Tony Meilhon, 31, found Laetitia Perrais riding her scooter along the road near Pornic in western France shortly after she had thwarted his sexual advances in his car that night. After knocking her off her scooter with his car, he then choked and stabbed 18-year-old Laetitia before dismembering her body. He said he dumped some of her body parts in a pond and that a friend dumped the rest of her body in another pond nearby. He refused to say who the friend was. Police called the friend “Monsieur X.” Meilhon said didn’t want to get his friend into trouble because he had nothing to do with the crime. “I don’t want to seem even worse of a person than I already am,” he said in court when asked why he would not reveal the identify of Monsieur X.
Meilhon also claimed that he felt remorse for the crime, at one point shedding tears in the courtroom as he claimed to express his regrets to the victim’s family. But court-appointed psychiatrists were unconvinced of Meilhon’s sincerity. They said Meilhon was a casebook example of a violent sociopath with little or no empathy for others. After being imprisoned and then released from prison for armed robbery, assault, and other crimes; the French public expressed outrage over how such a violent criminal was set free in the first place in such short of time.
A Glimmer of Hope Dashed Out
Before Laetitia had the misfortune of meeting Meilhon, her dream was to one day live with her twin sister Jessica in Tahiti, a French island often described as a tropical paradise thousands of miles away from France in the Pacific. The vision she had was in stark contrast to her sad life growing up in foster care, and especially, to the horrific and senseless way she died.
Laetitia and Jessica were born into a climate of violence and were placed in foster care at the age of eight after their father was arrested for raping their mother, who has suffered from depression for most of her life. The two sisters’ personalities were different, but complementary. Jessica, more outgoing and protective, often did the talking for Laetitia, who was shy and withdrawn.
By the time she was 18, Laetitia was ready to live a more independent life, seeking to spend more time outside of the foster home where she had lived with her sister since the age of 13. At the hotel restaurant where she worked, her supervisors said she seemed fragile and immature for her age, but that she was also a “self-starter” and “independent” and that she cared about her work, FranceTVInfo.fr reported.
But Laetitia also began to show signs that she was having problems during the months leading up to her death. One witness told police that Laetitia had said that the father of her foster family had raped her. It was later revealed that the same foster father, Gilles Patron, has been accused of other sex crimes and will stand trial next year for six counts of rape and sexual assault.
Laetitia also left behind suicide notes, in which she expressed her wish to donate her organs once dead. “Look around you and you will see that I am not the only one who lies,” she wrote.
An Explosive Cocktail
A social worker who knew Laetitia said she did not yet possess the mental faculties to protect herself when confronted by danger. Meilhon was indeed dangerous, described by court-appointed psychiatrists as an “explosive cocktail,” who could become extremely violent with little provocation.
Following the separation of his parents as a young child, Meilhon soon developed a lifelong feeling of anger towards his mother for abandoning him after meeting his future stepfather, whom Meilhon accused of stealing his mother’s love from him. Reports of incest were rife in the home, where his brother was abused by his grandfather and mother, FranceTVInfo.fr reported. Meilhon’s father, a violent alcoholic, was accused of molesting Meilhon’s sister. Meilhon also accused his stepfather of watching porno films in front of him as a child. By the time he was in middle school, Meilhon began getting into trouble and was placed in foster care.
Court-appointed psychiatrists described Meilhon’s megalomania, paranoia, immaturity, and inability to handle frustration as consistent with a personality disorder. Not unlike Joran Van Der Sloot, who is the main person of interest in Natalee Ann Holloway’s disappearance and the convicted killer of Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramirez, Meilhon can feign charm when he wants something from someone, but can easily become vindictive and violent towards anyone who gets in his way. With little empathy and compassion for others, Meilhon, like Van Der Sloot, can easily be consumed by rage and violence, likely feeling little or no real remorse when he does harm to others.
Meilhon’s Spin of His Crime
Meilhon met Laetitia at a bar after her work on the night she was killed. Just a few weeks out of prison, Meilhon said he was happy to meet up with the young woman and gladly bought her drinks, he said. They smoked a little hash and snorted cocaine that he had brought along.
During the investigation and trial, Meilhon consistently lied and attempted to pattern his testimony in a way that best helped his case, with little obvious concern about the truth or explaining what really happened. He testified that he drove Laetitia in his car to a village where he lived near Pornic after their date, where he claimed that they began to have sex, which Laetitia interrupted. Meilhon then drove Meilhon to where her scooter was parked and told him that she planned to go to the police for what he had done to her, Meilhon testified.
About an hour later at around 1:00 AM, Meilhon said he went looking for Laetitia to give her back a pair of gloves that he said she had left in his car. He claimed that he accidentally hit her as she was riding her scooter just a few feet away from her house with his car. The autopsy report would say that Laetitia suffered an injury to her wrist, but Meilhon claimed that he thought she was already dead after he hit her with his car. He said he then strangled and stabbed her more than 40 times to “make it look like she was murdered,” he said. He claimed that he and his anonymous friend then chopped her body up and disposed of her body parts separately.
The autopsy exposed gaping holes in Meilhon’s story. The coroner’s report said that Laetitia was conscious after Meilhon had struck her on her scooter with his car, thus refuting Meilhon’s version of what happened when he said that he thought Laetitia was dead when he found her after what he said was “an accident.” Even if Laetitia had fainted, she would have only been unconscious for a few seconds and would have been awake when Meilhon strangled and stabbed her. Only DNA samples belonging to Meilhon were found on Laetitia’s body parts in both ponds, which made it highly improbable that a third party helped Meilhon dispose of the body.
Much criticism was directed at French authorities when it was revealed that not only had Meilhon served just a few years after committing a long list of violent crimes, but that he also failed to meet a parole officer after his release. Then French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly expressed his indignation that a repeat felon like Meilhon who was released from prison after 13 convictions was classified as a “low priority”case once his sentence was served. Meilhon was essentially free to do what he wanted by the time he met Laetitia, with few worries about accounting for his whereabouts to a parole officer.
As a way to prevent Meilhon from killing or harming again, the French court used a newly created sentencing provision when they sentenced him to life in prison that will keep him confined until psychiatrists are convinced that he not longer poses a threat society. Meilhon will face a special hearing in 22 years when he will be eligible for parole at which time a panel of psychiatrists will determine whether or not he can be safely released.
Before he was sentenced, Meilhon told the court and Laetitia’s family and friends that he felt remorse for what he had done and said that he “did not deserve” to live for killing Laetitia. Unlike the cold and callous way he described his night out with Laetitia the night he murdered her during a pre-trial meeting with a psychiatrist, Meilhon went at lengths to tell the court and Laetitia’s family members that Laetitia was a fine young woman who was very kindhearted and “full of life” before she died. He described how he would never be able to undo the damage he had done to the lives of Laetitia’s family and friends and asked forgiveness. He also said he would accept any sentence he was given. He even said “thank you” when the court handed him his life sentence with the special provision that could keep him locked up for more than 22 years.
But Meilhon’s readiness to accept any punishment the court had in store for him was short-lived. Less than 10 days later after he was sentenced, Meilhon’s attorney appealed, claiming that the sentence was much too severe for the crime that Meilhon committed.