Michel Villemin has, it seems, never been very well in his skin. As a child, he grew up alongside his eldest, Jacky, and his youngest, Jean-Marie, but also their cousin, Bernard Laroche, raised by their grandparents, Adeline and Léon Jacob. They all live in the same village, in the heart of the Vosges: Aumontzey.
His education is difficult. At the age of 15, Michel still does not really know how to read or write. When he was expelled from college, his father, Albert, told him to go and work in the factory, “like everyone else”.
They say he was cradled too close to the wall. It is also said that Michel inherited the “disease of the nerves” from his father. The young man is fiery, temperamental, and plagued by depressive episodes. He complex, in the shadow of his brothers: Jacky, the eldest, the one who comes before everyone else, and Jean-Marie, more brilliant, and more sure of himself. Grabs, sometimes violent, between the brothers, are usual.
But in 1978, Michel scents the hour of revenge: he learns that Jacky is not Albert’s son: he is a “bastard”, and he will not hesitate to attribute to him, from then on, this disapproving nickname that the crow will take over a few years later.
“I’m the eldest in the family,” Michel said to Jean-Marie one day, as Thibaut Solano reports in his book, La Voix Rauque (ed. Les Arènes).
Relations between Jacky and Michel become more and more conflictual. They even come to blows, one day, at the exit of the factory.
The day Michel marries Ginette Leconte, a friend of his sister Jacqueline, Jacky will not be invited.
The couple quickly moved into the neighboring house of parents Villemin, Albert and Monique Villemin. Barely fifteen meters separate the two pavilions. Together, they have two children: Christelle, born in 1976, and Daniel, born the same year as Grégory – but 40 grams lighter.
When the calls of the crow interfered in the daily life of the Villemins, from 1981, Michel and Ginette were not spared. The young mother is called names, Michel is ordered not to see Jean-Marie any more.
But they too have been dragging a lot of resentment for years: they feel “sidelined” by their brood, even though they live a few steps from their parents’ home, the nerve center of their ties.
Behind the walls of the pavilion, nerves are raw: Michel becomes more and more violent, Ginette suffers.
“The problem is that Michel lived next to his parents. So, it’s true that on Sundays, it was more children who came from afar who were invited to Sunday lunch. And suddenly, with Ginette, they only came for coffee, because they lived nearby. And the crow played on it”, explains Patricia Tourancheau, journalist and author of Grégory, the family machination (ed. Seuil).
However, at the time, we do not really suspect Michel of being at the origin of the malicious calls. Besides, how could this be possible, since he and his wife receive it?
Thibaut Solano adds: “Clearly, we know that there was a certain tension with Michel. He was a bit the opposite of Jean-Marie, he had difficulties at school, he lived right next to his parents, he was very angry, nervous, and suddenly there could be tensions with his brother Jean Marie. But he was not the main suspect in the eyes of Jean-Marie, maybe he was only a suspect out of complicity or naivety”.
It is rather Jacky who concentrates, before 1984, the suspicions of the Villemin couple.
But one question, however, remains central: was Michel close to the crow?
In the family, he is in any case one of the only ones to have remained ass-and-shirt with Bernard Laroche after adolescence.
In an exclusive interview granted to the Est Républicain in 2010, he describes him as “A friend but above all a cousin. We were the same age. We have known each other since our childhood. I often went to my grandmother, who raised Bernard.”
It is also Michel who is surprised, on October 14, 1984, two days before the murder of Grégory, by the new leather sofa that his brother Jean-Marie has just offered himself. “You have to be a chef to pay for that!”, he would have said to him when he came to have an aperitif on the spot.
On October 16, 1984, in the early afternoon, Bernard Laroche went to Michel for a coffee. Did his cousin tell him what he had seen two days before at Jean-Marie’s?
A few hours later, the child was found bound hand and foot in Vologne.
And as if the brother “apart” was the crow’s privileged interlocutor, it is he who receives, a few minutes after the crime, the chilling call claiming responsibility for the terrible gesture.
In his hearing of October 16, 1984, Michel said:
For 38 years, Michel Villemin has never been in the sights of investigators. Just as he has always been convinced of the innocence of his cousin, Bernard Laroche. But the suspicions within his own family definitively confirmed his isolation.
Michel and Jean-Marie have not been seen since the year of the latter’s trial, in 1993.
“Anyway, I will never be able to talk to a brother again who hurt me so much. It’s hard, what happened to him, but accusing us hurts too. We always say that we must forgive but, there, no. It’s over forever”, poured out the Vosges in the Republican East. Before adding: “I have two cancers, I don’t know if I’m not going to die, and I think this disease has something to do with the case. This is a case that has eaten up my life…”
Michel Villemin died on Sunday March 21, 2010 at the age of 54.
As for Ginette, she was placed in police custody in June 2017, before being released fairly quickly. A few hours later, Marcel and Jacqueline Jacob were indicted for “kidnapping” and “kidnapping followed by death”.
Michel’s wife, defended by Bernard Laroche’s lawyer, then spoke in Vosges-Matin, taking their defense:
Ostracized, suspected, and misunderstood… Does the Michel-Ginette Villemin couple, apart from the band, hold a part of the unfathomable secret of this cursed affair?