A Model’s Murder

Twenty-five years ago today, a French-Canadian model was brutally murdered in her Gramercy Park apartment. The story played in the tabloids for a few days thereafter, and the New York Times mentioned it a few times, but the police soon found themselves stumped as to who would want to stab 24-year-old Marie-Josee St. Antoine, whose recent appearances on magazine covers and at nightclubs alike seemed to situate her well for the kind of career that might not have been in Christie Brinkley territory, but maybe close to Carol Alt status.

The case would remain unsolved for another 20 years, and even the apparent resolution came about with little in the way of fanfare. It turned out police believed St. Antoine had been killed by Alain Montpetit, a top French-language DJ and game show host in Montreal in the 1970s and 1980s, after St. Antoine evidently rejected Montpetit’s request to help him renew a relationship with a friend of hers. According to various newspaper reports in 2002, so enraged did Montpetit allegedly become that he stabbed St. Antoine repeatedly in the chest, neck and torso – a crime he allegedly confessed to several female acquaintances that he committed. Five years later, Montpetit himself would be dead of a cocaine overdose in a Washington hotel – a drug that may well have contributed to the brutal violence of that June night.

And yet, in spite of the case being solved, there’s so much we don’t know. How did St. Antoine and Montpetit first meet? Was it in New York or Montreal, and did their acquaintance stretch back months or years? Was Montpetit strung out on coke when he had the fateful argument with St. Antoine, and could said argument – ostensibly about relationship renewal with a friend of St. Antoine’s – have been enough of an impetus for murder? Did Montpetit’s guilt over the crime lead him to overdose, or had he completely compartmentalized this event? And what about the larger context of the nightlife scene in early 1980s New York and its breeding ground of the kind of celebrity and alienation made popular in BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY? Could St. Antoine’s death have had more to do with an ascending star meeting a descending one, burgeoning national celebrity clashing against a local name striving for greater importance with ever-growing failure? The bare bones are starkly black and white, but I can’t help thinking there’s a tremendous spectrum of gray in evidence here.

These questions, plus the Canadian connection, are as good an explanation as I can find for why this case fascinates me. It’s not like I expect anyone else, certainly not within New York media circles, to remember: the case is closed, the perpetrator identified, the boldface names either forgotten or, like [then soap star][7]-turned DUI case Kim Delaney (who was the last to see St. Antoine before her murder) slightly faded over the intervening 25 years. But at a time when celebrity culture has reached an almost overwhelming saturation point, the story of a young model’s brutal murder can be interpreted as a cautionary tale, as a metaphor for dreams that die or simply a sad tale.

I’ll go with a mix of all three. RIP, Marie Josee.

This post was modified on January 26, 2011 to more accurately reflect the available information about the case. Most of my conjecture and thoughts, however, stands for the record.

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