Police used phone taps, undercover agents and an elaborate, fake contest to try to nail the man they suspect is connected to the disappearance of nine-year-old Cédrika Provencher, newly released court documents show.
The documents were made public this week as part of a pre-trial hearing for Jonathan Bettez, who is now facing separate child pornography charges.
They outline an extensive, years-long investigation by the Sûreté du Québec aimed at obtaining more evidence against Bettez in connection with Cédrika’s disappearance and, ultimately, her death.
Cédrika went missing near her home in Trois-Rivières, Que., on July 31, 2007. Police believe she was approached by an adult who asked for help to find a missing dog.
Over an eight-year period, there were rumours and claims of sightings, a massive manhunt and heartfelt appeals from Cédrika’s family for information that didn’t pan out.
The girl’s remains were finally found in a wooded area in Saint-Maurice, near Trois-Rivières, Que., in 2015. But no charges have been laid in connection with her death.
Only red Acura owner without an alibi
In the days following her disappearance, police began searching for a 2004 red Acura TSX with tinted windows.
They found 258 such vehicles in the province and, among those, six met the specific description of the car that they were seeking.
All the owners had a verifiable alibi except for Bettez, an SQ investigator said in the documents.
According to the investigator, Bettez could not account for his whereabouts between playing nine holes of golf after work and heading to his parents house later the same evening.
In interviews with police, Bettez maintained that he did not visit the area near Chapais Park where Cédrika was last seen.
A fake contest and a limo
As part of its investigation, the Sûreté du Québec made Bettez believe that he had won a contest to stay at the Fairmont Hotel in Mont-Tremblant, the documents show.
An undercover officer came to pick him up in Trois-Rivières in a limousine exactly two years after Cédrika’s disappearance, on July 31, 2009, and took him home three days later, on Aug. 2.
In Mont-Tremblant, the other winners of the contest, who were also undercover agents, played golf games and visited the casino with him.
One of the agents was tasked with trying to befriend Bettez, which he managed to do.
While riding in a golf cart, the officer said, they saw a girl between 10 and 12 years of age, wearing a bikini.
Bettez remarked to the agent, “Did you see the bikini?”
After a pause, Bettez added: “She is a little young,” according to the documents.
The undercover agent who befriended Bettez continued to play and dine with Bettez in the Mauricie region, in an attempt to gain his trust. In total, he met Bettez 25 times over a two-year period.
The documents show that Bettez revealed to him his financial problems, including how he played poker for three or four hours a day and lost $20,000 around Christmas in 2008.
At one point, the agent gave Bettez $15,000 to help him realize his goal of becoming a professional poker player. In exchange, the agent asked him to do him unnamed favours.
In August 2010, Bettez decided he was no longer comfortable with the friendship.
They did not meet again.
Bettez’s parents, his sister, his ex-girlfriends and some of his friends were also monitored as part of the investigation.
Their phones were tapped and their whereabouts documented with cameras and other electronic devices.
Bettez refused polygraph 3 times
Police asked Bettez to undergo a polygraph test in 2007, in 2012 and in 2015, according to the documents.
In 2007, through his lawyer, Michel Lebrun, Bettez sent the SQ a list of conditions that he demanded police meet before he would agree to undergo a polygraph test. The SQ refused.
In 2012, police repeated their request, after a media report linked him to Cédrika’s disappearance.
Bettez said at the time he was ready to take the polygraph test on the condition that, if he passed it, the police would publish a news release disseminating that information.
Police wanted to publish that information only if a journalist asked for it, the documents say. The test didn’t take place.
In June 2015, six months before Cédrika’s remains were discovered, Bettez again refused the SQ’s request.
The newly released court documents are affidavits that enabled SQ investigators to obtain warrants on August 29, 2016 for the search of two residences and a business owned by Bettez in Trois-Rivières.
Bettez’s lawyer, Marc-Antoine Carette, is arguing at the pre-trial hearing that the warrants should not have been issued. If successful, the evidence gathered during these searches could be excluded from the child pornography trial.
Bettez, who was released on bail after being charged in 2016, is accused of intent to distribute child pornography, accessing child pornography, possessing child pornography and distributing child pornography.