Grégory Villemin case: dates, family, suspects … The summary of the file

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Lépanges-sur-Vologne, October 16, 1984. A day infamous for being the one on which the lifeless body of Grégory Villemin, then a four-year-old boy, was found in the Vologne river at Docelles.

Neck, feet and fists bound by cords, the victim was dressed in dark green velvet trousers, a blue anorak and a striped woolen cap, slightly pulled down over his face.

A chilling image, immortalized in black and white by Patrick Gless, a journalist present that evening. Published the next day in the press, this photograph shocked public opinion and triggered a very strong media craze around the murder of Grégory Villemin.

A few hours earlier, around 5 p.m., the child was playing on a pile of sand in his garden while his mother, Christine Villemin, went back inside.

About twenty minutes later, the seamstress calls her son to come home… But the latter does not answer. She looks for him in the surroundings, asks the neighbors, returns to the nanny, but nothing helps: Grégory is nowhere to be found.

After looking for him all over the village, Christine Villemin returns home and, barely has she crossed the doorstep, the phone rings.

At the other end of the line, her mother-in-law, Monique, tells her that Michel, her husband’s brother, would have received an anonymous call at 5:32 p.m.

He evokes a deep, hoarse voice that would have whispered to him:

The research in Vologne follows this mysterious call, which would have been, initially, intended for the grandparents of the victim, Albert and Monique Villemin. Unable to reach them, the cursed bird contented himself with phoning Michel.

This “raven”, who has been harassing the Villemin family for years, again claims the crime in an anonymous letter posted the day of the disappearance, before the 5:15 p.m.

Addressed to Jean-Marie, the victim’s father, the letter reads:

As a final insult, an insolent farewell, the words “poor con” are underlined by the sender. By the time Grégory’s parents read these words, it’s already too late: their child was fished out the day before from the freezing waters of Vologne.

When the body of the little boy is found, a firefighter rushes to the Villemin family home to pick up the mayor, André Claudel. This is where Jean-Marie and Christine learn the unbearable: their son is no more.

This most gloomy news item is only the beginning of a sordid and endless legal procedure, strewn with family secrets, cryptic statements and successive indictments.

Performed the day after the events, the autopsy of Grégory Villemin showed that his lungs were distended and contained a small amount of water, something that suggests an asphyxiation agony. But here it is: the only samples to confirm or refute the hypothesis of drowning, via the search for diatoms, were not taken. In addition, it is impossible to know if the water present in the lungs of the little boy came from the river.

Furthermore, the victim’s blood was not collected in sufficient quantities to establish a complete toxicological assessment. However, the samples indicated that the child had no traces of alcohol in his blood. Furthermore, the non-sampling of the viscera, except the lungs, makes it impossible to know whether or not the victim had been drugged before his death. Examination of Grégory Villemin’s stomach revealed the presence of some water and remnants of apple pieces.

The autopsy revealed no signs of apparent violence: no hematoma, scratch or lesion was detected. Only a bruise on the level of the head, after the detachment of the scalp, is noticed by the medical examiners. A finding that leaves investigators to believe that the little boy did not struggle. A discovery consistent with the fact that the specialists have not spotted any trace of adrenaline, synonymous with fear.

The only certainty, or almost: the victim died of asphyxiation. Impossible, however, to know if he died drowned or strangled. This autopsy, carried out in two hours, is the subject of strong criticism. Even today, no one knows at what time or in what water Grégory Villemin died.

The autopsy isn’t the only likely botched part of the investigation. The crime scene, on the other hand, was not sufficiently protected. Gendarmes, journalists, firefighters and witnesses stomped on the scene, erasing any exhibits. So much so that this investigation is considered as the starting point of the scientific police, with in particular the creation of the Technical Criminal Investigation Section (STIC) in 1987.

Thus, the gendarmes have very few material clues at their disposal to solve the investigation. Here are a few.

When the victim’s body was found in the river, he was tied hand and foot with fine cords. The day after the disappearance, investigators found a similar string in the garden of Georges Jacob, a great-uncle of Grégory Villemin. The analyzes showed that this ball was similar to that found in the hands of the child.

Later, in 1985, several pieces of string were found at the Villemin home, as well as at family friends. Two of them, found in Grégory’s parents’ basement, are identical to the rope found on the victim’s body.

Questioned by Judge Lambert, Jean-Marie explained that the balls had been given to him by his father Albert during work, specifying that the end of the rope had been given to Bernard Laroche, his cousin. As the cords were able to circulate actively within the family, they lost their value as a clue.

