Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

THE ORDER OF THE SOLAR TEMPLE

Death Journey

Morin Heights is a popular ski resort near Montreal in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. Not much happens there aside from winter sports, but on October 4, 1994, a condominium fire attracted the fire brigade. What at first appeared to be a routine incident yielded a few surprises. As investigators assessed the scene, they came across two charred bodies. Since a quick check indicated that the building was owned by Jo Di Mambro, 69, officials anticipated that he would be one of the victims and surmised that his friend, Luc Jouret, 47, could be the other. Di Mambro, it turned out, was the founder of a religious organization known as the Order of the Solar Temple, and Jouret was its reputed prophet and proselytizer.

However, the autopsy soon revealed that neither victim was a 69-year-old male, and that, in fact, one victim was an older female. Was this the couple who had been renting the condo? If so, where was their infant son?

No one realized then that this discovery was just the first of a series of strange and grisly events that would make many people even experts rethink what they believed about religious communal behavior.

How the Millennium Comes Violently
How the Millennium
Comes Violently

Upon closer inspection of the home after the fire was put out, three more bodies were found, stashed together in a closet a man, a woman and a child. As the victims were removed from the condo, it appeared that they had not been killed by the fire. Instead, it seemed that they had been dead for a few days. Blood covered them, which turned out to be from a series of stab wounds. This discovery, at least, solved one mystery: These three victims were the renters, according to Catherine Wessinger, in How the Millennium Comes Violently. They were Tony Dutoit, stabbed 50 times in the back; his wife, Nicki, also stabbed several times in the back, as well as twice in the chest and four times in the throat; and Christopher-Emmanuel, 3 months old, who was stabbed six times in the chest with a wooden stake.

An examination of the circumstances and the condition of the Dutoits bodies put their time of death around September 30, four days earlier. But now investigators had no idea who the other deceased victims were. They had two unidentified bodies and no clear idea what had happened in this place, or why the Dutoits had been killed. Had these two murdered the family and then killed themselves? Or were all five people killed by someone else, who had then set the place on fire? But why then were the Dutoits covered in wounds, while the other two victims were not? And who had been the principal target? Authorities were stumped, but it wasn't long before their questions became part of an international inquiry.

The Dutoit family, victims (CORBIS)
The Dutoit family, victims (CORBIS)

It was discovered that the Dutoits were former members of Di Mambro's Solar Temple sect, and a list found in the chalet indicated that the order had 600 members. A rumor developed that Di Mambro had sent one of his "knights" to assassinate the Dutoit infant, Christopher-Emmanuel, because he believed the boy to be the anti-Christ. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Di Mambro, as well as Luc Jouret.

The next day, fires broke out across the Atlantic Ocean in Switzerland. This time there were many more victims, and they had a statement to make to the world.

 

 

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