|John "Jake the Snake" McLaughlin|
| John McLaughlin, known as "Jackie" and "Jake the Snake," was born around 1938 and grew up in Verdun, a southwest neighbourhood of Montreal.
A reputed tough and feared gangster, McLaughlin worked primarily as an enforcer, collecting debts for the West End Gang and possibly other groups. His rap sheet dated back to 1955 and included convictions for theft, firearm possession, and extortion.
McLaughlin also allegedly worked as a hitman, and was suspected in over a dozen underworld murders, including the death of Michael "Crazy Mike" French. French, a member of the Outlaws biker gang, was shot in the head in a Kanawake cemetery on November 12, 1982.
In January 1981, after a five year prison stint, McLaughlin returned to Montreal's west end, where he reportedly found a job with an old buddy of his, Peter "Dunie" Ryan.
Ryan had become a major player since McLaughlin been jailed. He was now said to be worth tens of millions of dollars and sitting on top of a very lucrative drug network. McLaughlin became the kingpin's bodyguard and began hanging around the Cavalier Motel, Ryan's base of operations at the time.
McLaughlin was also associated with the feared Hells Angels North Chapter, based in Laval, and brought the rowdy bikers around the Cavalier bar. While Ryan and the other west end gangsters didn't seem to think to care for the of the wild bikers, the gang would hire Yves "Apache" Trudeau, a Hells Angel with 43 murders to his credit, to kill several people over the next few years.
McLaughlin was reportedly among the 2000 people who gathered in Sorel to watch the funeral of Hells Angel Yves "Le Boss" Buteau, president of the club's Montreal Chapter, held on September 12, 1983. McLaughlin supposedly boasted that he watched the funeral from a gang member's van, hidden from the police photographers who lurked nearby, according to a Montreal Gazette article.
In early November, 1983, McLaughlin, wanted by police for possession of a concealed weapon, a parole violation that would likely land him back behind bars, went on the lam, leaving Montreal. His girlfriend, Maria Kraus-Hillebrand, 20 years his junior and a bartender at the Cavalier, was also being sought by police, on a cocaine possession charge, accompanied him.
The couple travelled to Saint John, New Brunswick, where they stayed at a cabin owned by Noel Winters, a local underworld figure.
On April 24, 1984, authorities announced that they had discovered the bodies of McLaughlin, Hillebrand, and their pet bull terrier dog near Winter's summer home. Investigators believed that they had been murdered shortly after their arrival in New Brunswick.
Police consiered Noel Winters the primary suspect in the murders. They theorized that Winters may have killed McLaughlin because he feared the west end hitman had come to kill him for not paying a drug shipment from Montreal. Hillebrand was most likely just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Noel Winters was already in prison at the time of the discovery, serving two life sentences for the murder of a 64 year old man and his 32 year old son. The two men were killed, cut into pieces, and stuffed into plastic bags in February 1984. On the same day that authorities announced the unearthing of McLaughlin and Hillebrand's bodies, Winters hanged himself in his cell. According to one theory, Winters may have feared reprisals from some of McLaughlin's associates.
After the murders, Hillebrand's mother spoke with the Montreal Gazette. "[McLaughlin] was very nice to Maria and me," she said. "We went out to eat in expensive restaurants...He always had lots of money and this worried me, but he was nice."