Cult leader Roch "Moses" Theriault dead

Roch Theriault is shown in this 1981 file photo. The former cult leaderhas been found dead in his cell at the correctional centre in Dorchester, New Brunswick.THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP

Former cult leader Roch "Moses" Theriault was found dead in his cell at the correctional centre in Dorchester, New Brunswick.

RCMP say Theriault, 63, was involved in an altercation early Saturday morning and died as a result of his injuries.

Police are calling his death a homicide and have launched a murder investigation.

A 59-year-old inmate at the penitentiary was arrested in connection with the incident and later released back into the prisoner population.

Sgt. Greg Lupson of the RCMP said he expects the man will face charges shortly.

"The investigation is ongoing and to date no charges have been laid," he said.

Theriault founded and led a notorious sect in the 1980s. It was first established in two Quebec towns, Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce and Saint-Jogues, then finally in Burnt River, Ont.

The charismatic Theriault, who wanted to be called Moses, was brilliant at manipulating both the legal system and vulnerable individuals, but he also had a maniacal streak that triggered brutal punishment and even torture.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993 for the gruesome murder of his wife Solange Boilard, disembowelling her with a kitchen knife as part of a cult ritual.

Theriault was engaged in physical and sexual abuse of members of the cult, including the amputation of the hand of one woman, Gabrielle Lavallee. Lavallee wrote a book about her experience.

"It's a miracle that I survived such barbaric aggression," Lavallee told The Canadian Press in 2002.

"That night, July 26, 1989, he hacked off my right arm, not only my hand, he took off part of my right arm."

The cult leader had 22 children with women he held under his sway. Two of them have also written a book.

A television movie about his bizarre cult, which was modelled on Old Testament themes, was titled Savage Messiah.

It was broadcast in 2002, the same year the National Parole Board turned down his first bid for day parole.