Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Stoddard Online

Stoddard Online . . . . Continued from part fourteen. . .

With the public inquest now concluded in their favor, prosecutor Noel Dorion, and Captain Alphonse Matte could report back to Maurice Duplessis through the solicitor general of Quebec that the day of success was dawning on the horizion. The next hill to be scaled, the preliminary hearing at Perce, would be nothing more than a formality in their quest to conquer the mountain. That mountain being the eventual execution of Wilbert Coffin. Prosecutor Noel Dorion is known to have joked with Captain Matte reflecting the weakness of Dr. Lionel Rioux and his band of jurors at the public inquest. Again, and indeed prosecutor Dorion would have certainly been aware of this fact, the building of the case against Wilbert Coffin originated right there at the inquest when the crown was allowed to seize control and convince an inquest jury to change their verdict. In spite of later perceived causes, there simply was no acceptable excuse for a coroner and a sworn jury to be influenced by outside forces, especially when a mans life was at stake.

With the preliminary hearing scheduled for the next day, August 28, 1953, the action would now shift to Perce'. This is where another prosecutor would enter the scene to help round out the Duplessis dream team. His name was Georges Blanchard. Duplessis had appointed him a deputy attorney general, as he was a key Union Nationalle supporter in the local area. As such, he was familiar with many of the local Gaspe' witnesses, and could therefore be a teriffic influence in extracting exactly what the prosecution needed to present. Prosecutor Georges Blanchard would now formally charge Wilbert Coffin with first degree murder in the death of Richard Lindsey of Pennsylvania.

The preliminary hearing produced no surprises from the ordinary of the case. Marion Petrie Coffin, the common law wife of Wilbert Coffin was summonsed to appear to answer questions for the crown. She was instructed what to say, and what not to say. Being the strong willed woman that Marion was, prosecutor Noel Dorion had met his match. He had prepared her a list of items that Wilbert had supposedly taken to Montreal with him. There were items added to the list which Marion refused to read. Obviously, Marion was not going to be a push over as a crown witness.

The crown insisted that they had evidence indicating that Wilbert Coffin was the last person known to have seen the murdered Americans alive. Details of Wilbert's assistance in the driving of Richard Lindsey to Gaspe' to acquire a new fuel pump were presented. Items belonging to the Americans, including a small knife which Wilbert Coffin insisted to his death had been given to him by Richard Lindsey were listed at the preliminary hearing. It was further established that Wilbert Coffin was in possession of a certain 32-40 Winchester rife during this period that he had borrowed from a gentleman named Jack Eagle, and that Wilbert Coffin possessed a Luger P38 pistol, a souvenir of the second world war. As you read further on in the story you will learn that none of thse items would prove to have much relevance, other than being material that would gain the attention of the judge at the hearing as he bound over Wilbert Coffin for trial. During all this exchange at the preliminary hearing, Raymond Maher, the defense lawyer for Wilbert Coffin would sit idly by and say practically nothing in his defense. Truly, another stroke of luck for the prosecution.

Wilbert Coffin was ordered to stand trial for the first degree murder of Richard Lindsey, and would be held in custody until his trial. Everything had happened fast. Wilbert Coffin's family was still in shock. Although he had been investigated and questioned relentlessly, the community was in disbelief at the announcement that Wilbert Coffin was actually going to trial for this charge. Events like this had never happened before on the Gaspe' coast. The sad reality of the situation began to take shape moments after the preliminary hearing as Wilbert Coffin was taken away to await his eventual date with the judge and jury, as he embarked upon his eventual trip to the gallows at Bordeaux Jail in Montreal.

From left police officer in civilian clothes, uniformed police officer,
Wilbert Coffin's mother, Wilbert Coffin in police car, Marion Petrie
talking to Wilbert, Wilbert Coffin's Dad in hat, uniformed police
officer, and five year old James Coffin looks at his Dad in the car

This photograph was extracted from police files that I managed to acquire during the course of the investigation for this story. The original source of this photograph is unknown. This photograph had never previously been viewed by any member of the Coffin family, and thus, it's existence understandably created feelings of extreme sadness, especially for James Coffin, the son of Wilbert and Marion Petrie Coffin. One can only speculate as to the enormous mental strain created when the last memory of one's Dad was viewing him sitting in the back seat of a police car, waiting to take him away for the next step on his eventual journey to the gallows for a crime that he did not commit. I can think of no worse moment for any five year old.

