Grégory affair: the death of Étienne, the first drama of the Villemin family

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The genesis of a curse. More than fifty years before the sordid assassination of little Grégory, the death of a child had already damned the family with countless secrets. It is about the manslaughter of Étienne Villemin by his own mother, Jeanine Hollard.

Aged 23 at the material time, the young woman was married to Gaston Villemin, a mason one year her senior. Together, they lived in Herpelmont (Vosges) with their three children: Étienne, Yvette and Albert. Albert who is none other, as you may know, than the paternal grandfather of Grégory Villemin.

The couple were then expecting their fourth child, a little girl.

If the small family seems ordinary at first glance, the patriarch noticed on several occasions that the oldest of his children, only four years old, showed signs of blows, especially on the face.

When he alerts his wife, she replies casually that the brat had scratched himself when he fell.

Everything changed on the evening of February 14, 1931. Coming home from work, Gaston Villemin surprised his wife putting their son, Étienne, to bed… With a beret on his head.

While Jeanine refuses to answer her husband’s questions, the latter removes the child’s headgear to discover with horror a “long and deep head wound”, as evidenced by an article in L’Est Républicain published on May 14, 1931.

Overwhelmed by Gaston’s questions, the mother of the family ends up confessing: in a fit of anger, she had thrown the little one against the stove a fortnight ago.

If the wound seemed insignificant at first, the compresses applied by the father were not enough to contain the wound, and the boy began to have a fever.

Thus, the mason ended up calling a doctor who ordered the immediate dispatch of little Étienne to the hospital in Bruyères…

Unfortunately, and despite the care given to Étienne, the latter succumbed to his injuries on February 21, due to an infection of the wound.

“The doctor in charge of the child’s autopsy estimated that he must have been abused for some time and that he had not been sufficiently fed,” added the regional daily.

The death of the child immediately led to the arrest of Jeanine Villemin. The inquest determined that her other two children were “not very well behaved”, and questions were asked about her fondness for alcohol.

Judged for the violence inflicted on her son, the great-grandmother of Grégory Villemin recounts in detail the course of the facts.

The young mother got angry after little Étienne vomited on his plate and threw him face first against the stove. If she thought, at first, that it was a simple sore, she dared not call a doctor afterwards.

After appealing, Jeanine Hollard was sentenced to three years in prison for failing to care for a child, and gave birth to her daughter, also called Jeanine while still behind bars in 1932. She was released in 1934, where she returns home among her children and her husband.

If Gaston Villemin has initiated divorce proceedings against his wife since this affair, it appears that he has finally forgiven her for her abuse. Because in 1939, the mason still lives with his family when he is mobilized during the Second World War.

The 30-year-old was taken prisoner, fell ill and returned to his family in 1942… Where he found no one, because his wife had taken off with a German soldier, a certain Hans, who had come to compensate for the labor with the farmers. isolated.

Jeanine sells the animals and her belongings, entrusts Yvette and Albert to a friend and leaves with her lover, taking her youngest daughter with her.

When he returned from the front, Gaston could not bear the shock and hung himself from a tree in the little wood, behind the church of La Neuveville-devant-Lépanges.

A drama that marks Albert Villemin for life, who has just celebrated his tenth birthday…