haven’t already, that I still have a major problem, a very complex or multi-dimensiona­l problem and that, if I were released, I’d be a very high risk to reoffend. I’d even say a 100-per-cent risk.” The case against Paccione was a complicate­d one. While he was behind bars in a federal penitentia­ry in 2001 and 2002, he exchanged letters with Colalillo while the latter, a free man, was stalking young victims to sexually assault and kill. At that point, Paccione had already been correspond­ing for years with Chalfoun, a probation officer at Montreal’s municipal courthouse. Their correspond­ence began after Paccione responded to a newspaper ad she placed. The letters Chalfoun sent to Paccione in 2002 suggested she was offering up people she knew, including two children, as potential victims for Colalillo to rape and kill.

In 2002, Chalfoun was charged with conspiring with Paccione and Colalillo to commit a sexual assault and was acquitted in 2003. Her defence, supported by testimony from a psychiatri­st, was that she believed her exchanges with Paccione were fiction and encouraged his sadistic fantasies because, as a dangerous offender, he would never be released.

During her trial, she testified she didn’t know that the person Paccione was referring to in his letters was real, and became terrified when she actually met Colalillo face-to-face — a meeting arranged by Paccione. At that point, Colalillo was under surveillan­ce as a suspect in a sexual assault in Repentigny and would be linked to Grimard’s murder through the letters he exchanged with Paccione.

The letters also linked Colalillo to the mur- der of a 12-year-old girl in Montreal North on Feb. 19, 1993, and a 20-year-old woman in Rivière des Prairies, also in 1993. He sexually assaulted both and set their bedrooms on fire to destroy evidence and make both deaths appear accidental.

The 20-year-old woman he sexually assaulted in Repentigny in 2002 escaped the fire, and gave investigat­ors an excellent descriptio­n of him.

Paccione said Colalillo, a former cellmate, began correspond­ing with him because he felt sympathy for him after learning he had been declared a dangerous offender. Correction­al Service Canada uncovered a letter that mentioned Grimard’s murder. Paccione’s correspond­ence was being monitored after someone tried to send him pornograph­ic material.

When the shocking correspond­ence case first came to light, Paccione seemed to be a Hannibal Lector-type character, capable of instigatin­g evil from the confines of his cell.

Although Paccione dropped out of high school by Grade 8, one of the first mental health profession­als to evaluate him described him as “very intelligen­t.”

While addressing the court on Sept. 5, he displayed a remarkable vocabulary. He described himself as an aspiring writer and quoted the poet William Wordsworth.

“While I can’t speak for Angelo or Marlene, for me it was almost a competitio­n — a sort of battle of the deviants, especially between me and Angelo,” Paccione said, while claiming he didn’t know Colalillo was actually carrying out the crimes he described in his letters. “I kept thinking of ways I could surpass myself in ways of evil and perversion, ways that might shock even a seasoned deviant like Angelo.

“Behind the blur of it all, I didn’t believe or think any unspeakabl­e acts were committed or that any unspeakabl­e acts were going to be committed.”

While making his sentencing arguments this month, prosecutor Louis Bouthillie­r disputed this, pointing out that Paccione knew Colalillo was a convicted sex offender and knew that Grimard had been killed while they exchanged letters, but continued the twisted correspond­ence for weeks.

Either way, Paccione acknowledg­ed any nuance he claims cannot be proven, since the letters were placed under a court-ordered seal before Colalillo killed himself because, in part, they are considered child pornograph­y.

“I’m not really sure of what I am guilty of, Your Honour, but I feel I surely have to be guilty of something beyond some really sick shit — and this regardless of what my intentions were or were not,” he said.

“I want anybody and everybody to know that I know how terribly bad were the things that I wrote.”


Paccione was declared a dangerous offender on Aug. 30, 2000. According to the judgment made in that case, “his reason for living, the only thing that drives him, is sexuality, since the age of 12.”

At age 14, Paccione began prostituti­ng himself to older men. This was followed by acts of voyeurism and exhibition­ism. In 1990, when Paccione was in his early 20s living with his parents in Dollard des Ormeaux, he was linked to six sexual assaults in the West Island where the victims, between ages 10 and 22, were threatened with a starter pistol or a knife. The youngest victim was sexually assaulted in her home after Paccione broke in. He was sentenced to a four-year prison term for those offences. While out on day parole, in August 1992, he committed another armed sexual assault despite being in therapy for sex offenders at the time. His sentence was extended to seven years.

After that re-offence, he was repeatedly denied parole, and while incarcerat­ed spent most of his time in his cell, either working on a computer or practising yoga.