Another hurdle was now cleared for the crown. Without doubt, the stage was now set. The crown had the accused fully in her grasp. There would be a lot of work to do, but they were in no rush. Premier Duplessis could now rest easier. Ottawa and the American government would now be off his back. He, no longer would have to make excuses. With careful, but cunning planning, a guilty verdict would eventually come. It simply must, and there could be no turning back.

On an outward appearance, the crown's crew walked with a bold aura about them. From within however, storm clouds were brewing. This must never show, as it would only serve to display a weakness in their case. Presently standing, it was a case barely hanging together with very fine thread. There was not one ounce of hard physical evidence. It was purely circumstantial, and it was based on lies, deceit, and manipulation. They knew that. They also knew that they dared not go to trial until absolutely necessary. They did have one ace however. The defense lawyer, Raymond Maher, was the crown's biggest asset. He was a lousy lawyer, and he was a drunk. Together, these elements equalled demise for Wilbert Coffin. It was later speculated that his very existence as a defense lawyer may have been more than just plain bad luck for Wilbert Coffin. Suggestions have been made that coming onboard as Wilbert Coffin's defense lawyer had it's roots tied to the relationship between his father and Maurice Duplessis.

The defense would argue that they were ready for trial anytime after August 28, 1953. The prosecution on the other hand, stated that they were in fact ready as well. There is one hitch though. If that was a true statement, then why did they not go to trial for another eleven months? Of course the answer to that question is well known. They simply lacked the ammunition to bag their prey, and they knew it. Their case was at the time, the weakest of the weak. They simply had to bank on a weak defense to buttress the crown's case. Again, Raymond Maher, the defense lawyer, would save the case for the crown.

One key element that the crown needed to secure a conviction would be an accounting of Wilbert Coffin's financial situation during his recent trip to Montreal. It was imperative that they display where he would spend some five to six hundred dollars on this journey, when they could scarcely show expenditures for more that about seventy dollars. An elementary defense lawyer would immediately ask where is the proof that Wilbert Coffin had a significant amount of currencey on his person in the first place. It is important to remember here that out of all the research that I have done, there is not a thread of evidence that Eugene Lindsey ever carried that amount of money into the woods with him on that fateful trip. True, his wife reported that he withdrew in the neighborhood of six hundred dollars from their bank prior to leaving. He was reported to have been tied to the illegal liquor business, and as well, had developed an interest in minerals in Canada. Based on these allegations, there certainly is reason to speculate that his money may have gone in other directions.

While on the subject of Eugene Lindsey, it should be pointed out here in very simple terms. Eugene Lindsey was no angel. If that fact can be determined fifty years after, most definitely it could have been determined in 1953 when everything was fresh. Captain Alphonse Matte and his partner travelled to Pennsylvania and uncovered nothing that was not already known. Why did he not determine the allegation that Eugene Lindsey was warned to not ever set his foot again in Gaspe'? Why did he not determine the reason why Eugene Lindsey's former hunting partner backed out at the last minute and not accompany him on his final trip? Why did he not determine that Eugene Lindsey was heavily engaged in the loansharking business? Why did he not determine the police record of Eugene Lindsey? Why did he not determine that there were those in his native Pennsylvania that had a bone to pick with Eugene Lindsey? As well, another question that begs an answer. Why would someone of Eugene Lindsey's supposed wealth be borrowing a rifle to take on a hunting trip? Why would someone of that standing be making such a trip on a repeated basis in a beat up 1947 pickup truck, that was plagued with problems before heading out? Facts prove that Eugene Lindsey had made this trip three times in less than one year. I suspect that it was more than the call of the wild that enticed Eugene Lindsey to the Gaspe' shores .

There is strong speculation that Eugene Lindsey had a friend of the fairer sex in the Gaspe' region. Was this ever investigated? As with many other avenues, I can find absolutely no evidence that it ever was. I have reason to believe and I do believe that this activity occured, and if so, certainly lends credence as to a motive for his death. I have the name of this person, although, due to legalities I am unable to state it, as I do not want to place another avenue of my investigation in jeopardy.

