Heroine or Cold-Blooded Murderer?
Gillette Banne
Gillette Banne was born about 1636 in Argences, Caen, Bayeux, Normandy, France; the daughter of Marin Banne and Isabelle Boire.  She arrived in the Quebec colony about 1649 as a Filles A Marier, contracted to Marin Chauvin.

Marin was born about 1620 in Mesny, St. Mard, Reno, Tourouvre, France
He had signed a contract on March 8, 1648 in Tourouvre, to be engaged as a labourer in New France for Noel Juchereau.  The term of the contract was for three years at annual salary of 40 livres.   Gillette and Marin were wed soon after her arrival and a daughter, Marie, was born in September of 1650.  She grew up to marry Jean Denoyon and have nine children.

However, she would never get to know her father, who died on June 7, 1651 at Trois-Rivieres.  Acting governor Monsieur d‘Ailleboust granted Gillette 1/3 of an arpent in the town site of Trois-Rivières, between
Sebastien Dodier on the southwest and the palisade on the northeast, 'on the condition that she build a house and have it re-enclosed with a good fence'.
As a young widow, Gillette knew that she would be expected to marry again and on July 27, 1653;  wed locksmith Jacques Bertault at Trois-Rivieres.  Jacques was born on June 09, 1626 at Les Essars, La Roche sur Yon, Vendee, France; the son of merchant Thomas Bertault and Catherine Coulonnie.   Gillette and Jacques would have six children.

Since four of those children were girls, it would be Jacque's responsibility to arrange suitable marriages; not always an easy task; and he soon regretted his choice for daughter Elisabeth Isabelle.  The man's name was Julien Latouche, a labourer employed by Maurice Poulin, who had been given a small piece of land to work to provide for his family.  When the marriage took place on August 12, 1671; he was thirty and Elisabeth just twelve. 

A daughter Therese, was born the following year, but Elisabeth's alcoholic husband was rarely able to put food on the table.  As a result, her parents were constantly having to bring them meat, bread and eggs, and often Elisabeth and her daughter would simply go to their home for meals.  While there she would complain constantly about Julien.  He was a poor farmer, lazy, domineering and abusive; and the young girl didn't know how much longer she could stand it.

Jacques spoke to his son-in-law about it, and he'd always promise to change, but never did.  Finally, after one severe beating of Elisabeth at Latouche's hand; Gillette had had enough.   Now she could have taken the matter to court or simply brought her daughter and grandaughter home, but as we all know, while this may look good on paper, it rarely solves the problem.  Besides, she couldn't read or write, so knew that she would never be taken seriously.

Finally, in desperation, she decided to poison the abusive Latouche, to save her daughter from more hell and possibly even death.  However, when the poison failed to have the desired affect, she and her husband beat the man to death; an act they would pay dearly for.  Their trial and execution is described below.
Journal of American French Genealogical Society
Vol VIII #2 Winter 1985 (I SSN 0195-7384)
"On Sunday afternoon, May 15, 1672, Bertault, his wife , and Isabelle crossed the river by canoe to go to work on the family farm. At the same time, Latouche and Jean Gauthier were leading cattle across the river, during which time, Latouche told the family that he would meet them the following day.

"Latouche kept his word and met them on Monday. By this time, a plan had been contrived by Bertault, his wife, and their daughter Isabelle. There was a poisonous plant known to the settlers that killed their hogs. Madame Bertault felt that these tiny leaves, half the length of a finger, could resolve all their problems and they could live in peace once again. There had to be a plan, one that would not fail. They decided that in soup, which already had so many other ingredients in it, the leaves would go unnoticed. Madame Bertault prepared the soup and when it came time to add the poisonous herb, she decided that four or five leaves would be sufficient. When it was time to eat, the potion was served to Latouche.

"What went through their minds as they watched him eat the soup? Were they nervous?  Could they feel their hearts pounding franticlly? Isabelle, at age thirteen knew right from wrong, but was she mature enough not to be influenced by her parents? What kind of people were the Bertaults? The father had forced his daughter into an early marriage, yet he had shown compassion towards his child in her time of need. The question remains,
what kind of people resort to murder to resolve any problem?

