On November 8, 1967, at 3:50 am, the Sheriff’s Office received a call that the Eugene and Mary Leroux residence was burning, and that the couple had likely died in the fire. Sheriff Check called the coroner, Joseph Bodzislaw, and they went to the Leroux residence where they discovered that the house had burned down and had fallen into the basement. Eugene and Mary’s children, Mark, 18, and Jeannette, 15, had escaped the fire, and went to the home of Frank and Beverly Budzbanowski, friends of the family who lived two miles away. (Their oldest daughter, Alice, was not living at the Leroux residence at the time of the fire.)
Eugene and Mary’s charred bodies were recovered from the basement. It was initially thought that they had died as a result of the fire, but an investigation revealed that they were shot to death. At trial, in January 1968, Jeannette and Mark pointed the finger at each other. Ultimately, their son, Mark, was found guilty of murdering his parents, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.
In July 1976, Mark Leroux escaped from Fox Lake Correctional Institution. He was not caught until the following March.
Eugene J. Leroux, Jr. was born on August 17, 1925 in Jersey City, New Jersey to Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Leroux, Sr. He served in the Navy from August 1943 to September 1962 when he retired as a chief electronics technician. He was also an instructor at Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After his retirement from the Navy, he was employed by the Wisconsin Telephone Company in Stevens Point, WI as an electronics technician.
Mary Ann Carroll was born on June 7, 1929 in Camden, New Jersey to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Carroll. She was employed as waitress at Fleming’s Cafe in Amherst, and was a member of the Woodland Homemakers Club.
Eugene and Mary were married on June 15, 1946, and had three children. Their only son, Mark Joseph, was born on December 23, 1948. At the time of his arrest, he lived in an apartment in Stevens Point, and worked as an encyclopedia salesman. Both Mark and his father shared the hobby of gunsmithing.
Mark Leroux’s Criminal Past
Mark Leroux and an accomplice had committed twenty-one burglaries of homes, cottages and a store from September 1964 to March 1965.
In March 1965, when Mark Leroux was sixteen years old, he was accused of reckless use of weapons. Investigation indicated that Leroux pointed a .45-caliber pistol at Frank Grulke to force him to drive Leroux and a friend from Amherst, Wisconsin, to Chicago. When they stopped for gas in Waupaca County, Leroux gave the pistol to his friend and went into the station. Grulke scuffled with Leroux’s accomplice, and grabbed ahold of the gun. When Mark returned to the vehicle, he picked up a shovel and threatened to strike Grulke. The gas station attendant subdued Mark and the boys were turned over to the Waupaca County sheriff, who reported the incident to Sheriff Nick Check.
While at the Leroux home with Mark’s mother, Mary, Sheriff Check recover some easily visible stolen property from the garage. Mrs. Leroux said, “Look what he does, he puts it in a place I can find it, just so he can hurt me. He always does it. He will do something just to hurt me.”
Sheriff Check recovered a statement written and signed by Mark Leroux titled, “The Epitaph of an Unwanted,”. The sheriff talked with Ruth Gilfrey, who was the county supervising nurse who worked at the Marshfield Clinic, about Leroux’s statement. Nurse Gilfrey told the sheriff that Mark had had a lot of trouble with his mother, and that he was angry and needed help. She also said that Leroux could be very quiet and peaceful at times, and at other times he could be angry and destructive.
On November 8, 1967, at approximately 3:50am, Sheriff Check received a call that the Leroux residence in the town of Lanark in Portage County, Wisconsin was burning, and it was thought that Eugene and Mary Leroux had died in the fire. Sheriff Check called the coroner, Joseph Bodzislaw, and they proceeded to the Leroux residence. Arriving there, they discovered that the house had burned down and had fallen into the basement, and they were informed that the Leroux children, Mark, 18, and Jeannette, 15, were at the home of Frank and Beverly Budzbanowski, friends of the family who lived two miles away. The sheriff learned that the children, upon discovering the fire, had gone to the Budzbanowski residence for aid. (Mark and Jeannette had also saved the family’s dog from the fire.)