I am of the opinion that this investigation was left in a shallow state chiefly because of the crown's ease in acquiring a suspect. He was local, he was home grown, he knew the area, and he had little or no resources to fight back. What more could the crown possibly want?

Let it be said, I am no lawyer. I am confident however, that even taking into account my shy approach to things, and being a man of very few words, I could have ripped apart the crown's case as presented at the upcoming trial in about a half hour. There were simply more questions than there were answers. As you will see in the next posting when we are in the actual trial of Wilbert Coffin at Perce', the whole process was a complete sham. The judge, Gerald LaCroix, in my view should have been jailed as the man responsible for the whole trial affair. It was so uneven, so unfair, so hopelessly flawed.

Lew Stoddard
Posted to site October 11, 2006


Karen said...

Mr. Stoddard,

You do a wonderful job at writing this story, but you bring tears to my eyes when you published that picture. I am glad you did publish it though, because it may make people think before they act so abruptly. This whole process was so wrong.

Karen T
Saskatoon, Sask

Christa said...

That poor little boy, those brutes

Summerside, PEI

Connie Adkins said...

There is nothing worse than wht you depict here Mr. stoddard. That photograph tells the whole story. I never realized that.

Connie Adkins
Bathurst, new Brunswick

Charlotte Kinney said...

I am glad you aired that picture. It puts a home theme to it. He wasn't just a page out of someones book, he was real, so was that small boy. My eyes are pouring with tears as I write. James Coffin, I am so sorry for what they did to you. I am also so glad that you have joined in this fight with Lew Stoddard.

Charlotte Kinney
Amherst, Nova Scotia

Brenda W said...

Lew Stoddard,

I have commented in the past, but never with the drive and determination that I have since I looked at that picture of that small boy staring at his Dad in the police car. It is a very sad photo, but thanks so much for sharing it.

Brenda W
Melfort, Sask

The Carmiachels said...

That picture is worth a million words. It simply says it all. Hey people, sign those protests and petitions. Federal government get this thing taken care of now.

Mr. Mrs. Carmiachel
Surrey, B. C.

Ambrose M said...

I cannot express my anger when I look at a photo such as you display today on this site. I am not at all upset that you published it, I am upset that it had to happen back then. I have been convinced for a long time that Wilbert Coffin died in vain.

Ambrose M
Montreal, Quebec

Muriel Wickersham said...

It is a sad tale for sure. There are tears as I write this. It must have been gard for you Sir to do this story. One could not help but to put themselves in the story, so close to it and all. Thank you for all the work at putting this together for all Canadians to share. So many people would be still totally in the dark on this subject if you did not write on it each week.

Muriel Wickersham
Cornwall, Ontario

Gloria C said...

I have to be honest. I had planned to comment on the next posting of your story, but after looking at it today, I simply cannot, my eyes are much too blurry. This is horrible. If this does not stir Canadians to action, I do not know what will.

James Coffin I am thinking of you today. This is probably a difficult time for you, and I understand that. Thank you Mr. Stoddard for all your work on this report for the past several months.

Gloria C
Centerville, New Brunswick

Dean P said...


I am pleased to see you striking at last at the government. They are the ones who could have stopped all this. They chose not to. I believe that you possess the true answers as to why that was. I am looking forward to seeing that. You have done a mighty fine work on this Sir.

Dean P
Ottawa, Ontario

Bill Langdon said...

I am sorry to say this but that photo reminds one of a Nazi concentration camp from the war. The uniforms of the officers and the dress of the day look like it as well. That is an eerie picture, about a more eerie situation that should never have been allowed to happen. Hard to believe that was actually done in Canada.

Bill Langdon
Winnipeg, manitoba

Andy Graves said...

A bad situation....There is no other way to describe this. People need to get after the government with petitions and demands to correct this. It can't bring back Wilbert Coffin, but it may help his son deal with the situation. Canada, you owe this man that much.

Andy Graves
Moncton, New Brunswick

Danielle Marchand said...

Just a reminder to the Coffin family, there are a lot of us out here pulling for you. We never knew you existed until this web site came along, but we sure know about you now. Also want to let you know, I signed the petition here in Victoria, British Columbia this morning. Keep up the pressure Lew Stoddard.