"When the soup was served. Latouche ate heartily. They watched for a sign. Perhaps he would bend over with stomach cramps, or gasp in pain, or perhaps his color would turn to a sickly green. Latouche finished his soup and to their astonishment, he did not show any ill effects whatsoever. The plan had failed.

"The following day, one hour after sunset, Madame Bertault went to see her son-in-law, who was in the barn. As she entered, she said to him mockingly, "Now there's a nice son-in-law!" Latouche snarled back, "Why aren't I very nice?" They continued to scream insults at each other until Madame Bertault, who could no longer stand the sight of her son-in-law, picked up a hoe, which was leaning against a barrel and struck him. The blow had no effect on him. He lunged forward and grabbed her. As they scuffled, Lotouche bit her fingers. Madame Bertault could not overcome his strength. She yelled, "Isabelle, Isabelle, come and help me." The young girl wanted to help her mother, but she could not find the courage within herself. To poison someone is one thing, but to beat someone to death, is another. Monsieur Bertault heard the commotion and ran to the barn. As he entered, he saw Latouche and his wife struggling. He tried to separate them and as he did, Latouche grabbed him by the hair, pulled it and yanked at it. In the melee, Latouche grabbed Madame Bertault by the collar, attempted to kick her, but Monsieur Bertault managed to stop him. Madame Bertault grabbed the hoe, swung it a second time hitting Latouche on the head. The blood streamed down his face and he fell. Bertault grabbed the hoe away from his wife, believing she did not have sufficient strength to strike the blows.

"Isabelle closed her eyes; she could not watch this. As Bertault lifted the hoe to strike another blow, Latouche screamed, "Help! You're killing me!" The hoe fell on its target and there was more blood. Latouche felt weak. He grabbed his father-in-law, but was easily repelled. Latouche continued to scream. The tension was mounting and Madame Bertault did not want he husband to reconsider because of Latouche's incessant screaming.  She yelled, "Kill him! Kill him!" Bertault struck his son-in-law again and again. With each
blow there was more blood. It was everywhere. Bertault went to hit him again. stopped in mid-air, and threw the hoe down. The deed was done. Latouche lay dead. Bertault wiped his blood covered hands on the blood soaked clothes and winced in disdain. It was time to go home.

"At night, there is a stillness in the air, a silence that makes every sound reverberate for a long distance. It was because of the quiet of the spring evening that someone heard the commotion emenating from the Bertault barn.

"Jean Gautier was with his brother-in-law, Louis Petit, on the other side of the river that evening. Gautier and Petit knew Latouche well. In fact, Gautier had spent the previous Sunday in his company. They heard a voice, which to them sounded like Latouche's screaming, "Oh my God, I am dead! You're killing me! You'll be hanged!" For an hour and a half, they listened to those repeated cries and they could even hear the blows as
Latouche was being struck.

"When the Bertaults came out of the barn, Gautier shouted at Monsieur Bertault, "Go, wretch that you are! You killed your son-in-law, you'll be hanged. There are enough witnesses." Bertault turned to his wife and said. "Haven't I always told you that this would happen!" Madame Bertault was surprised and shocked that they had been witnessed, so much so that she remained speechless. The family went home. They were in trouble. After some thought, they returned to the barn. There was always a slight chance that Latouche was alive. As they entered the blood spattered barn, they saw that it had been wishful thinking. What to do? The body could not remain in the barn. It was late and it was dark.  Isabelle, who had passively watched her mother and father kill her husband, now had to help them. The three of the grabbed Latouche's lifeless and bloodied body and dragged it to the nearby river, where they disposed of it by throwing it into the water. If the body
were ever recovered, no one would ever know how Latouche had died.

