The Rouses Point Murder

A Canadian drug indictment led to a 1993 car bombing

Welcome sign into Rouses Point, New York
The welcome sign when entering Rouses Point, The Northern Gateway, in New York.

Fifteen years ago an event changed Rouses Point forever. On July 28, 1993 at 8:30 a.m., thirty-one year old Lee Carter Jr. was tending to his normal morning activities around his home directly next to the Bowl Mart lanes. At some point during this time period he decided to get into his car and move it, and when he did, the car suddenly exploded.

George Rivers, current mayor of Rouses Point, was one of the first responders to the scene of the crime. At that time, Rivers was the Clinton County Deputy Fire Coordinator. Rivers and Rouses Point Emergency Medical Services and the Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call as well as the Chazy based New York State Police.

"We had a call for the Bowl Mart that there was an explosion, we had no idea that anybody was involved," Rivers says. "We actually stopped at the entrance, because we knew it was a crime scene."

Lee Carter Jr.'s high-school photo
Lee Carter Jr.
Photo Courtesy: Press-Republican

Rivers elaborated saying that he could see parts of the car disbursed around the parking lot of the bowling alley, and had a feeling that fowl play was involved. They decided to leave the crime scene alone, until the New York State Police arrived to assess the scene.

Jean Birtz, retired Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent, was one of the supervising investigators of the murder.

"My duty was to try to put the criminal case together of who we suspected."

What many local people did not know about, Lee Carter Jr., is that Carter was an informant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working in connection to make a case against a Canadian man and Three Rivers Chapter Hell's Angels member, Richard Vallee.

"I was a close friend of his and I had no clue of what he was doing," Missy LaPorte says. LaPorte was a neighbor of Carter's as well as a co-worker of his at the Bowl Mart Lanes.

According to Birtz, during the year of 1992 many things happened in Carter's life. At the time Carter worked at the Bowl Mart lanes, a small bowling alley, and lived in a home adjacent to the bowling alley. At some point in that year, he was approached by two Canadian men, Scott Reynolds and Leslie Thompson, who, at the time, bowled in a league at the Bowl Mart Lanes and asked Carter to help them in the smuggling of drugs, since he was so close to the Canadian border.

"Lee Carter was never a drug dealer."

After the meeting with Reynolds and Thompson, Carter immediately went to the authorities, to tell them of his situation. From the very beginning of this drug trafficking scheme, Carter was an informant working for local authorities.

Carter's job was to drive cocaine, which was picked up in New York City, to his home in Rouses Point. From there Reynolds and Thompson, from Clarcenville, Quebec, would drive across the border to Carter's home, pick up the cocaine, and drive it back across the border into Canada, where it would be distributed for sale.

After some time of Carter's taped recordings with Reynolds and Thompson, authorities decided that it was time to arrest these two men. By doing so, the authorities were able to stop the men at the border with the illegal drugs, and managed to get them to cooperate with the investigators who were working on the case.

Reynolds and Thompson, working in connection with the authorities, called Andre Venneman, who was the man that was supposed to receive the drugs once they got back to Clarenceville. The two men told him that they had problems with their car and were unable to cross the border, but said that Carter still had the cocaine and gave Venneman his number.

After receiving this phone call, Venneman decided to arrange a meeting with Carter in Napierville, Quebec, approximately fifteen miles north of the Champlain, New York border, shortly after the arrests of the two Canadian men had occurred.  From Napierville, both Carter and Venneman traveled to meet with the Hell's Angels contact, which was Richard Vallee, who would be receiving the cocaine Carter had in his possession.  According to Birtz, at this meeting, Vallee asked Carter if he could bring the cocaine into Canada and Carter acknowledged that he could do this.

By Carter agreeing to traffic the drugs across the border into Canada for Valle, police authorities in Canada would then be able to pin drug charges on Vallee, who was already suspected of drug distribution within the Montreal, Quebec area.

According to Birtz Police on both sides of the border instructed Carter to make the transaction Vallee expected, which consisted of fifty-four kilograms of fake cocaine, because real cocaine was not allowed to cross the border into Canada.

"Conspiracy to traffic a narcotic is not prosecuted until you have physical evidence of the drug."

Since there is no such thing as a conspiracy to commit a crime without physical evidence in Canada, this meant that Carter would have to testify against Valle in court, to get Valle convicted on the drug conspiracy charges.

Over the course of the trial proceedings in Canada, the defense tried to find out who, the informant was. The defense found out that it was Carter.

Between March and July of 1993, leading up to the trial, Carter was contacted by phone by several people who told him not to testify in court against Vallee. According to Birtz, The Federal Bureau of Investigation offered Carter witness protection leading up to the court date, but because Carter was not willing to leave the Champlain and Rouses Point area and declined the offer.

Crime scene of the 1993 car bombing
Police scene of the 1993 car bombing that involved Lee Carter Jr. at the Bowl Mart Lanes.
Photo Courtesy: Press-Republican

On July 28, 1993, Richard Vallee and another suspected accomplice, planted between five and seven pounds of emulsive explosives in Carter's car. According to Birtz, when Carter entered his car, he stepped on the clutch and turned the ignition on triggering the explosive device planted behind his driver's seat to explode in the Bowl Mart parking lot. The explosion left no evidence of the device that was used in the explosion except for the blasting caps.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center web site, New York State can easily be exploited in the smuggling of illegal drugs such as cocaine and marijuana into the state through Champlain and Rouses Point border entries and out of the state through these same borders.

Over the past several years, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has tried to stop the illegal importation and exportation of illegal drugs between the Canadian and United States borders. By doing so, customs has stopped some major drug as well as money smuggling operations in the Champlain and Rouses Point area.

Last year, on February 13, 2007 customs officials arrested a Canadian man and confiscated twenty pounds of cocaine, bound for Canada, with an estimated street value of $750,000 found in a hidden compartment in his vehicle. Customs Public Affairs officer, Kevin Corsaro, called this one of the largest seizures of cocaine at the Champlain border in recent years.

"There is always that unknown element lurking in the woods."

The parking lot of the Bowl Mart Lanes
The rural country side of the Bowl Mart Lanes, where Lee Carter Jr.'s car was found.

According to Birtz there is definitely a problem with the importation of illegal drugs in and out of the United States and this continues to be a problem today, with rural upstate New York being a hub for transportation of these illegal substances to major cities such as New York City. With so many wooded areas within the upstate region such as the towns of Mooers, Champlain and Rouses Point, people now are trafficking drugs through these wooded areas and are sometimes armed with weapons, making this illegal activity even more dangerous for the people who live there as well as for law enforcement who are trying to protect New York's Canadian border according to Birtz.

Do you believe that the smuggling of illegal drugs poses a major threat to safety in border towns of northern New York?