Who killed Vermont mother of three Angela Louise Belisle in 1981?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — Angela Louise Gage was born in England on Dec. 5, 1945, to John Wesley Gage and M. Louise Gage. One brother, Barry Gage, preceded her in death on May 9, 1973, at 15 years old. Her other younger siblings include Colin, Brian, Rosemary, and Floyd.

Angela’s parents met when her father was a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber pilot, and her mother was a Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force member during WWII.

The Gages returned to Canada after the war and settled in Stanbridge East, Quebec, about 10 miles north of the Vermont border. 

After graduating high school, Angela attended college for two years and obtained her teaching certificate. 

She met Gerald “Jerry” Belisle, a cement truck driver, in the mid-1960s at a dance hall in Bedford, Quebec. They married in 1968 and moved into a trailer in Swanton, Vermont. The couple had three children – Selena, born in December 1970; Travis in April 1972; and Trevor in February 1974.  

Belisle built a successful cement-pouring business and constructed a $70,000 home to replace the trailer. 

Angela got a job teaching first grade in St. Albans and began taking graduate courses in psychology at the University of Vermont (UVM).

Their combined income in 1978 was above $60,000, equivalent to nearly $270,000 in 2022. 

The couple bought a camp on Lapans Bay on Lake Champlain, but they began having marital problems and separated in 1978. The divorce was finalized in 1979. Angela and the children moved to 62 Brooks Ave. in Burlington in 1980.

According to a friend, Angela began to fear for her life after a fire broke out at her former Swanton home in 1979, and someone vandalized the Lake Champlain home in 1980. She stopped going out at night and took safety measures when she did.

Angela filed a court petition with Franklin County Superior Court on Dec. 12, 1980, to have her divorce case reopened, seeking a modification in child support payments from Belisle because she no longer had an income from her psychology internship. She also sought an adjustment in the appraisal of the summer camp because it had been vandalized. A hearing was scheduled for Jan. 14, 1981, but Angela would never attend. 

Around 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3, 1981, UVM student Mark Hassinger was walking by 62 Brooks Ave. when he spotted what he thought was a mannequin lying in the home’s driveway. 

Upon closer inspection, Hassinger noticed blonde hair and realized it was not a dummy but the frozen body of a deceased female lying on her back next to the driver’s side of a car. It was Angela.

Angela Belisle: photo of Mark Hassinger, who found her body, and then-State's Attorney Mark Keller
(Photo credit: The Burlington Free Press)

A frantic Hassinger ran to the home of Vince Grove at 51 Brookes Ave. and knocked on his window. Grove called the police, and then both proceeded to the body.

Angela’s skin “looked beige,” Grove had said. 

The men spotted dried blood on Angela’s face that looked as if it had come from her nose and traveled up to her forehead. Her right arm was at her side, with the elbow bent. Grove thought one hand touched a lump of snow near the car’s left rear tire.

There was some snow on the car, but none on Angela. The driver’s side door and window were slightly open.

Angela Belisle: photo of covered body, police at the scene
(Photo credit: The Burlington Free Press)

The detective first on the scene, Patrick Foley, thought the victim had fallen. “It appeared as if she stepped out of her vehicle that she might’ve lost her balance and fell and banged her head and pretty much froze to death,” Foley said in 2021.

But once he saw the blood, he knew it was a homicide. Foley said there were no signs of a struggle or flurry of footprints in the snow.

The killer took nothing from Angela, which suggested robbery was not a motive, and she likely knew her killer.

An autopsy later confirmed Angela had been shot twice: once in the head, and another shot grazed the top of her skull. 

Police were unable to find DNA evidence at the scene. There were no witnesses to the shooting. Police never found the murder weapon, only a bullet on the ground after they had scooped up and melted the snow. 

Foley did not immediately question Belisle first, as one would expect, considering Belisle and Angela had divorced two years earlier. 

However, police obtained a search warrant to seize all the firearms from his home, The Burlington Free Press reported in January 2006. 

Belisle had a solid alibi – he was at home with the children. Selena, 10, at the time, awoke and saw her father sleeping on the living room floor, “snoring like a freight train,” she said in 2006. She remembered the time, 12:34 a.m., because she had looked at the digital clock. “It’s rare to see it with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 in a row like that.”

Belisle claimed he drove his children straight home as soon as he picked them up from their mother at a UVM parking lot around 6 p.m. on Jan. 2, 1981. But Foley said in 2006 that he did not believe Belisle went straight home.

“I think he went someplace different. His timeframe was missing something. There was a change in his routine.”

Neighbors of Angela’s claimed they never heard gunshots or seen anything unusual. One neighbor claimed that Angela had a male boarder living in her home, but police could not confirm the information. 

Angela’s brother Colin Gage said in 2006 that it took three weeks for the police to arrange an interview with Angela’s boyfriend at the time. He did not mention the boyfriend’s name.

