|Johnnie Benson, murdered
on Mt. Royal
The geography was not kind to Victor Benson (1900-1972) and his wife nor their children: Bernard, (1920-1944) Johnnie, (1936-1945), Janet, (b. 1935), Phoebe (b. 1939) and Barbara (b. c. 1922).
Within a decade of moving to the home in 1939, three of the five kids died and father would be seriously burnt, in four separate calamities.
Benson, who worked at the Montreal Locomotive Works in the power house, saw the first heartbreak when eldest son Bernard, 24, was killed in battle at the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The young soldier was cited for valor.
Eight months later John, aged just nine years old, was murdered in one of the city's most shocking deaths, bleeding to death after being sexually molested and stabbed and buried in the snow on the Park Ave. side of Mount Royal on February 24, 1945.
The boy loved the mountain and knew his way around it well. On that afternoon he left his home on De Grandpre at around 2 p.m. to ski on the mountain and visit the grave of his uncle who had died a week earlier.
John Benson then came across Roland Charles Chassé, 43, an unemployed homeless man living at the Meurling Shelter.
Chassé had a habit of photographing children and then luring them back at a later date with prints of the photos he took. The killer took the young man's life, at about 3 p.m. and moved the body to a gully but failed to cover it fully with snow.
John was found dead, having bled to death from a wound near the groin caused by a small knife or nail file. He was sporting his Habs sweater. He had been bound, stabbed and buried in the snow. Guy Cardinal, another young skiier, spotted the blood on the snow and bright red sweater and discovered the gruesome murder scene a couple of hours later.
Edward Collins, 38, confessed to the crime but he was not deemed credible and was transferred to an insane asylum.
Police interviewed about 150 people before receiving a tip fingering Chassé on an anonymous postcard sent from the shelter.
They could not find the potential witness who sent the card in spite of a $100 reward.
Chassé - who had previously been arrested for loitering - was woken at the refuge and arrested by officers Allain and Fitzpatrick on April 18, 1945.
They showed him photos of the event, then turned off the lights and one of the officers imitated the boy crying. He denied any involvement. This lasted about six hours.
About 36 hours after being arrested Chassé was questioned anew, on a very empty stomach and he finally confessed to the crime after overhearing the officers threaten to bring him to a certain "Dr. Plouffe."
According to his confession, Chassé – who had enlisted for the war effort but was released due to his physical condition – complimented the boy on his skis and then walked with him to the second gully on the mountainside, (about half a mile from Park Ave.) then tripped him, kicked him in the face, stabbed him in the groin with a pocketknife (the fatal wound) and then sexually assaulted the boy as he bled to death.
Chassé, 43, was one of a family of 21 children from the Beauce and was sent to New Hampshire at the age of 13 to be raised by relatives. He ended up in reform school and did time in Alcatraz for theft from 1923.
killed in battle
The sun was out. It was a nice day. I was watching the skiiers. I stayed about 15 minutes and then the boy came across. I shouted and stopped him. I asked how he enjoyed skiing and I was making conversation. Then I tripped him up and then I put my heel on his face and he started shouting and I put a knife into his stomach and held my hand on his mouth until he went limp and I didn't hear much noise. I carried him about 10 yards away. He was limp and I stabbed him. After that I seen he was fading fast and I buried his head in the snow and I sodomized him. I packed the body in a snowback and I left quick. Do you think I will hang?
Chassé, a thin, greying and balding ex-con, later said that he only confessed because he feared that he would be beaten.
|Child murderer Chassé
Barbara, 25, now living with her aunt Victoria Fiset at 2192 Center Street in the Point, died the next year, in early November 1946, at the Royal Victoria Hospital after suffering a botched abortion several weeks earlier. She told polie that she suffered the injury at the hands of "an old man on St. Denis Street" who police failed to identify. She had initially refused to see a doctor and her condition worsened.
And finally on January 8, 1948 Victor, 51, suffered life-threatening wounds, including damaged eyes, a broken jaw and perforated chest at his workplace Locomotive Works at 5781 Notre Dame East. Eleven others were also injured. His wife, as well as his daughter Jeanette, 13 and Phoebe, 9, prayed for his recovery.
|Phoebe Benson staffer at
the Mount Royal Hotel in 1958