He bought his little spot in the sun. Retired Canadian Benoit Lessard loved to spend winters in South Florida, but as Patrick Fraser tells us on tonight’s Out for Justice, a man with a gun turned his retirement heaven into hell. Fifteen years later, police are still trying to solve this cold case.
WSVN — He was a French Canadian truck driver who often made trips to South Florida.
Miami-Dade Police Detective Robert Miller: “Having come to South Florida as a truck driver, he fell in love with Miami, and the weather, of course.”
When Benoit Lessard retired, he and his wife moved to North Dade and bought a condo at Romont Gardens.
Shirley Battley: “My father is a big man, 6 feet, and he’s a very beautiful man.”
Then on January 17th, 1999, Shirley flew in to visit her parents.
Shirley Battley: “I came here at 4:40 in the morning, and we arrive at the condo at about quarter to five.”
It was still dark when they pulled into Romont Gardens, but Shirley noticed this young black man standing in the parking lot. She told her father.
Shirley Battley: “He told me, ‘Don’t pay attention to him, just walk.'”
They did, but the man came up to them and pulled out and unusual looking gun.
Shirley Battley: “I was frozen, I was paralyzed.”
The criminal pointed the gun at Shirley and then her dad, back and forth, but Benoit was still not worried.
Shirley Battley: “My dad in French, he told me, ‘Don’t pay attention to the gun, it’s not a real one.'”
Benoit spoke to Shirley and her mother in French. The gunman understood.
Shirley Battley: “In English he said, ‘You think it’s not a real one?’ And he shot him.”
Benoit was killed instantly.
Shirley Battley: “I went to him and I just take his shoulder, and he was dead.”
The gunman took Shirley and her mother’s purses and ran off. Police searched, but they couldn’t find him. Fifteen years have passed, but Miami-Dade detectives have not given up.
Last week, Shirley flew down from Canada and sat with a police sketch artist who drew what Shirley says is a perfect match of the killer. Fifteen years have passed, but Shirley says she will never forget this face.
Shirley Battley: “I know him, I got him in my head and I can recognize him like this, I think.”
Police don’t have many clues, but they know a few things about this baby-faced murderer. Remember, he understood when Benoit spoke to his daughter in French.
Robert Miller: “A person who would have understood this would have either spoken Creole, but had been educated to understand French.”
And remember the unusual gun. It looks like a .38 caliber Webley Enfield made in England.
Robert Miller: “You’ll notice the barrel appears to be hexagon in shape, as opposed to round like most normal revolvers. It’s not a common weapon, so maybe somebody out there will recognize the weapon.”
A killer who looked like this 15 years ago, a killer now in his mid-30s, maybe Haitian, who understands French, who had a gun like this. It all points to one person.
Shirley Battley: “If someone knows him, knows something about that, for me it’s very important.”
Detectives just want to get another killer off the street.
Robert Miller: “And I’m just hoping that somebody out there will just pick up that phone, even if they want to remain anonymous, provide whatever information they can.”
He had this gun. He looked like this 15 years ago. Pick up the phone and give Detective Miller a call. It won’t bring Shirley’s father back, but it will take a killer off the streets.
And if you have lost a loved one and want to remind people you are still out for justice, give us a call. With this Out for Justice, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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