Two charged in killings
American men accused of murdering Canadian entrepreneur Daniel Langlois and partner Dominique Marchand in Dominica
RONALDA LUKE SPECIAL TO THE STAR
ROSEAU, DOMINICA The gathering outside the Roseau Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday stood as a poignant testament to the profound impact Daniel Langlois and Dominique Marchand had on the Soufriere and Scotts Head community on this tiny Caribbean island.
Citizens congregated outside the courthouse, united in solidarity for the beloved French Canadian couple, who died suddenly and mysteriously last week.
Exiting a vehicle, Jonathan Scott Lehrer displayed a composed demeanour, smiling as he and his alleged accomplice, Robert Snyder Jr., entered the court building.
The American-born Dominican residents Lehrer, aged 57, and Snyder Jr. appeared before Dominica’s chief magistrate, where a charge of double murder was read.
Police allege that Lehrer and Snyder Jr. murdered Langlois and Marchand sometime between last Wednesday and Saturday at the Bois Cotlette Estate, a chocolate plantation owned by Lehrer, near the small town of Soufriere.
The accused men were not required to enter a plea since murder is an indictable offence and they are expected to be tried before a judge and jury. After their brief court appearance, Lehrer and Snyder Jr. were remanded into custody at the Dominica State Prison.
They are expected to reappear in court on March 15 for a preliminary inquiry. The court will then assess whether sufficient evidence exists for the case to proceed to trial.
Police discovered the remains of two individuals in a vehicle in the Soufriere area, believed to be those of Langlois and Marchand, who had been reported missing. The burnt vehicle fit the description of the couple’s car, police sources in Dominica said.
Police said because of the fire the bodies were unidentifiable, compelling investigators to rely on circumstantial evidence linking them to Langlois and Marchand.
Investigators detained Lehrer, his wife, Snyder Jr., and a Dominican man. However, only Lehrer and Snyder Jr. faced charges.
In the years leading up to their tragic deaths, Langlois and Marchand found themselves embroiled in a legal dispute with Lehrer over the use of the Morne Rouge Public Road, located in the southern region of Dominica. The road, leading to an eco-resort and hotel owned by Langlois and Marchand, crossed through the Lehrer estate, sparking the conflict.
Lehrer, the owner of the Bois Cotlette Estate, obstructed the road by placing boulders on it, digging a trench and deploying equipment to stop Langlois and Marchand from accessing their property.
This prompted legal action from Langlois, citing damages and interference with his economic interests. Langlois sought a permanent injunction against Lehrer and his company from disrupting the use of the road.
Legal proceedings commenced with an injunction issued on Oct. 30, 2018, by the High Court mandating Lehrer to unblock the road and restore it to its prior condition. Subsequent hearings in November 2018 led to further court orders.
In 2019, Dominica’s then High Court Judge Bernie Stephenson in her ruling affirmed the road’s public status, granting Langlois and guests to his hotel unrestricted access.
Residents hailing from the twin communities of Soufriere and Scotts Head have expressed profound shock at the killing of “two community icons.”
An employee of Langlois and Marchand’s eco-resort, Coulibri Ridge Resort, voiced her indebtedness to the couple.
“They’ve been a source of inspiration to all of us.”
“The community is in pain,” lamented another resident, who also didn’t want to be named. “Work has come to a standstill. We’ve lost two exceptional individuals, and the community will feel their absence greatly.”
Ericson Degallaire, the principal of Soufriere Primary School, praised Langlois’s contributions in rebuilding the school in 2017.
“After Hurricane Maria in 2017, he played a crucial role in rehabilitating the Soufriere Primary School. The quality of work was exceptional, and the school’s solarization ensured uninterrupted electricity, a testament to his dedication,” Degallaire told reporters outside the courthouse.
During Dominica’s independence celebration on Nov. 3, the government honoured Langlois with a Meritorious Service Award for his contributions to sustainable development and research projects, particularly within the hospitality and business sectors.
Langlois’s violent death, and that of his partner, sent shock waves through Canada’s arts and business communities earlier this week, as well as in Hollywood where his company was well known for its innovative software.
Langlois, who was born in 1957, founded the Montrealbased Softimage, a 3D animation technology company, in 1986. The pioneering firm became renowned for creating realistic 3D special effects for the motion picture and video game industries. Its effects were used in many blockbuster films including the Harry Potter franchise, “Jurassic Park” and “The Matrix.”
In 1992, the company began trading on the Nasdaq exchange. Two years later, Langlois sold Softimage to Microsoft for an estimated $130 million (U.S.).
He then devoted much of his time and money to charitable endeavours, including forming the Daniel Langlois Foundation, to “further artistic and scientific knowledge by fostering the meeting of art and science in the fields of technology,” according to the charity’s website.
‘‘ After Hurricane Maria in 2017, (Daniel) played a crucial role in rehabilitating the Soufriere Primary School. The quality of work was exceptional.
ERICSON DEGALLAIRE PRINCIPAL AT SOUFRIERE PRIMARY SCHOOL
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited