SHAWINIGAN, Quebec (AP) — A Quebec man was charged Thursday with three counts of first-degree murder following an apparent family tragedy that left three women dead.
Sylvain Duquette, 51, is also facing a charge of attempted murder with a firearm, one count of unlawful confinement and an arson-related offence.
Duquette appeared briefly in court late Thursday afternoon after being arrested earlier in the day at a gas station north of the city.
Friends and neighbors have said Duquette was related to the victims, although police would only say the suspect knew all three women killed.
Provincial police spokesman Marc Tessier says the victims were 56, 61 and 70 years old.
The events all took place within a short distance of each other in the city, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Montreal.
One woman was killed and a man was injured in one residence and two other women were killed in another home nearby.
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 lying inside.
Police said an 80-year-old man was wounded in that home before fleeing and alerting a neighbor. He was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Two other women were killed in a second residence not far away, police said.
“I can confirm the suspect knew all the victims, but right now it’s too early to determine who is who,” Tessier said.
He said the suspect attempted to start fires at both residences and left the second scene in a stolen car.
Claude Blais, a neighbor, 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 neighbor, Liette Montreuil, said at least one of the victims had a family connection to the suspect.
“It really hit me, they were good friends and today they aren’t here anymore,” she said.
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.
Police would not say how the victims died or if a weapon was used.
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.