Danielle Marchand
Victoria, B C

Jerry H said...

Hey folks, it only takes a moment to sign the petition to the government to request that they make this thing right. I signed it on Monday at the mall on Douglas Street in Victoria. You can do that too, just like the last person who commented.

Jerry H
Lake Cowichan, B C

Wendall M Stanley said...

Over the past months as I have been following Lew’s writing of my uncle’s story, I have been awed by you, the public, with your many comments of encouragement to my family.

To Danielle and Jerry on behalf of my family thank you for your signatures on the petition in BC. This petition is just one of the tools that we are using to fight the Justice Department in the Federal Government to have this whole affair reopened.

I invite every one of you interested in seeing justice accomplished to participate by going to my web site www.wilbertcoffin.com and printing out a copy of the petition that is available there. Further more, I am asking you all, on behalf of my family, to forward the address for this web site to your family and friends. Give them the opportunity as well to help make history happen.

Wendall M Stanley

C Clark said...

Mr Stoddard, you have done an excellent job in writing about the terrible situation that took place in our beautiful Gaspe. I was a teenager in the 1950's, I was born an raised in Wakeham just a short distance from Wilbert Coffin,s home.No one ever thought that he was guilty of such a crime.So many of our older folk that have passed on would be so pleased to know that maybe now after so many years his name will be cleared.

Cecile Comeau said...

What can I possibly say that many others haven't already said? I will say it anyway. This is a very moving account of a very tragic situation.

Don't think of it as having happened in some obscure back woods community, that is most unfair. It happened in a very beautiful part of our land called Canada. More importantly, it happened to a Canadian citizen, who put his life on the line, fought gallantly for the freedoms that we so very much cherish, and how did we say thank you? We chose to hang him on a very cold night back in February 1956 in Montreal?

Would it have happened if he would have had money and connections? I will let you answer that for yourself.

On a personal note to the Coffin family, you stick with this, and don't settle for anything less than complete exoneration. Thank you Mr. Stoddard for all your work and dedication to this cause.

Cecile Comeau
Grand Falls, New Brunswick

A Dickenson said...

I found this site last evening while looking for something else.

All my young life I used to hear my Dad and uncles talking about this case. I have to be honest, I had almost forgotten about it. Your web site Sir rekindled my interest and I spent over three hours during the evening non stop reading what you have written on it from the beginning. I am very impressed. After all these years the interest is enormous. I notice that almost without exception, your readers are of the opinion of Mr. Coffin's innocence. That was the opinion that I grew up with from my family as well.

I took the opportunity and called my cousin about your site. He was most interested, as he grew up with it as well. You have very definitely gained two brand new readers tonight in the Sussex area of New Brunswick.

A Dickenson
Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada

Bruce T said...

Sir, I have commented on your site in the past a couple of times, but this time even an old red neck like me was moved by your message.

It takes on a whole new meaning when one ties little kids into a situation, and that picture certainly does that in a big way. Sir, Keep the pressure on, don't abandon the ship.

Bruce T
Haliburton, Ontario

Bob and Francis W said...

I hear rumblings today in the media. I still don't have a lot of faith in the politicians. Why has it taken so long? If you give up this battle Lew Stoddard, I am going to be mad at you.

And speaking of you Sir Lew, happen to know a little bit about your present journey health wise. Look after that frame of yours. I expect you to bite as well as bark.

Anyhow Lew you are doing a great job. You missed a great turkey dinner bash on Thanksgiving, we missed you.

Bob and Francis W.
Sardis, B C

Gertrude W said...

Why does it take the innocence of a child to give meaning to such a bitter situation such as this affair.

Simply I cannot begin to comprehend the torture and turmoil that James Coffin endured all his life. That all became so clear yesterday as I looked at that picture on this web site. It certainly brought me to my knees.

Gertrude W
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Georgette Leger said...

Most of us have experienced one bad dream or two in the course of a lifetime. I cannot imagine what it is like to have one bad dream as a child, and then fifty three years later, still be experiencing the same bad dream, except it is not a dream, it is reality, that it will be with me night and day for the rest of my life. James Coffin, you are a strong man. Many others would have buckled under the inner pressure.