Searching for where Grégory’s body might have been dumped in Vologne, investigators cast heel marks, similar to those of a woman’s boot, as well as tire tracks from a vehicle. Casts that were ultimately no longer exploited, the place explored by the investigators being called into question by the flotation tests carried out using a dummy.

Later, these tire tracks are compared with Christine Villemin’s car by agents of the regional judicial police service (SRPJ). Finally, the tires of the vehicle of the victim’s mother are recognized as different, which puts an end to the exploitation of this piece of evidence.

On November 4, 1984, three weeks after the crime, a rural guard found an empty insulin bottle with a capacity of 2 mL, its cardboard packaging, and a syringe, on the banks of Barba near Vologne. A place which corresponds to the location designated by Murielle Bolle, key witness to the investigation, as being the one where her brother-in-law Bernard Laroche would have gotten out of the car with Grégory Villemin on the day of his disappearance.

Very quickly, these elements are considered as very serious clues: the injection of insulin on a non-diabetic person can lead to a deep coma, due to the drop in the level of glucose in the blood. The investigators then ask themselves the question: would Grégory have been injected with insulin before putting him in the water? A plausible hypothesis, according to the medical examiner who carried out the autopsy: if the possibility of an intravenous injection seems unlikely, the theory of an intramuscular injection is not excluded.

Without a confession, this question will remain eternally unresolved. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to detect insulin during an autopsy and, since no suspicion has been raised, the presence of the hormone in the victim’s body cannot be proven.

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Born on August 24, 1980 in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (Vosges), Grégory Gilbert Villemin is the first child of Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin. On October 16, 1984, the little boy was kidnapped and killed before being found in the Vologne river, in Docelles.

The little boy was buried in Lépanges-sur-Vologne on the following October 20. At his funeral, nearly 700 people attended, including investigators who believed the killer was attending the funeral.

In 2004, Grégory Villemin’s body was exhumed and cremated in Épinal. The family keeps half of the child’s ashes.

Jean-Marie Villemin was born on September 30, 1958 in Aumontzey (Vosges). In 1981, he became foreman at the Auto Cushion Industrie factory (ACI, Faurecia), specializing in the manufacture of car seats in La Chapelle-devant-Bruyères.

He met Christine Blaise in 1976, whom he married three years later, on January 20, 1979. The young woman was born on July 13, 1960 in Petitmont (Meurthe-et-Moselle), and worked as a seamstress at the Manufacture de Vosges confection (MCV). After the birth of their first child Grégory, the couple built a pavilion in Lépanges-sur-Vologne.

In March 1985, while the Villemin couple were in the car, a news flash was broadcast on the radio and pointed to Christine as possibly the crow. Pregnant with twins, Gregory’s mother has an immediate physical reaction, hemorrhages and loses one of the two babies she is carrying. She is hospitalized at the Clinique de la Roseraie, in Épinal.

On March 29, 1985, around 1 p.m., Jean-Marie Villemin pointed a shotgun at his cousin, Bernard Laroche, and shot him in the chest. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, one of which was suspended, and was released on parole on December 24, 1987.

On July 5, 1985, and while she was six months pregnant, Christine Villemin was charged with the murder of her son and imprisoned in preventive detention in the prison of Metz (Moselle). She began a hunger strike that lasted five days before being released and placed under judicial supervision on July 10, 1985. The mother was cleared and dismissed on February 3, 1993.

Today, the family lives in the Paris region where they raised their three children: Julien, Emelyne and Simon. The siblings grew up with photographs of Grégory exhibited in the house, knowing nothing of their family history.

In 2021, Christine Villemin was working part-time in a publishing house, where she was in charge of subscriptions and described by her colleagues as a discreet and smiling woman. Her husband converted to real estate when they arrived in Essonne. Anxious that their children know their grandparents and despite the tensions within the family, Jean-Marie and Christine continue to travel to the Vosges. They now have grandchildren.

Albert Villemin, born in 1930, had an eventful childhood. Even before he was born, his mother, Jeanine Hollard, received a prison sentence for the manslaughter of her son, Étienne, who died of a slap in the face. At the age of ten, Albert was abandoned by his mother who left the family home with another man. When he returns from the front, his father, Gaston Villemin, hangs himself on learning of his wife’s betrayal. In 1953 Albert met Monique Jacob at the factory, whom he married and raised six children: Jacques, Michel, Jacqueline, Jean-Marie, Gilbert and Lionel.