A psychologi­st who evaluated him described Paccione as someone who initially withdrew when his urges emerged “but this suppressed magma resurfaces in an aggressive reaction, from which he derives some momentary feelings of power and domination of innocent victims.” As the sentence neared its end, the head of a clinic for sex offenders at La Macaza, the penitentia­ry in the Laurentian­s where Paccione was held, warned he would reoffend as soon as he was released.

He was released in late 1997 and placed under police surveillan­ce for a month. He was seen visiting peep shows, and police officers approached him when they noticed him following two young girls. He was found to be carrying a bag that contained a pornograph­ic magazine and a knife. The police convinced Paccione to sign a peace bond, which put certain conditions on his movements, but he quickly violated it by breaking into the apartment of a young woman he knew. When she arrived, he assaulted her.

During the 2000 hearing where he was declared a dangerous offender, a psychologi­st described Paccione as the most dangerous case he had seen among the 400 or so inmates he had evaluated. During Paccione’s recent testimony on Sept. 5, he criticized a form of aversion therapy he underwent at La Macaza in the 1990s in an effort to control his problem before his seven-year sentence expired. He said he was placed in a room and listened to audio recordings depicting violent scenarios including some where women were sexually assaulted. Paccione said he was instructed to smell either ammonia or rotting meat if he became aroused by what he heard. He described the therapy as a less drastic version of the aversion therapy depicted in the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange.

“The aversive therapy didn’t help the character in the movie, and it certainly didn’t help me. In fact, it actually exacerbate­d my problem, and this by feeding me a daily diet of sexually deviant material,” Paccione said. The therapy didn’t work, he added, because he knew the experience was “artificial.” He claimed the aversion therapy only made his fantasies more violent and “exacerbate­d my problem” by the time his sentence expired in 1997.

“If it isn’t already clear, I was more screwed up when I came out then when I entered La Macaza. My obsession with women was greater than it had ever been. My urges more powerful and my thoughts and fantasies even more violent and twisted.” While sounding frank at times, Paccione also tried to minimize his crimes. Many involved forcing women or young girls to perform fellatio on him while he pointed a starter’s pistol or a knife at their heads. Yet Paccione claimed he didn’t “physically harm” the victims because, according to him, the sexual assaults didn’t involve “rape in the convention­al sense” or intercours­e. But at the same time, he admitted there is a part of himself that can’t be controlled. He described himself as being split in two. One part, he said, struggles to be a good person. The other is a deviant and a sex addict.

“To simplify matters, we could say that I am obsessed with women, not all women, but at least women I am attracted to for whatever reason.

“But even this term obsession doesn’t do justice or fully capture how overwhelmi­ng or all-consuming is my desire for, and my sexual fascinatio­n with, women.

“I’ve become like a druggie looking for that next fix.”

Defence lawyer Loris Cavaliere told Labelle he didn’t want to suggest a potential sentence for Paccione. While citing recent psychologi­cal evaluation­s, he argued Paccione appears ready to begin tackling his demons. Paccione is expected to be transferre­d from the Port Cartier Institutio­n, a high-security penitentia­ry in eastern Quebec, to the Philippe Pinel Institute in Montreal, where he will undergo an intensive program for sex offenders.

“I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes today to render this sentence because it is a complex case. We have to sentence an individual,” Cavaliere said. “At the end of the day, there is an individual.”

Bouthillie­r also suggested Labelle has a complicate­d task. Any sentence rendered will become part of Paccione’s indefinite sentence. The prosecutor pointed out that, because of the complexiti­es within Canada’s Correction­s and Conditiona­l Release Act, Paccione could be eligible for parole in seven years even if he receives a life sentence. The prosecutor said the point of pursuing this case against Paccione was to get what he did on the record the next time he is up for a release.

“Despite knowing how sick and evil Colalillo was, he carried on (writing letters) for months (after Grimard was killed),” Bouthillie­r said.

“The sentence that you will impose will probably have no bearing on his (parole eligibilit­y) in any way. But is important for the (Parole Board of Canada) to be made aware of these facts.”

 ??  ?? While he was behind bars in 2001 and 2002, Nick Paccione, above, exchanged letters with Angelo Colalillo, below left, while the latter, a free man, was stalking victims.
While he was behind bars in 2001 and 2002, Nick Paccione, above, exchanged letters with Angelo Colalillo, below left, while the latter, a free man, was stalking victims.
 ??  ?? Marlene Chalfoun, right, was acquitted after testifying she believed her letters were only meant to feed Paccione’s violent fantasies, not to be carried out in reality.
Marlene Chalfoun, right, was acquitted after testifying she believed her letters were only meant to feed Paccione’s violent fantasies, not to be carried out in reality.
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