"The following day, Gautier and Petit decided to cross the river in an attempt to find Latouche's body.  Perhaps it was out of fright that they brought along Pierre Pepin and Jean Hero dit Bourgainville, or perhaps their friends insisted on accompanying them, having learned that Latouche had possible been murdered the previous evening. The foursome found nothing, but saw Bertault entering his house and decided to pay him a
visit. Bertault came out of the house with his musket, removing it from its case, checked to see if it were loaded, and cocked it. To their questions, he answered that they would not find Latouche. The young men said, "Then, you have killed him!" Bertault told them that he had not seen him since Monday because Latouche had gone to New England.

"The following day, Thursday, May 19, Gautier and Petit made their way to the Bertault farm to see what they could find. As they looked inside the barn, they gasped in horror.  There was blood everywhere, on the ground, on barrels, on a hoe, and on an iron bar.  They even found some stockings and some teeth which they believed to have belonged to the deceased. If they had any doubts in their minds about what they had heard the previous
evening, the sight of what laid before them eliminted all doubt. They felt ill and needed fresh air. They walked out of the barn, stunned and a little afraid. They drew in deep breaths in an effort to revitalize themselves and stood there for a moment motionles, in disbelief. The night before, it had been a nightmare; but today, it was a reality.

"The young men left and went to the authorities to report their suspicions based on what they had heard and what they had seen. Their depositions were taken which led to the arrest of Jacques Bertault on the very same day. His wife and daughter had fled into the woods and could not be found.

"There was more damaging evidence. Bourgainville testified that on the previous Sunday, Bertault had said to him that Latouche would die, "by no other hand than my own". Their own son, ten year old Nicolas, also testified against them. He related that his parents had left on the preceeding Sunday to go to their farm and that they had subsequently returned.  He added that his mother and sister had fled into the woods on Wednesday, but that his father had been arrested by two soldiers who had bound his feet in irons. He claimed that he had recently heard his mother say that she would kill Latouche some day and that he had also heard his sister say that she wished her husband were dead.

"The official report read as follows: 'The year one thousand, six hundred and seventy-two, the nineteenth day of May, I, Severin Ameau, undersigned scribe in Three Rivers certify having been told that last Sunday afternoon, Julien de la Tousche accompanied by his wife left with his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Jacques Bertault and Gilette Baune, his wife, to go to their farm situated on the other side of the river of Three Rivers, facing their said home to plant their garden. And the following Tuesday, the said Julien de la Tousche was heard screaming, "Help, they're killing me", and a woman was heard saying, "Kill him, throw him into the river", after which the said Jacques Bertault would have returned to his house in Three Rivers, but the said de la Tousche did not return. Someone had crossed the river of Three Rivers in a canoe and having transported himself to the place from which he had heard the screams, saw the said Jacques Bertault holding a gun. We believe that it was the said Bertault who killed the said de la Tousche, in view that he had formerly
threatened him. Based on these assumptions, Sieur Jacques de Labadie, commandant of the said Three Rivers, had the said Bertault incarcerated. The said Gilette Baune and her daughter, wife of the said de la Tousche, have fled. We have gone into their home where we have seized their possessions and have taken an inventory thereof in presence of Nicolas Bertault, son of the said Bertault, about ten years of age ...'

"The next day, Friday, May 20, Jacques Bertault appeared before Louis de Godefroy, sieur de Normanville, fiscal procuror of Three Rivers, for questioning. At this particular time, the judge's bench may have been vacant or the judge may have been absent. For one of these two reasons, the case was handled by the fiscal procuror. When questioned, Bertault claimed that he had not killed his son-in-law and that he did not know where he was. When asked about the blood all over the barn, he answered that that was the blood of three sturgeons which he had caught on the line of sieur de la Vallière. When asked if he had threatened to kill Latouche, he answered no and did not want to comment further.  After Bertault was questioned, he was confronted by each person who had testified against him, one at a time, In each case, he was asked if he knew them, if he believed them to be honest men, and if there existed any animosity between them. In each case, except for his son, Bertault answered that he knew them and that each of them meant him harm.

"The following day Gilette Baune and Isabelle Bertault were found in the woods and arrested. They were brought before Louis de Godefroy for questioning.
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