Chief: Motive still unclear in Woonsocket woman’s murder

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Woonsocket murder suspects

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Woonsocket officials are hoping residents can breathe a sigh of relief now that police have two men in custody who they believe murdered an elderly woman back in 2016.

The community was on edge for more than two years, wondering if police had made any progress in the search for Constance Gauthier’s killers.

At a news conference Thursday, Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Oates said investigators were busy every day since her death.

“Part of homicide investigations, when they’re ongoing, there’s work that’s constantly being done,” Oates said. “We shifted this case around from detective to detective to put new eyes on it, just to come up with new ideas. We had numerous meetings with the FBI, with state police, to make sure that we were covering every angle that we could.”

“I would first like to extend, again, our condolences to the Gauthier family and for their patience in this case. Also to the residents of the city of Woonsocket, the neighborhood in particular where Mrs. Gauthier lived,” Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said. “There have been some unsettled times since March of 2016 but today is a day that we can actually bring some closure to that incident.”

Gauthier, 81, was found stabbed to death inside her Fairfield Avenue home on March 23, 2016. 

“Mrs. Gauthier was an active part of the community,” Baldelli-Hunt added. “She sat on boards. She was involved and she was very dedicated to our community. So it was a very difficult time for everyone in the city of Woonsocket.”

Tyler Grenon, 23, and Matthew Dusseault, 20, turned themselves in at the police station and were arraigned on murder and conspiracy charges Wednesday afternoon.

Oates said forensic evidence gave police what they needed to connect the two men to the killing.

“At this point, we don’t have an exact motive,” Oates added. “The scene appeared to have been staged as a robbery. Whether it was or not hasn’t been established, so at this point, we’re not clear what a motive was.”

The two suspects were acquaintances, according to Oates, both hailing from Woonsocket, though Grenon moved to Attleboro shortly after Gauthier’s death. Neither had an adult criminal record, which police said was unusual for murder suspects.

Grenon lived next door to Gauthier at the time and he was the one who reportedly found her body, having looked into her window out of concern. Police said it appeared the two had a close relationship, with Gauthier thought to be somewhat of a “surrogate grandmother” to Grenon, according to Detective Capt. Michael Lemoine.

Grenon was arrested on non-murder charges in the days following the murder but those charges have since been expunged from his record, Lemoine said.

Police said it was possible that Grenon was hiding in plain sight by acting as a concerned resident during the initial investigation.

Detectives are confident that Grenon and Dusseault are responsible for Gauthier’s death but Oates said the investigation is still very active.

Forensic evidence is still being reviewed by police in hopes of strengthening their case, the chief said, and they’re asking anyone who had conversations with the two men before or after the crime took place to come forward. 

Oates said he couldn’t rule out the possibility of another arrest.

Grenon and Dusseault were held without bail following their arraignment. They’re due back in court August 1.

Watch the full news conference below:

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