SHAWINIGAN, Que. — A 51-year-old Quebec man was charged Thursday with killing three women in a town northeast of Montreal, at least two of whom were family members.
Sylvain Duquette was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one charge of attempted murder with a firearm, one count of unlawful confinement and an arson-related offence.
Crown prosecutor Vicky Belleville said the attempted murder and confinement charges relate to the accused's father, Claude Duquette, 80.
One of the women, Denise Halle, was the suspect's sister-in-law, while the second, Jocelyne Pellerin, was his father's wife, Belleville said.
While the identity of the third woman killed has not yet been released, police said the suspect knew all three of them.
The events all took place within a short distance of each other in this city about 170 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
Duquette appeared briefly in court on the allegations against him on Thursday after being arrested earlier in the day at a gas station north of the city.
The accused, handcuffed and wearing a white hooded prisoner's garb, appeared to peer intently at the people in the courtroom.
Duquette will remain in detention until his next court date on April 13.
His lawyer, Karine Bussiere, said she hadn't decided whether she will seek bail for her client.
Provincial police spokesman Marc Tessier said the slain women were 56, 61 and 70 years old.
The director of the local volunteer fire station said a 911 call came in around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday about a fire in a building.
Denis Boutin said the blaze was out by the time firefighters arrived and he could see an inert person laying inside.
The accused's father was wounded in that home before fleeing and alerting a neighbour. He was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Two other women were killed in a second residence not far away, police said.
Police would not say how the women died or if a weapon was used.
But Claude Blais, a neighbour, said he awoke to the sound of gunfire late Wednesday night.
"I said: 'Something must be happening for sure, we're not supposed to have gunshots here,'" he said.
Another neighbour, Liette Montreuil, said the killings "really hit me, (two of the victims) were good friends and today they aren't here any more."
Montreuil said she'd met the suspect and he didn't leave a good impression on her.
"He was an aggressive guy. The way he talked — it was very curt," she said.
Blais described the accused as a "good little guy," but added he sometimes seemed agitated and nervous.
Local resident Rosanna Muise, who works at a gas station close to where the events took place, said she was still in shock.
"I've lived here since I was 11 years old, and this is the first time I've heard any talk of acts like this," she said. "Never, a massacre like that — because that's a massacre, three people," she said.
Quebec's minister for the status of women offered her condolences to the families of the victims.
"We're lacking information on the circumstances but, of course, one woman who is the target of a murder like this is one woman too many," Lise Theriault said.
Stephanie Marin and Caroline St-Pierre, The Canadian Press