Day parole granted to notorious killer biker who became a Buddhist

From The Gazette (Montreal)

A former Hells Angel who played a leading role in one of Quebec’s most notorious crimes has been granted day parole while he continues to serve five life sentences for murdering members of his own gang.

During a National Parole Board hearing held at the Federal Training Centre in Laval yesterday, RĂ©jean Lessard said he is far removed from the life he led in the early 1980s when he was president of the Hells Angels’ Montreal chapter and helped orchestrate the slaughter now known as the Lennoxville Purge.

On March 24, 1985, members of the gang’s Laval chapter were summoned to a Hells Angels bunker in Lennoxville and five were shot to death. Lessard reiterated yesterday the long-held theory that members of the Laval chapter, which no longer exists, were targeted because they consumed a lot of cocaine the gang intended to sell for profit. Their drug use caused internal conflicts within the gang and with other organized crime groups.

“It was an extreme situation. The most serious thing that can happen (in that milieu) is an internal conflict,” Lessard told the panel of three parole board members. He said that life was cheap to the Hells Angels when he was a member and murder was an acceptable solution to problems in the drug-trafficking milieu.

The parole board determined he is ready to be released to a halfway house in Laval, where he will be monitored under strict conditions. The halfway house offers a job training program that Lessard said he wants to take part in. He was also granted permission to make monthly visits to an inmate support group and to a Zen centre where he can pray as a Buddhist.

Lessard credits his adopted religion with the change he underwent after being convicted of the murders, along with a handful of other Hells Angels.

Lessard quit the gang in 1989 but said he knew he no longer wanted to be a Hells Angel soon after he was convicted in 1986.

A psychiatrist who evaluated Lessard in 2004 described him in a report as having completely dropped the faith of one group, the Hells Angels, in exchange for his faith in Buddhism.

When asked why he joined the Hells Angels in the first place, Lessard said that although he grew up in a solid family, his parents rarely displayed emotion. He said he had a difficult adolescence and used drugs. He joined a biker gang in Asbestos and was eventually invited to join the Hells Angels.

“There were a lot of things in those years that pushed me towards the Hells Angels,” he said, adding he eventually became disillusioned with how the gang twisted the ideal of “one for all and all for one.”

Parole board member Michel Pallascio noted that Lessard’s record as as inmate is almost spotless. His only mistake was to visit his girlfriend while recently out on an unescorted leave. The visit wasn’t off-limits but it also wasn’t included in the itinerary he filed before leaving the Federal Training Centre, a minimum-security institution.

Lessard is the second person who participated in the murders to be granted a release this month. Jacques Pelletier, 53, another former Hells Angel who quit the gang while behind bars, was granted day parole on Oct. 16. Pelletier demonstrated to the parole board that he already has a job waiting for him.

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