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Le Courant

Automne 2013 | 15

The Trial of Antonio (Tony) Demers

The Trial of Antonio (Tony) Demers Tony Demers admitted his guilt in the murder of Anita Robert (Laberge). Antonio (Tony) Demers, professional hockey player, was held criminally responsible for the death of Anita Robert, nee Laberge, which took place on September 16, 1949. This trial raised a great deal of interest in the Coaticook region. The trial itself, lasted five days. It was practically impossible to go into any public place without listening to someone talking about the trial of Tony Demers.

Tony Demers

The jury was able to reach a unanimous decision after learning the information provided in the report of the coroner's investigation. The hearing was held in a large hall in Magog, and the hall was filled to capacity with a crowd of spectators. Demers testified himself for nearly forty-five minutes as he related his version of the events leading up to the tragedy and death of Mrs. Robert. Demers related the following information during his testimony: I knew Mrs. Robert (Anita) Laberge from before she was married and that she had lived in Coaticook. Around nine o'clock in the morning of last Wednesday, Mrs. Robert asked him if he could come and pick her up after lunch and drive her to the optometrist to have her glasses adjusted. Around twenty minutes past three, I arrived in Coaticook and stopped at the Maurice Hotel to have a couple of drinks. After that I went to find Mrs. Robert at our usual meeting place two houses away from where her parents lived. I had never met her parents. Anita and I had several drinks, I drank quickly and I really don't know how many drinks the two of us had. After that we ended up at the Georgian Hotel in Lennoxville where we drank several more glasses and I was starting to feel good. We then returned to Coaticook after our visit to the Georgian where we continued to drink several more rounds at the Maurice Hotel. Continuing along the same subject of the tragedy, Demers declared that he left in the car with Mrs. Robert who continued to berate him repeatedly with all sorts of stories. I was upset and slapped her three or four times across the face. There was a lot of bleeding due to the fact that I was not a school child hitting her but a grown adult. She jumped out of the car and I went out after her and put her in the back seat of the car where I continued to beat her. I started talking to her but she did not respond so I thought that she was asleep. I took the wrong road and made a mistake. I fell asleep and when I woke up early in the morning, found myself to be in the ditch. I called to her to come and help me get up but she did not answer me. I figured out that my friend must be seriously hurt. Demers drove Mrs. Robert to the hospital in Magog. One of the nursing Sisters attended to me and I told her that these injuries were the result of a car accident. I did not want to say too much (concerning the situation). I told the Sister that whatever the cost I would pay for the care. If necessary, to call in any specialists. I returned to Lake Magog. There, I was uneasy and worried, I was very fond of her (Anita). Five hours later I called Dr. Beaudry at the hospital to ask for news and he told me that she was doing very well. I went to the hospital to visit her and asked the Sister if I could see Mrs. Robert. She left and returned with the police who came to arrest me. On this somber day in November 1949, Judge Cesaire Gervais read the verdict. The judge declared in his decision: You used excessive force to beat (this woman), with cruelty and inhuman savagery, a weak woman who could not defend herself. You know that alcool can make a person violent and belligerent, quarrelsome and uncontrollable. You abused your extraordinary strength, of which you were proud, to kill your friend. You benefitted from a fair and just trial. The members of the jury have found you guilty of involuntary manslaughter. I sentence you to fifteen years in prison. You are only 32 years old, you can pay for your punishment and then start your life over again. The Judge Gervais had hoped for at least a six year sentence to be completed before Tony Demers was able to obtain his release and this is what actually took place. He not only paid his debt to society but he set an example of himself during his rehabilitation by becoming a model prisoner. After his release from prison, he became the manager of a driving range, he was named trainer for Rosemont in the Metropolitan junior league. He was hired in another job at Sifto (salt) where he became foreman and worked there fourteen years until his retirement. He would go on to marry (he was divorced at the time of the homicide) and had four daughters. At the time of his death it was noted that he had been Treasurer for several years for the Knights of Columbus in his area. All the people that knew him thought that he had really made an effort to redeem himself since his terrible business years earlier. Tony Demers, born July 22, 1917 in Chambly, was a player only for 82 matches with the Montreal Canadians over a period extending from 1937 to 1943. His best season with this team was in 1940-1941 when he made 13 goals in 46 games, the highest number of matches in one season. He died on September 2, 1997 at the age of 80 years. He could have had a more storied career with the Canadians if only he had been more serious and above all, if he had known his own physical strength.

Tony Demers

Research and Article Bernard Marcoux Coaticook Historical Society

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