Monique Jacob, born in 1931 in Granges-sur-Vologne, worked as a worker at the Aumontzey factory for forty years. She describes herself as a mother hen, and religiously records all of the crow’s calls that harass the family in a notebook. After the murder of little Grégory, Jean-Marie Villemin criticizes his mother for not telling everything she knows.

Mother Villemin is suspected of being the source of several threatening letters, including a missive addressed to Judge Lambert signed by a certain Corinne. In this letter, this person who presents himself as a school friend of Murielle Bolle accuses the latter of having attended the kidnapping of Grégory Villemin by Bernard Laroche. This letter comes a month after Christine Villemin was charged in the case.

Monique Villemin died in April 2020 in the nursing home where she was a resident.

Jacques Villemin, nicknamed Jacky, is the eldest of the Villemin siblings. Born of an affair between his mother and a certain Thiébaut in 1953, he was adopted by Albert after his marriage to Monique. Jacques only learns the secret of his birth in 2017, when he questions his mother after hearing rumors at the factory.

THE DETAIL THAT KILLS – JACKY, THE UGLY DUCKLING OF THE VILLEMIN FAMILY

In his anonymous missives, the crow defends Jacky whom he nicknames “the bastard”. So much so that, for a time, he was suspected of being the author of threatening and insulting letters by his brother, Jean-Marie.

Jacques Villemin is married to Liliane Jacquel, with whom he has a son, Eric. Liliane’s father, Roger Jacquel, was also suspected of being the crow by the Villemin family.

Born on March 23, 1955 in Épinal, Bernard Laroche is the first person to be suspected of the murder of Grégory Villemin. Jean-Marie Villemin’s cousin lost his mother, Thérèse, during childbirth, and was therefore raised by Adeline Gaudel, his maternal grandmother. He grew up with Jacques Villemin but also with his uncle, Marcel Jacob.

Bernard Laroche works at night at the Ancel spinning mill in Granges-sur-Vologne, where he is also a CGT staff representative. After years of applying, he became foreman in September 1984.

In 1976, he married Marie-Ange Bolle, with whom he had one child, Sébastien. The little one, born just ten days after Grégory, suffers from a disability related to a brain cyst. In 1980, the family built a house on the heights of Aumontzey, not far from the Jacob couple’s home.

On November 5, 1984, only a few weeks after the murder of his nephew, Bernard Laroche was arrested and then charged with murder. Finally released in March 1985, he was shot dead by Jean-Marie Villemin, who thought he had his son’s murderer.

Born on May 2, 1957 in Cirey-en-Vezouze (Meurthe-et-Moselle), Marie-Ange Bolle married Bernard Laroche in 1976. On March 29, 1985, she witnessed his murder when she had just learned of his pregnancy. A few months later, the widow gives birth to the second child born of her union with Bernard, Jean-Bernard.

Marie-Ange was compensated by Jean-Marie Villemin for the death of her husband, but also by the State which failed to protect him. In her book, The Forgotten Tears of Vologne (Archipelago), she proclaims her first husband’s innocence.

In 1988, Marie-Ange Bolle married Denis Jacob, a distant cousin, son of René Jacob and Georgette George, with whom she had a daughter, Neige. The couple divorced in 1994, after Denis left her “without leaving a word”, she writes in her book. Shortly after, Denis kills himself.

Later, Marie-Ange married a third man, Philippe Galmiche, with whom she remained for six years. In The Forgotten Tears of Vologne, she describes a “cursed” relationship, which allegedly stole her savings and cheated on multiple occasions. From this union was born Laura, Marie-Ange Bolle’s fourth child.

Born in the Vosges on June 15, 1969, Murielle Bolle was just 15 when the Grégory affair broke out. Daughter of Lucien Bolle and Jeanine Lavalée, she is the youngest of the siblings. The teenager with the singular red hair lives with her sister, Marie-Ange, her brother-in-law, Bernard, and her nephew, Sébastien, for whom she is the babysitter. She was then a student at the Jean Lurçat college in Bruyères. The young woman has a key role in the investigation into the murder of Grégory Villemin. In November 1984, she was interviewed by the gendarmes in charge of the case, and delivered several different versions of the famous day of October 16.