After viewing the fire briefly, the sheriff and the coroner proceeded to the Budzbanowski home.
Mark and Jeannette Interviewed
Sheriff Check spoke to Mark and Jeannette separately. He took Mark to his car, and, in the presence of the coroner, advised him of his constitutional rights and questioned him about the fire.
Mark gave the following information: He said that his parents left around 6:30 pm to go to Amherst, and he and Jeannette stayed home. His parents returned later that evening, and the family watched television together until about 10 pm. His parents went upstairs to their bedroom, Jeannette slept in a downstairs bedroom, and Mark slept on a couch in the living room.
Mark said that he was awakened by Jeannette screaming that the house was on fire. He said the house was full of smoke, and he tried to get upstairs to his parents, but wasn’t able to due to the smoke. He yelled to his parents a few times to try to alert them about the fire. Jeannette was hysterical, so he told her to grab some important papers and then they both left the house. They then drove to the Budzbanowski home.
Sheriff Check excused Mark.
Next, Jeannette got into the car, and Sheriff Check advised her of her constitutional rights, and asked her what happened. Her story was identical in all respects to that told by Mark, except she said her dog had awakened her.
After the interviews, both the sheriff and the coroner commented upon the fact that the children were very neat and their clothes did not smell of smoke. They both seemed very composed for having just lost their parents and home, and there was no evidence of hysteria about Jeannette. Sheriff Check thought the stories were remarkably similar, and he felt it was strange that the children had had the time to save some guns and papers, but not their parents. He also noted that the children drove past nine other farm homes on their way to reach the Budzbanowski residence, and one of the homes was almost in sight of the Leroux home.
Later in the day, the sheriff and coroner discussed further questioning of the Leroux children, but because the Budzbanowskis had seemed so upset when they questioned them the first time, they decided to wait until after the funeral. The sheriff arranged for the State Crime Lab to administer lie detector tests to the children.
The charred bodies of Eugene and Mary were recovered from the basement. No autopsy was performed at that time because of the difficulty the sheriff had experienced at the local level in getting autopsies performed. They were buried on November 11, three days after the fire.
Jeannette Talks to her Best Friend, Kathy
After the funeral, Jeannette told her best friend, Kathy Reinert, what had really happened. Jeannette said that she and Mark were home alone watching television on the night of November 7th when Mark suggested they should get rid of their parents. He suggested poisoning or shooting them. Jeannette told Mark to shut up, but he persisted. Later that night after the family had gone to bed, Jeannette was awakened by the sound of gunshots. Jeannette said that she stayed in bed until Mark came into her bedroom, and told her that he had shot their parents, and that she should get packed. Mark then went upstairs and started the fire in their parents’ bedroom with the kerosene from some lamps. They then went to the Budzbanowski home.
Jeannette also said that she was afraid of Mark, and that both before and after the funeral, Mark said to her that they had gotten away with a perfect crime.
Kathy told her parents the story, and on November 14, Mrs. Reinert went to the Budzbanowski home, and told Mrs. Budzbanowski about what Kathy had told her. The two women then told Mr. Budzbanowski, and he left to go talk with Roman Jungers, the funeral director who had been in charge of the burials.
Budzbanowski and Jungers called Budzbanowski’s attorney, Richard Olk, as he was the one who was handling the Leroux’s affairs . Attorney Olk decided to call Sheriff Check.
Mark Leroux’s Arrest
Sheriff Check radioed his headquarters to get some additional officers to assist him as he was heading to Mark’s apartment, and requested the other officers to meet him there. He also requested the services of the District Attorney and county judge, but they were not in their offices.
Upon arriving at the scene, the police officers noticed that the lights were on in Mark’s upstairs apartment. Sheriff Check sent one officer to cover the rear exit and then proceeded with the other officers to Mark’s apartment. The sheriff knocked on the door of the apartment and Leroux’s roommate answered the door. Sheriff Check asked if Mark was home, and the roommate said he was, and pointed to a room in the apartment. The roommate gave the officers permission to enter the apartment.
