The Caribbean island of Dominica is a beautiful haven for countless locals and expats looking for some peace and quiet. But there's been trouble in paradise in recent days after an American chocolate mogul on the island was charged with murdering two local icons.
Jonathan Lehrer is the owner of Bois Cotlette Estate, one of the oldest surviving estates on the island. Here, cocoa and coffee beans become high-quality chocolate and coffee products for sale. The estate sits adjacent to Coulibri Ridge Eco Resort, which was managed by Canadian entrepreneur Daniel Langlois and his partner Dominique Marchand. On Dec. 1, the bodies of Langlois and Marchand were found inside a burned car near the Coulibri resort. Lehrer faces charges in connection to their deaths.
According to The Toronto Star, Lehrer appeared unbothered in court by the serious allegations. He reportedly even smiled and waved at the alleged hitman, Robert Snider Jr., a local resident originally from Florida.
It wasn't exactly a random act of alleged violence. Lehrer and Langlois were famously embroiled in a years-long feud. Langlois first made his career as an animator; he founded the company Softimage, which created the CGI for iconic movies like Jurassic Park. He sold the business to Microsoft in 1994 for $200 million and eventually moved to Dominica to build up his luxury resort with Marchand.
In 2018, Langlois sued Lehrer over a dispute involving a public road that cuts through the Bois Cotlette estate. According to Dominica News Online, Lehrer blocked parts of the road with boulders, equipment, and trenches, prompting a lawsuit citing damages and interference in Langlois' economic interests. The court sided with Langlois in 2019 and granted his resort guests unrestricted access to the road.
Langlois and Marchand were beloved by locals for their dedication to helping the region. Earlier this year, he received a Meritorious Service Award for working to bolster Dominica’s sustainable development.
"After Hurricane Maria in 2017, he played a crucial role in rehabilitating the Soufriere Primary School with an investment of over EC$1 million,” the school's principal Ericson Degallaire told The Toronto Star. "The quality of work was exceptional, and the school’s solarization ensured uninterrupted electricity—a testament to his dedication."
Lehrer and Snider are expected to be back in court on March 15, 2024.