April 18, 2012 - Twenty-five years ago this month, the body of a young man who had been brutally murdered was found along the side of a road in northern Oxford Township.
Vailliencourt (click for larger version)
Unfortunately, the person (or persons) responsible for this reprehensible act was never identified and apprehended.
But that doesn't mean the authorities have given up. In fact, they're asking the public for help.
The Oakland County Sheriff's Department's Cold Case Unit is hoping someone can provide new information that will finally lead to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Andrew Lee Vailliencourt, a former Oxford resident who was living in Lake Orion at the time of his demise.
"The family and the community deserve justice," said Sheriff Michael Bouchard. "If you've got a heinous crime where somebody's murdered and we just put an expiration date on it like yogurt, that doesn't really give justice . . . to family or the community."
"I think it's very solvable as long as the right persons come forward," noted Sheriff's Sgt. Dirk Feneley, who's assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, which works in conjunction with the Cold Case Unit. "We just want to get the information out there and hope for a call. (Homicide cases) stay open until they're closed."
"As (the Cold Case Unit) looked at this, they felt there was enough information and specificity (that) if they publicized it, they may be able to get another piece of the puzzle," Bouchard explained.
On April 4, 1987, a couple driving in their car found Vailliencourt along Oakwood Rd., just west of Barber Rd.
Just 25 days shy of his 30th birthday, he was found face down in a stream running through a culvert.
"A female saw (the body) and had her husband turn around," Feneley said.
According to the county Medical Examiner's Office, Vailliencourt had been stabbed 17 times in the back and hit in the head several times with a blunt object. No evidence of a struggle was found.
"There were no defensive wounds," Feneley said.
Vailliencourt's body was fully clothed, however, no wallet was found on or around him. At the time of his murder, he was wearing a teal jacket, brown-and-white striped sweater, blue jeans and brown leather shoes.
Vailliencourt, who was a recovering substance abuser and mentally handicapped, was last seen at the Liberty Bar in Pontiac in the company of a person of interest, the identity of whom is not being released by the sheriff's department.
The victim was driven to the Pontiac bar from Dillinger's Bar (which no longer exists) in Oxford. The vehicle that took him there was a 1976 Plymouth Duster, maroon in color with red and gold striped flame decals on the front.
Attempts to find Vailliencourt's killer (or killers) proved fruitless, but it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying.
More than 90 witnesses were interviewed in this case and "some provided misleading information, which took hundreds of hours of investigation to distill a line of inquiry now being pursued by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office," according to an April 10, 2012 interdepartmental memo written by Feneley.
Feneley noted that when this case was initially investigated, there were definitely persons of interest, but they were the sort of unsavory characters that inspired enough fear to make others keep their mouths shut if they knew anything about the murder.
"People were afraid of these people before. Maybe they're not afraid of them now," he said. "I believe two of them are in prison and that's why people might not be as afraid to come forward now."
"Sometimes when (the crime is) still fresh, witnesses, or even co-participants, feel intimidated, threatened or afraid to come forward," he said. "Sometimes with the passing of time, they feel like they want to get it off their chest, or they don't feel as threatened or intimidated by the person they know may be involved. Sometimes it actually loosens up the ability to get information."
"Part of this case is the people he hung with at the time," Feneley noted. "The places where he hung out, both in Oxford and Pontiac, play a major role in this in our thoughts."
Based on the old police reports, Feneley indicated there was some speculation that Vailliencourt may have been taken to a gravel pit in northern Oxford Township to be robbed.
"We don't know. That's one of the things we're hoping for information on," he said.
Prior to his death, Vailliencourt was enrolled in a Lake Orion-based Adult Basic Education special needs program. Those who knew him indicated he wished to finish school and graduate.
He had worked on-and-off at the Big Boy restaurant in Oxford for four years.
Anyone with any information regarding the Vailliencourt case is asked to please call Sheriff's Sgt. Dirk Feneley at (248) 858-5075. They can also call the OCSD tip-line at 1-888-TURN-1-IN. Information can be given anonymously.
Bouchard believes if there is someone out there who knows something that could help solve this case, they have a responsibility to report it.
"Imagine if that was your family member or a loved one that had been the victim," he said. "That hole, that wound, that desire for closure and justice never goes away. It always stays with people.
"I've heard from family members of victims that even when the cases are solved, (they carry that pain with them) for the rest of their lives. But at least, they felt like the bad guy was caught and justice was served. It doesn't bring their loved one back, but it does bring closure."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.