The rivers of the Vosges hold some very sordid secrets. On March 31, 1949, little Jean-Claude Delaval, then six years old, was found dead in the Taintroué river. It all starts a few hours earlier, when the child suddenly disappears after a classic day.
At 7 p.m., Jean-Claude was still playing in the meadow with his classmates, near the national road linking Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Epinal.
Around 8 p.m., the boy’s mother was worried about not seeing her son come home and, after looking for him in vain, ended up calling the police. Neither one nor two, the surroundings are scrutinized: woods, meadows, shores, nothing escapes the eye of the investigators.
At 9:30 p.m., shivers of horror: the head of Jean-Claude, savagely mutilated, emerges from the icy waters of the Taintroué. A few meters further on, a pool of blood confirms the unthinkable: the child has been murdered.
Immediately, the investigation is entrusted to the Nancy judicial police. Not to mention the wounds to the head of the little boy, it seems that the victim did not struggle. Indeed, no trace of a struggle or footsteps was found in the grass. “Nothing could allow us to consider that there was an unnatural act, thus confirming the impression of those who had observed the perfect order of the victim’s clothes when the body was discovered”, explained Professor Mutel of Nancy.
The specialist specifies that the author of the crime used a “sharp instrument which made all over the skull, from the frontal region to the occipital region, wounds affecting the brain and of which at least four out of six were fatal”.
Meanwhile, rumors are raging in the town: the killer is bound to be among us. The child didn’t scream, the dogs didn’t bark, and the victim was strategically thrown to the deepest part of the river.
“But then, what motive could push the criminals? Jealousy? Resentment? Revenge against the parents? Irrational anger?”, wrote then L’Est Républicain. A situation which is strangely reminiscent of the murder of Grégory Villemin, the unfortunate collateral victim of misplaced jealousy, 35 years later.
In the village, no one was spared from searches and interrogations, so that more than 400 people were interviewed.
During their interview with the police, the neighbors of the Delaval family, Mr. and Mrs. Patenotte, make a most disturbing revelation. Marie-Louise, the wife, admits being at the origin of anonymous letters sent, among others, to Jean-Claude’s mother.
“One to the little boy’s mother, accusing her husband of having a mistress, a second to the husband of the so-called mistress, also warning him that he was a cuckold. She wanted to ‘put certain families in the face of reality'”, writes L’Est Républicain.
Again, this crow story is reminiscent of the tragic GrégoryVillemin affair, whose family was harassed by threatening letters.
Another point in common with the case of the murder of little Grégory: at home, little Jean-Claude was particularly pampered and spoiled. The youngest of a family of three children, his parents ran a coffee shop. So, when the neighbors’ daughter Patenotte reveals that her parents have already hit Jean-Claude, suspicions are quick to fall on the couple. Josseline, the little girl, told the investigators:
In the end, the lead comes to nothing, and the investigation remains unsolved. For the murder of little Jean-Claude as for that of little Grégory, questions remain unanswered. Have children been sacrificed to make their parents suffer? Are the perpetrators of the crimes still alive, do they still live in the Vologne valley? Only the rivers of the Valley know it.