Asked about her brother-in-law, Bernard Laroche, she indicated having seen him at the supposed time of the crime at her aunt Louisette Jacob’s house, in Aumontzey. The evening when the murder took place, Murielle Bolle claims to have taken the school bus accompanied by her best friend before going to her family. During a new hearing, this time carried out on the premises of the gendarmerie and not at the family home, Murielle Bolle would have delivered a different version of the facts. This time, she claims to have boarded her brother-in-law’s car after school, accompanied by Sébastien.

There, Bernard Laroche allegedly started the car to drive to a house in Lépanges-sur-Vologne, identified as that of the Villemins, then stopped his car to put a little boy in the back identified as Grégory. A few minutes later, the crew would have stopped at the village of Docelles, where Bernard Laroche would have descended with the little boy, then returned alone. Murielle Bolle returned to her statements the very next day, claiming to have received pressure from the gendarmes. Even today, the youngest of the Bolle clan claims the innocence of her brother-in-law.

In 1988, the procedure initiated by Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin ends in a dismissal. The Dijon Court of Appeal has indeed ruled that it was impossible to establish criminal intent on the part of Murielle Bolle. A few years later, in 2002, the State was ordered to pay more than 15,000 euros in compensation to Murielle Bolle due to a failure in the conduct of the investigation and the instruction.

In 2017, a new twist in the case: Murielle Bolle was arrested and placed in police custody for complicity in murder and non-denunciation of a crime on the remainder of her police custody from 1984, i.e. 25 hours. On June 29, she was indicted for kidnapping a minor followed by death and imprisoned.

Following this indictment, Patrick Faivre, a cousin of Murielle Bolle, broke his silence to claim that he was staying at the Laroche family home in November 1984, in the days following Bernard’s incarceration. According to her, the teenager confided to her that she had witnessed the kidnapping of Grégory Villemin by Bernard Laroche, and would have been abused by several members of her family. According to the scenario drawn by this cousin of whom Murielle says she knows nothing, the 15-year-old young woman would therefore have been the victim of a lynching and family pressure following the denunciation of her brother-in-law. This version is strongly contested by the person concerned, finally released under judicial supervision on August 4.

On May 16, 2018, Murielle Bolle’s indictment was canceled by a judgment of the Dijon investigating chamber. On January 16, 2020, almost two years later, it was up to the investigative chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal to cancel the 1984 police custody of Murielle Bolle.

On the private side, Murielle Bolle had two children from a first relationship with a certain Martial Jacquel: Fabien, born in 1989, and Johnny, born in 1992. Later, she married Yannick Jacquel, with whom she had a son in 2004 , Yannick Jacquel.

Patrick Faivre intervened in the Grégory Villemin case in 2017, when he claimed to have witnessed physical violence against Murielle Bolle at his home after she denounced his brother-in-law as being the author of the abduction of the little boy .

A year later, in December 2018, this first cousin of Murielle Bolle attacked the latter as well as Pauliné Guéna, co-author of her book Breaking the Silence, and the publishing house Éditions Michel Lafon for defamation. Questioned by us, Murielle Bolle’s lawyer, Maître Jean-Paul Teissonnière, confirms that this procedure ended in a dismissal.

Marcel Jacob is Jean-Marie Villemin’s maternal uncle and Grégory’s great-uncle. He and his wife Jacqueline, née Thuriot, to whom he has been married for more than fifty years, live on the heights of Aumontzey, not far from Bernard Laroche and Michel Villemin, Jean-Marie’s brother. Together they have a daughter, Valerie, with whom they have no contact today.

The couple was indicted on June 16, 2017 for kidnapping and forcible confinement in the Grégory Villemin case. They are suspected of having been the accomplices, even the sponsors of the abduction of the little boy.

Michel Villemin is Jean-Marie’s older brother. He married Ginette Lecomte, with whom he had two children: Daniel and Christelle. Within the family, the crow has sown discord in the relationship between Michel and the rest of the family, accusing in particular the Villemin parents of neglecting the eldest of the siblings. Michel and Ginette were very close to Bernard Laroche.

Grégory’s uncle died in March 2010 after a long illness at the age of 54. Seven years later, his wife, Ginette, was arrested on letters rogatory and placed in police custody as part of the investigation along with the Jacob couple for “complicity in murder, non-denunciation of a crime, non-assistance person in danger and willful abstention from preventing a crime”.

The investigators suspect in particular Ginette of being very jealous of the Villemin family, and of having been able to participate, directly or indirectly, in the kidnapping or even the murder of their child. Eventually, Michel’s widow is released from custody.

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