The police entered the apartment, and into the room that the roommate had pointed to. Mark and a nude female were in the room, and were both immediately placed under arrest. Mark was informed that he was being arrested for the murder of his parents, and both Mark and the female were informed that they were being arrested for lewd and lascivious conduct. Mark was asked if he had any weapons in the house, and Mark indicated he did and pointed to some couch cushions on the bedroom floor. The sheriff reached down, lifted the top cushion and found two pistols, including the .25 caliber Italian gun later identified as the murder weapon. The sheriff asked Mark if he had any objection to the sheriff taking the weapons, and Mark replied that he did not.
Mark Leroux’s trial was in January 1968, and his motive was suggested to be greed – Leroux was counting on receiving $50,000 in insurance money. He initially claimed insanity as his defense, but later stated that he was not insane, and he did not commit the crime. Leroux insisted the insanity claim was his lawyer’s idea, and he had not agreed to it.
The murder weapon was admitted into evidence, and it was noted that no fingerprints were on the gun. Leroux testified that his sister, Jeannette, had been the killer, and he took the gun away from her after the fact. He said that he tried to save his father, who he saw still semi-alive. He admitted to starting the fire, but he said he started it to protect Jeannette, and to keep the family name clean.
Father Douglas Dempster, Mark and Jeannette’s uncle, testified that he had problems with Jeannette because she stayed up too late, and went on a camping trip in mixed company.
Jeannette testified to the following: Mark bragged of committing “the perfect crime.” He was often in trouble, and did not get along with their father. She said that Mark shot their parents because they “mistreated him” while he was in the Green Bay State Reformatory, and they did not send him enough money at junior college in Colorado. Jeannette admitted she occasionally fought with her parents about dating boys, and she once thought about running away to San Francisco.
Jeannette also said that her brother instructed her to search the home for money, and as they were leaving the house, she saw Mark set fire to the drapes in the living room.
Alice Leroux, Jeannette and Mark’s older sister, testified that their mother had a temper, and once hit Mark with a tree branch. She said that for the most part, everyone got along. When she was 17, she ran away to San Francisco, but came back. At age 18, she moved out, and became an entertainer in Chicago.
Verdict and Sentencing
January 19, 1968: A jury returned two guilty verdicts of first-degree murder, with 19-year-old Leroux being sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment by Judge Herbert Bunde.
Details surround the case can be found in his appeal.
July 1975, Governor Lucey reduced Leroux’s sentence by making his two life terms concurrent instead of consecutive. The document commuting the sentence said that the decision was made because Leroux “has made considerable personal progress since entering the institution with notable improvement in the last two years.” Leroux was transferred from Waupun to Fox Lake Correctional Institution.
Mark Leroux escaped from Fox Lake Correctional Institution with car thief Christopher Botana on July 7, 1976, after they held a sharpened screwdriver to the neck of an assistant maintenance supervisor, and tied him up. They were moving pipes while on a work assignment outside of the prison.
The prison truck they drove off in was abandoned in the woods two miles south of Kingston in Green Lake County (16 miles northwest of the prison). While in Green Lake County, Leroux stole an orange Ford Pinto hatchback with Minnesota plates.
Botana was captured two days later in Milwaukee, but Leroux wasn’t captured until March 12, 1977 in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois where he was arrested as a suspect following a string of armed robberies. When caught, he had a fake ID saying he was Jeffrey Renieuiewicz of San Francisco, but his fingerprints revealed his true identity.
Leroux was sentenced to an additional 2.5 years in prison by Judge Gergen after pleading guilty to escaping from prison. The charges of operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent and placing a prison guard in danger of battery were dismissed.
Release and Aftermath
Mark Leroux was released from prison in 1993.
On October 24, 1997, Leroux received his registered nurse license (license #128015). In 2002, the Board of Nursing suspended Leroux’s license for alcohol-related reasons.
Mark Leroux died on September 6, 2013, at 64 years old, leaving behind his wife Beverly Gandy-Leroux. His sisters, Alice and Jeannette, preceded him in death.