Montreal Gazette

Suspect, 70, in 1996 killing ordered to stay at a halfway house


Being charged last year with manslaught­er in the death of a woman whose disappeara­nce wasn't even considered a homicide investigat­ion for more than two decades has taken a toll on the 70-year-old suspect.

On June 2, Serge Audette, 70, was charged at the Montreal courthouse with manslaught­er in the death of Patricia Ferguson, a 23-year-old woman who vanished without a trace in 1996. She resided in an apartment in Pointe-auxtremble­s and, at the time, was the mother of an 11-month-old girl.

For reasons that are under a publicatio­n ban, Ferguson's death became a homicide investigat­ion in 2022 and Audette was charged with manslaught­er, even though her body has yet to be found. Audette is alleged to have killed Ferguson on June 6, 1996, the same day she disappeare­d.

He was granted bail in the manslaught­er case in August.

While the Montreal police investigat­ion was underway two years ago, Audette was out on parole. He is serving an indefinite sentence he received in 1999 after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman.

Declared a dangerous offender, he was first granted day parole in February 2016 and then full parole in August 2017.

According to a decision made by the Parole Board of Canada last week, his release into society was uneventful until July 2022 when Correction­al Service Canada was informed of the homicide investigat­ion.

His parole was suspended and he was returned behind bars.

Since then, Audette has bounced back and forth between a halfway house and a federal penitentia­ry for a variety of reasons, including after he was formally charged with manslaught­er and for failing a urine test that revealed he had consumed THC.

“Obviously, the fact that you are awaiting a new trial and how, due to (an investigat­ion) of the disappeara­nce of a woman in 1996, you are subject to a certain media pressure which is not unrelated to your recent difficulti­es,” the parole board wrote in a decision to impose new conditions on Audette's parole

“Your case-management team (the people who prepare an offender for parole) also observes a certain exhaustion linked to the supervisor­y measures that are imposed on you and notes that you manifest a feeling of helplessne­ss in the context of a legal process that is being updated.

“So, it is in this context that you relapsed into cannabis use. Moreover, certain concerns surroundin­g your travels were also observed during this period, which required specific interventi­ons for you.

“Despite an observed improvemen­t, your case-management team notes that this last difficult year for you has exacerbate­d your defence mechanisms that had previously faded over time, thus demonstrat­ing more emotional fragility, which pushed you to invest in psychologi­cal follow-up that gives you space to speak.”

Included among the conditions imposed on him last week is the requiremen­t that Audette reside at a halfway house for the next six months.

Audette's manslaught­er case returns to court in April.

 ?? ?? Patricia Ferguson
Patricia Ferguson

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