Three months after her murder, Gage drove down from Canada to pick up her car and drive it back to Quebec. The vehicle overheated outside of Burlington. He opened the trunk and found bags of groceries with spoiled food Angela had purchased.

Police inspected the groceries but could not explain why they were still in the car’s trunk. 

It is logical to conclude that Angela had exited her car upon returning home from shopping when someone shot and killed her. Therefore, the killer was lying in wait outside. Foley said the shooter probably hid near the garage, waiting for Angela to pull in the driveway, and then approached and shot her.

Belisle’s business partner, David Harrison, 37, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 1, 1981. A family member or close friend discovered his body in the bathroom of his home. Harrison left no note behind, and his death was ruled a suicide. 

Police had questioned Harrison in Angela’s death but did not consider him a suspect. It’s unclear if the bullet used in his death matched the one in Angela’s or if police ever tested it. 

Gage said there had been little progress in the investigation since 1982, and the police had not contacted their family since 1981 or 1982.

Angela Belisle’s murder remains unsolved 41 years later. Following her killing, the Belisles suffered more tragedy.

Trevor Belisle, 20, was killed in a truck accident in St. Albans in August 1994.

Two fires engulfed Jerry Belisle’s properties in the 1990s.

The first one occurred in October 1994 at Bakersfield Hardware. Jerry owned the property but not the business. There had been a break-in before the fire, which police said was intentionally set. 

Another fire broke out at City Feed & Lumber Co. in July 1997, and losses were estimated in the millions. Jerry owned the most significant part of the business complex, according to The Burlington Free Press.

Months earlier, on Jan. 8, 1997, near the 16th anniversary of Angela’s killing, the Lapans Bay camp burned to the ground. Jerry still owned it, but there had been a for sale sign in the front yard.

In 2003, Selena Belisle was involved in a motorcycle accident and suffered life-threatening injuries requiring multiple surgeries, but she fully recovered. She has been a licensed massage therapist for over 30 years and previously won international arm-wrestling championships. She was even featured in Sports Illustrated. Selena founded the CE Institute in Miami Beach.

Jerry Belisle denied any knowledge of his former wife’s murder. He remarried and moved to Florida at some point. He may be currently living back in Vermont. Travis Belisle also resides in Vermont. 

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

Well, my first instinct is to point my finger at Jerry. It’s awful convenient that Angela was supposed to be in court on Jan. 14, 1981, to increase child support, and was killed beforehand.

I wouldn’t call Jerry’s alibi “solid” because his daughter was his alibi. She was only 10. 

Selena did not mention anything about her father’s whereabouts after 12:34 a.m. But what was he doing before that and later that morning?

Then, you have Harrison’s suicide two months after the murder. He was only 37. So did Jerry or another hire Harrison to kill Angela and guilt got the better of him? Police said the evidence and autopsy proved suicide, but I still have to wonder.

I think the fire and vandalism that happened before her death play into her murder somehow. Why would Jerry burn down his own property? I assume they both still owned it, although I cannot say for sure. Maybe he did so to scare Angela. 

Colin Gage told Sam Hemingway of The Burlington Free Press in 2006: “I think Jerry did not have eyes for anyone else, but I think my sister Angela did. Jerry had a hard time with Angela not being there for him anymore.”

Then you have the fires that occurred in the 90s. Did someone connected to Angela burn them down? Or did Jerry have other enemies? 

Who is the boyfriend Gage mentioned? How long had they been dating? Where did she meet him?

Angela’s neighborhood is strictly residential, which further supports the theory that she knew her killer, and they targeted her. The killer knew where she lived. They did not steal any money and were lying in wait. 

There was no mention of the type of bullet the killer used in the shooting. 

The Vermont State Police website says Angela was killed within 24 hours leading up to the discovery of her body. We know it must have occurred sometime that morning because she went to the grocery store. Hassinger found the body at 10:45 a.m. If she had been laying there overnight, you’d think someone would have seen her at daybreak or before Hassinger found her. 

This would have been easy to find if police had checked with the grocery store or had a receipt that said when she paid for her groceries. I think she went to the store that morning. Jerry picked up the kids at 6 p.m.; we know she disliked going anywhere at night unless she had no choice. And because it was winter, sunset would have occurred around 5 or 6 p.m. I think she purchased her groceries and/or ran other errands Saturday morning, a day most people did such things back then. 

So I believe early Saturday morning, she went to the grocery store. She returned home, and when she exited the car, a gunman came out from the garage area and shot her twice in the head. Burlington was experiencing subzero temperatures, so it would not have taken long for Angela’s body to freeze. 

I find it strange no one heard gunshots or saw the shooting. But it was freezing that day, so I doubt many neighbors were outside. Plus, we don’t know the time of death.

Why was Hassinger walking along Angela’s street in subzero temps? UVM is close to Angela’s address so he might have been walking to or from campus. 

But why did he run to Grove’s home instead of directly across the street? Grove’s home sits on the corner of Brooks Avenue and North Williams Street. Maybe he knew Grove.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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