The mysterious disappearance of a young woman in Isère elucidated 36 years later

Marie-Thérèse Bonfanti, at the time aged 25 and mother of two children, disappeared without a trace on May 22, 1986 in Pontcharra (Isère) while she was distributing newspapers.

His car had been found near a dilapidated house. The vehicle keys were still on the dashboard, his bag in the front seat. Despite extensive searches carried out for ten days by the gendarmerie with the help of a helicopter, she had remained untraceable.

The investigation, which had been the subject of a dismissal in November 1987, had been reopened in 2020 in particular thanks to “the perseverance of the families” and the “will” of the investigators, declared Eric Vaillant, prosecutor of the Republic of Grenoble during a press briefing.

The suspect lived nearby at the time, he was suspected and later released. Arrested on the basis of new elements, he “admitted having killed her”, during his police custody and before the investigating judge, he specified.

The alleged murderer is “collaborating at this stage” with investigators, but the body of the missing woman has not yet been found, he said.

The declared motive would be a “dispute” for a parking problem and “at this stage (without) any sexual connotation”, specified his deputy Boris Duffau.

The violent profile of the suspect had at the time already “attracted the attention of the investigators” who had lifted his police custody for lack of “sufficient convincing” elements. He had notably been convicted twice for assaults against women, the first time in 1985 when he was 14 years old.

– “36 years that I have been in prison” –

The relatives of the victim had “always had the conviction that the person charged was the assassin”, declared Me Bernard Boulloud, the lawyer for the Bonsanti family, expressing the “great relief” of his clients.

After all this time, her husband, Thierry Bonfanti, feels “bitterness but not hatred”, according to him.

“+I have been in prison for 36 years. Now the door opens, he’s the one who’s going to go, maybe not for long,” he said, quoting his client.

Justice could indeed come up against a problem of prescription if the investigators do not manage to establish the charge of kidnapping-sequestration, the crime of murder being prescribed after ten years, underlined Mr. Vaillant, predicting a “debate complex legal system” on this point.

The prosecutor nevertheless welcomed the elucidation of this “cold case”, the second in Grenoble in less than a year after that of the Marinescu case in June 2021.

In this case, a man had been indicted and imprisoned, 28 years after the facts, for the assassination of his wife and the murder and rape of his daughter, found with their throat slit in 1993 near Grenoble. The defendant’s lawyer, Me Eric Andrieu, however disputes the elements which led to the incarceration of his client, according to him “innocent”.

Regarding the disappearance of Marie-Thérèse Bonfanti, the magistrate praised “the perseverance of the families helped by their lawyers and the associations of the families of the disappeared”, according to him “perfectly relayed” by the justice system and the investigation services.

The prosecutor also praised the “precious experience” accumulated by the Grenoble gendarmerie in the analysis of old criminal files, in particular in connection with the Nordahl Lelandais case, a former soldier convicted of two murders in 2021 and 2022.

In the Bonfanti case, the investigators used “contemporary techniques, criminal analysis, behavioral analysis, (which) made it possible to target the suspect”, explained Colonel Lionel James, commander of the research section of the Gendarmerie of Grenoble.

For the moment, there is nothing to link the Bonfanti case to other unsolved murders or disappearances dating from the same period, concluded Mr. Duffau. But, according to him, “this does not exclude questioning, investigating and possibly making new connections”.

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