You certainly have my support, and Mr. Stoddard, thank you for reviving the memory of this sad state of affairs with the rest of Canada and the world via the internet.

Georgette Leger
Grand Falls, New Brunswick

Donna M said...

It is early morning here in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I arose at 5:00 AM local time and have been reading your site for the past three hours. Great job on this tragic story. Keep up the fight. James Coffin and the rest of the family, we support you here.

Donna M
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

The Crandalls said...

This is a battle, but our family are in support of yours Mrs. Stewart (Coffin) Our prayers are with you here in Summerside, PEI

The Crandalls
Summerside area of PEI

Lise said...

My usual early Friday morning is getting my first cup of coffee of the day and bringing myself up to date on your site for your lastest postings on the Coffin affair.

I must say that I had to stop and reflect for a bit when I saw the photograph that you have posted.

As others have said, this picture suddenly transforms this tale into something very real. There is created a very human element.

Think of it this way, here is a complete family circle, the father, the mother, and the child, all caught up in a family portrait of the toughest variety, depicting the Dad on his way to the gallows.

I am not certain if the son, in this case James Coffin, is able to remember that horiffic day due to his tender age. Hopefully he cannot remember the details, it would be a lifetime haunting experience, especially now that I see so much on this site alone that points to the complete innocence of his Dad.

Sir, you write this story well, you instill all the facts in one's mind, but at the same time, you display compassion and professionalism.

Fredericton, New Brunswick

David and Tanya said...

Here we have three families horribly wrenched apart as a result of a very horrendous crime in the Quebec wilderness.

If, and it now appears that the wrong person was executed, then the government has to shoulder the responsibility for allowing it to happen.

I don't really care if the current crop of politicians in our country jump up and down and say it was not they who did that back then. They did take an oath of office after election to uphold and promote fairness to all. That includes washing the dirty laundry left by those who came before them.

In other words federal government, and government of Quebec, do what you know down deep is right. Do it this way, assume it was your family, and do it the way that you would like to see it taken care of. That will then be satisfactory for the Coffin family.

David and Tanya
Perth Andover, New Brunswick

Bruce said...

Lew Stoddard you never give up. You will find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Lucille Mercier said...

If Mr. Coffin was innocent, and I have every reason now to believe that he was, then, if the government ministers allowed this to go on knowing there was a big question mark, those individuals are just as guilty as the true killer of the victim in the woods.

My opinion for whatever it may be worth.

Lucille Mercier
Drummondville, Quebec

Georgette Lemaire said...

lots has been said by authority over the years that opinion about mr. Coffins guilt or innocence was divide as per the french/english language issue. that is a crock of bull_ _ _ _
and they know it. i don't care what they say, language choice is mine but justice is something else. I persenally am french, and I know lots of others from the gaspe' region who are french as well, and they all feel that mr. Coffin was railroad by a very corrupt and crooked regime under maurice duplessis and the bunch in ottawa in st. laurent's bunch of hooliganes

i call it as I see it. you do a good job on this my spelling not so greate but yo get it anyways as you dont take crap

Georgette Lemaire
Riviere du Loup, Quebec

Gary McDermott said...

Hey Georgette Lemaire, yes your spelling and your grammer may suck but your mesaage says it all.

Good luck to all the Coffin family, and that picture yesterday really affected me. Sad event, but tastefully done Lew.

Gary McDermott
Saint John, New Brunswick

Ted M said...

I offer my encouragement to all the Coffin family in this sordid affair. Not easy I am sure. We are pulling for you here in Campbell River.

Ted M
Campbell River, B C

Lawrence said...

We from the eastern part of canada have always had a keen interest in this case. many of us grew up with it. My family was always aware. We always felt that Wilbert Coffin was innocent and still do.

