…Because Mother Was Grave Robber!
Year-Old Baby Sent To Prison
…Because Mother Was Grave Robber
by JAMES STAFFORD
Gérald Roussel is an ex-jailbird — even though he’s only 18 months old. The youngster spent six months behind prison bars because French law said he couldn’t be separated from his mother, who is now awaiting trial.
Gerald’s mom, Danielle Roussel, has been accused in one of the strangest robberies ever committed in France.
The young woman has been charged with being an accomplice to a gang of ghouls who broke into a crypt in a cemetery and stole jewels off a rotting corpse.
This weird case broke when a caretaker at a cemetery in Beaumont-du-lac, France, discovered that the Vassiviere family mausoleum had been broken into. He was attracted to the mausoleum by a nauseous smell that came from inside the crypt.
The caretaker was horrified when he saw that a coffin, containing the remains of the widow of Pascal Vassiviere, had been taken out of its alcove and broken into. Mrs. Vassiviere had died May 28, 1858, at Lyon.
Mrs. Vassiviere’s daughter, Mrs. Marcel Cotte, revealed later that a golden wedding ring, silver bracelet, pearl necklace, rosary and jeweled pin had been snatched from the corpse. Even the dead woman’s false teeth, which had gold in them, were missing!
The left hand of the rotting corpse had been torn away and was discovered some distance from the crypt.
An intensive investigation led police to the Limoge jail, where William Serru, 23, and his mistress, Jeanne Van Brydoun, 21, were being held on charges of theft. After stiff questioning by detectives, Serru confessed that he had desecrated the mausoleum and broken into Mrs. Vassiviere’s casket.
Serru cracked under questioning and implicated Mrs. Roussel, whose husband had abandoned her. The 20-year-old woman was arrested and charged with receiving and concealing stolen goods.
Mrs. Roussel confessed that she had hidden the stolen jewelry in the pipe of her kitchen stove. She also admitted having in her possession the two golden teeth stolen from the corpse and said she had hidden them in the backyard of a house owned by Serru’s grandmother at Viche, France.
Because French law forbids the separation of a child of less than 18 months from its mother, Mrs. Roussel was jailed with her son, Gérald, who was then 1 year old. But last March 30, when Gérald became 18 months old he was taken away from his mother and given to a neighbor at Moutiers, who was asked to take care of the youngster termporarily until Mrs. Roussel’s fate is decided.
The date of the trial has not yet been set by the court.
Mrs. Roussel said tearfully she took part in the scheme to rob the grave because her husband had abandoned her and she needed the money. However, she was not aware that the ghouls would strip the corpse of her jewels. She said she thought that they would steal only the jar with the golden coins.
Court sources said the judge will probably be lenient with her because she is so young and she has a little child. The French tend to be very emotional when a youngster is involved, although being very religious, they look sternly on ghouls who desacrate graves in cemeteries.
The judge undoubtedly will be tougher with Serru and his mistress, who acted out of greed when they snatched the jewels from the rotting corpse in the coffin. « Only ghouls would commit such a crime, » said one lawyer. « They deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law. »
Because of his youth, Gérald no doubt will forget his brief prison stay. But his mother will never forget her ordeal!
Midnight May 24, 1965.