Paul Rouleau is restrained by Kingston Police officers on May 6, 1991, after he rushed to the gas bar where his wife Yvonne worked. She was found murdered in the gas bar kiosk, her throat slashed (photo by Michael Lea)
The passage of decades does not dull the agony and anger of some people who endure the unimaginable horror of having a loved one murdered. This was never clearer to me than when I met recently with Paul Rouleau, a Kingston, Ontario man thrust, like an ant under a magnifying glass, into a searing light on May 6, 1991. That’s the day that Rouleau’s wife Yvonne was tortured, robbed and murdered at the gas bar she operated at one of Kingston’s busiest intersections. Two killers, including one man who worked at the gas station, stabbed her repeatedly with a knife until she opened a safe. Then they slashed her throat and stole several thousand dollars. Her body was found by her sister, in a pool of blood on the floor of the gas bar kiosk, later that morning. Paul Rouleau had not spoken publicly about his wife’s murder for more than 15 years. He felt compelled to break his silence. His wife’s killers have been granted faint hope hearings, at which they can plead for earlier parole eligbility – the federal government is moving to eliminate this provision in the Criminal Code – but it comes too late for Paul Rouleau. The complete story (published in The Whig-Standard) after the jump.
Paul Rouleau, a tall man with a big voice and sanguine complexion has met a reporter, for the first time in nearly two decades, to talk about his wife Yvonne.
But not really to talk about her.
“She was my wife,” he says flatly. “She was murdered, end of subject. Word – private.”
Yvonne Rouleau was tortured, robbed and murdered in 1991 in a crime that shocked Kingstonians and condemned her husband to a private agony that he has shielded from public view.
“I’ve had 19 years of hell,” he says, without elaboration.
There will be none.
“I’m a private person and this is about as public as I’ve ever got,” Rouleau says.
He doesn’t really want to be here, revisiting sordid details and sharing his family’s anguish, but he feels he has to say something. He has been provoked and he is not the kind of man to shy from provocation.
On March 5, he learned that the two men who slashed his wife’s throat and left her to die on the floor of the gas bar kiosk where she worked have been granted faint hope hearings at which they can plead for earlier parole dates.
“The justice system stinks,” he says, choosing words more publishable than those that might be expected to spill from his lips. “Life, as far as I’m concerned, should be, you go in, you come out in a box and that’s basically life.
“Someone lost a life. Where does anybody else get off having a life?”
The killers, Terry Douglas Kennedy and Richard Charles Joyce, were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. That would be 2016.
“With parole now, it’s if you kiss the right feet, oh, you get little bonuses,” Rouleau says, lingering sarcastically over this final word.
Faint hope is, he says, “bull.”
“The worst mistake they ever done was, capital punishment, when they took it away,” he says. “Personally, I like the old West.”
Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976 and added the faint hope clause to the Criminal Code. The clause was intended to provide an incentive for long-term offenders to behave while behind bars and to rehabilitate themselves.
Rouleau laments that his taxes are paying to keep killers like Kennedy and Joyce locked up.
“Don’t forget when you’re in there, you get your university education free, you get your dental free, you get your new glasses free,” he says, nearly spitting the word free out each time he repeats it. “And when you go for medical to the hospital, guess what, you get rushed right in the door, priority one while the other individual who happens to get hit by a car or has a broken leg, you sit there and bleed a puddle in the waiting room while they take care of our special little people out there called inmates.”
Rouleau pauses during his diatribe.
“Gee, length of rope is cheap.”
The mere fact of the faint hope hearings isn’t the only provocation.
Rouleau did not know the murderers had applied for consideration under the provision until the story was published in The Whig-Standard.
He awoke at 5 a.m. that day to a radio report based on the newspaper story.
“I had to pinch myself, ‘Am I dreaming this or something like that?’ because again, nobody warned me anything about this,” Rouleau says.
He drove into the city from his Verona-area home, the same house he had bought not long before Yvonne’s murder, and quickly found a paper.
He was stunned by what he read.
“The best way to describe it, this incident … it’s like having a scab on the back of your hand and it’s just about ready to heal and somebody rips it off,” he says. “Now you got that open wound, and here it goes, I got to start healing all over again.”
Rouleau corrects himself later.
“Well, it never really heals.”
He says he has a hard time driving past the corner of Princess and Division Streets.
The parking lot of the Shoppers Drug Mart now occupies the space where the Nozzles Gas Bar once stood. The business closed after the murder.
Yvonne Rouleau operated the station, a subsidiary of Petro Canada. Her husband operated the PetroCan station at Princess and Sir. John A. Macdonald Boulevard.
Yvonne was found inside the gas bar kiosk, just after 8:30 a.m. on May 6, 1991, sprawled on the floor in a pool of her blood.
Kennedy and Joyce were arrested nine days later. Kennedy had worked at the gas bar.
They tortured her to force her to open the safe. It held $7,800. The men planned to flee to Mexico.
In July 1992, Madam Justice Helen MacLeod sentenced the killers, after condemning their deed as a “sickening, heinous crime.”
Paul Rouleau was in the courtroom.
“I sat two rows behind them,” he recalls.
“Can I sit there and do it again? If I have to, yeah,” he adds, referring to the faint hope hearings that are yet to be scheduled.
Rouleau called the Crown attorney’s office after he learned of the hearings and is waiting for an explanation of the family’s role in the proceedings.
Families are permitted to provide information about the effect the crimes had on them.
Rouleau called his three children on March 5.
“You can’t write what they said,” he says.
Rouleau says he can only bear to visit the cemetery once a year. He has not remarried.
He will not talk about what he has done since his wife’s death, except in the most vague terms.
“One day at a time,” he says. “I try to sleep. I get up. I eat. I carry on, check on my kids, check on my mother.”
Rouleau quit the gasoline business in 1994 but he still works in Kingston.
He has begun to think about what he wants to say to his wife’s killers, though he offers no hint of what that might be.
He is accustomed only to guarding closely his private anguish.
“It’s mine,” he says, lowering his voice and speaking slowly. “It’s mine.”
Killers Terry Kennedy (left) and Richard Joyce are led into court in Kingston during their 1992 murder trial (photo by Michael Lea)
Dates for the faint hope hearings have now been set. Kennedy’s begins on January 17, 2011. Joyce’s hearing begins a month later, on February 14.