Lawrence W
Edmundston, New Brunswick

james coffin said...

hello and thank you everyone who has read the ongoing story of my dad i just had to stop in and tell everyone how real that photo is but don't worry i to this day don't recall it in any way maybe my mind has blanked it out totally and that i give thanks for. but moving along to this day i would like everyone to know there is going to be a very important meeting going on in ottawa with the justice minister on wednesday oct 18 at 1:00 about the case aidwyc lawyer elisabeth widner will be there as well as myself and aunt marie what i would like everyone to do is get in touch with their local news paper editor to make sure they get coverage of the story in there news paper about the case maybe you can ask them also to print lew stoddard's site so every last person in canada can keep up with the case as it unfolds aidwyc is saying it maybe another 12 to 18 months before anything is done please people one and all we need everyone to pull together and get this done a lot of family members are up in age and another 18 months maybe too late for some if anyone has any good ideas how to keep this before the public's eyes please step up we need all the help we can get thank you one and all

love and prayers for everyone
James Coffin

Anonymous said...

James Coffin,
Good day sir. Your letter was very gripping and what I did was copied it to my clipboard and will paste it to an email that I will send to our crime-reporter at the London Free Press here in London Ont.

The picture as well was very gripping. See that wonderful smile on your father's face! Legalistics aside for a second:I ask all the people in Ottawa who has something to do with the Coffin case to take a long hard look at this picture and ask themselves if this is the face of a murderer.
I suggest that this picture be included in the history books in schools all over Canada. It really puts a face on Wrongful Convictions!
Bless you my friend, and stay strong. Canada is with you!
most sincerely

Niece said...


I would like to make a small correction to what my cousin Jimmy posted about the meeting next week in Ottawa.

I have been speaking with one of the organizers of this meeting and was told that the Justice Minister in not supposed to be there, but there will be two or three of his assistants present, along with our Member of Parliament Mr. Raynald Blais, and others.

There will be a press conference at the conclusion of this meeting.

Judith Reeder
daughter of Rhoda Coffin Stanley

Gaspé Quebec

james coffin said...

hi thank you judy for correcting me i guess i got the names wrong on who is going to be there it is still a very important meeting that's why we need as many people as possible to begin getting petitions signed and returned to us as soon as possible there is also a sample letter you can send to member's of parliament and they can be reached at www.wilbertcoffin.com/ in both english and french once again sorry for getting the minister wrong i hate to be always asking everyone for their help but it is a very strong force we will be up against it will be the government of canada and they are not known for moving too quickly to clear things up very fast as we all know

the proud son of wilbert coffin

james coffin


Jean Creighton said...

Great writing, terrible story, and sad expression of events as suggested by the picture of one small boy.

It is absolutely astounding Lew. You truly know how to draw the hearts of Canadians together, that photograph facing me this morning, I'm sorry i just can't find the right words. It touched me to the inner core. Bless you for your work, and as well to the Coffin's.

Jean Creighton
Vancouver, Canada

Cathi and Evan said...

Lew Stoddard, you should be awarded some sort of expression of merit for showing that photograph. Each year, each of us has a memory of something that was expressed beyond words, simply by viewing a photograph. Suddenly the expression "A picture is worth a thousand words" takes on new meaning.

Cathi and Evan
Windsor, Ontario

Nephew Rick said...

Hi everyone;
We need more information if you can possibly help. I know that our beloved Gaspesians have had this trial brought up over and over but this is the Coffin family begging you to help if you can, or talk to relatives who might have a little bit more info, to put this case to rest. This case did not only affect the Coffins but other families as well. In fact the Gaspe Peninsula and our beloved country Canada. Bless you for helping and keep looking, for we will finish this. When someone passes away there is mourning and grieving and after time most of us are able to let go of our loved ones. In Uncle Bill's case we were not able to let go and never will be until this is settled. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

This story is skewed, and probably based on Senator Hébert, who himself wrote a book about the story based on the testimony of three witnesses, whereas the trial had more than a hundred.

Furthermore, Coffin DID ask his lawyer to get rid of the gun, which he did by throwing it in the St-Lawrence River.

Finally, the prosecutor Dorion did not care much about the findings of the Coroner's inquest and jury decisions, and he told them as much, because he had found damning evidence in Montreal beforehand, such as personal belongings of the dead americans, as well as proof that Coffin had spent a very large sum of money on his way to MTL.

That boy is a victim, but not of the law.

There was a trial, an appeal, a special comission, an administrative review, and now what are they doing? They're trying to determine if today, there could have been a reasonable doubt that could have been grounds for an acquittal.

Anyone thinking Coffin was innocent simply did not research this case, or is emotionally biased. I can easily excuse the latter.