Franklin Countys First News

New Portland man pleads guilty in murder of Louise Brochu

Jeffrey LaGasse, 32, of New Portland, confers with attorney John Alsop, at his arraignment held Sept. 25, 2009 in Somerset Superior Court. Today he pleaded guilty to killing Louise Brochu nearly three years ago.

SKOWHEGAN - A New Portland man pleaded guilty today in Somerset County Superior Court to murdering Louise Brochu in 2007, resolving a nearly three-year homicide investigation.

Jeffrey LaGasse, 32, of New Portland, pleaded guilty to murder, as part of a plea negotiation worked out by his lawyer and the Attorney General's Office. According to the terms of the agreement, LaGasse is expected to receive 30 years in prison at his sentencing hearing on June 11.

The 50-year-old victim in the case, Brochu, owned and operated Wood Flooring at a complex of buildings that housed a mill on Route 27. She lived alone in a house she had renovated on the property.

Louise Brochu

LaGasse lived less than a mile north of Brochu on Route 27 in an apartment over the former Wire Bridge Diner. The diner, since 2007, has closed.

LaGasse was employed from time to time by Brochu at the flooring mill and, according to Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, the two had a good relationship. Brochu, Stokes said, had even lent him money a couple times.

In June 2007, LaGasse and his girlfriend were in what Stokes described as "dire financial straits," with as little as $20 between them. Police believe that the motive for the murder was robbery, as Brochu's credit card was missing. Footage from an ATM at a Kingfield bank showed a hand reaching around a corner, withdrawing money from Brochu's account after the time police believe she was killed.

LaGasse's girlfriend eventually admitted that he showed up at their apartment in his boxers, with a fistful of $20 bills. Stokes said the two apparently talked about what to tell police.

On June 8, LaGasse called police, telling them he was supposed to meet Brochu but had been unable to find her. Investigators discovered Brochu outside her house, having been killed by blunt force trauma to the head.

Police initially were suspicious of LaGasse, feeling he had motive and opportunity to kill Brochu. In the coming months, LaGasse's alibi, supported by his girlfriend and claiming he had been in bed by 9 p.m., unraveled.

Instead, Stokes recounted, LaGasse claimed he had left that night to unearth buried money garnered through a robbery several years ago. The money was supposedly stashed in a cemetery in Brewer.

"He was quite detailed about the story," Stokes said, noting that LaGasse claimed that he had marked the buried money with a surveying stick and hadn't needed a shovel because the money was wrapped in plastic and hidden in a shallow hollow.

LaGasse's story fell through when he was unable to take investigators to the spot. Instead, he admitted, he had been with a female acquaintance named "Jetaime Lewis." LaGasse said he had met the woman, whom he claimed to have met in prison, in Skowhegan and had been at a party on the evening of June 7.

This alibi fell through as well, with investigators, realizing that je t'aime is French for "I love you," and finding no record of a Jetaime Lewis.

LaGasse finally claimed that he and other individuals had been at Brochu's house, and that he had struck Brochu with a piece of hardwood flooring. Stokes said that LaGasse blamed the other individuals for her death, but investigators have found no corroborating evidence that more than one person was involved.

Brochu's injuries, Stokes said, were consistent with having been caused a piece of hardwood flooring.

"We thought that we had a pretty decent circumstantial case," Stokes said.

He noted that the plea and sentencing arrangement had been made after an assessment of risk by both the State and defense. While the State had strong arguments toward motive, opportunity, and suspicious behavior on the part of LaGasse, Stokes said, it had no direct ties to the man and scene, including no DNA evidence.

"[Thirty years in prison] is not what we feel the conduct deserves," Stokes said, saying that the State could have asked for 45 to 50 years had no arrangement been reached and LaGasse been found guilty. "Given the limitations of what we had, however, and the risks of going to trial, this seemed like the best option."

The victim's family has been active in seeking answers into Louise Brochu's death, even offering a reward leading to the conviction of her killer, and is supportive of the attempt to resolve the case, according to Stokes. Family members do intend to address the court at the June 11 sentencing hearing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

11 Responses »

  1. Finally! I am glad that the the wheels of justice have caught up with this guy. I would think that a life sentence would be too short for this crime, but better 30 years than nothing. I wish the Brochu family peace and closure, but I know that Louise will always be missed.

  2. How appalling that you can willfully take the life of another person, lie for years about it, and get off with 30 years! That is so unbelievable. Do they really call that justice?

  3. At least some closure for the family.....But 30 yrs is a slap on the wrist. Maine should have death penalty for cases like this and use it. And do it "eye for an eye" style. This waste and his girlfriend should be beaten with hardwood flooring. I hope he gets what he deserves in prison. And please prisoners, don't waste tax dollars; kill him 1st week!

  4. Is the girlfriend also being charged with anything, like obstruction of justice etc.?
    The answer to that question should be in the story don't you think?

  5. I am glad to hear of the confession. We all know 30 years is not nearly enough.

    A word about the victim.

    A couple of months before her death I was looking for some hardwood flooring for our stage at Skye Theatre. I head she might have some so went up to the shop to talk with her. She had some leftovers in Tamerack that was just the right amount. She absolutely refused to take any money for it saying this would be her contribution to Skye Theatre. Some of the finest Celtic performers in the World have played on that stage and when they would comment on the beautiful wood I would tell them about Louise, her thoughtful gift and tragic end. Every time I look at the stage I think about her unsolved murder. Now at least I know he will be behind bars.

    Why on earth would anyone take the life of such a person.

    Phill McIntyre, Director
    Skye Theatre Performing Arts Center

  6. Why not charge the girlfriend ?

  7. Too bad they never found Butch Weeds killer. What a long process it was though!

  8. I agree with others this girlfriend needs to be charged as well.. I think Maine needs to revisit the death penalty. 30 years is not enough for this low life for such a hanus crime. This is NOT justice. He will be out to act again unless fellow inmates can do US ALL a big favor. I see no remorse shown by him. He is just a lier and a coward..

  9. He went there with the malicious intent of robbing and murdering this woman, cold-bloodedly. Why didn't he and his girlfriend go looking for bottles and cans or something if they needed money so badly. The story says that the woman loaned LaGasse money in the past, so why didn't he borrow again? He'll probably get out in 15 years. He ought to go for LIFE. And his girlfriend ought to be punished, too. Since she isn't the one who collaborated in the murder plot, she shouldn't be charged with that, but she should spend some time so she can learn how to use her brain.

  10. 30 yrs. is not near enough for cold blooded murder, and the girlfriend sounds like she got off free.....Yeah, right, what about Butch Weed ?........ People have gotten worse punishment for growing weed.....not true justice...

  11. I put my name in the search engine tonight just out of curiousity as to what would happen, and this web
    site come up with the murder story of Louise Brochu. I read the article, and do agree that the sentence
    is to short and that his girlfriend should be charged as well. Hopefully someone in jail will shank him and
    save the state of Maine alot of money. The weird thing about this is that I am from Vermont and am
    wondering if I am related to this woman. The states are not that far apart.