Police alleged a historic chocolate plantation owner murdered and burned the body of one of the leading figures in Hollywood who helped bring us the incredible special effects of some of the 1990’s best films, Dominican police said.
Daniel Langlois, a founder of the now-defunct studio Softimate, lived in the Caribbean nation of Dominica with his longtime partner Dominique Marchan. The pair had lived there since 1997. Two people are already in custody regarding the pair’s death, as reported by Canadian outlet CBC. One of the individuals arrested, 57-year-old Jonathan Lehrer, owned a historic chocolate and coffee plantation neighboring the couple’s newly built luxury resort.
The French Canadian Langlois was best known in the Hollywood and tech spheres as one of the founders of Montreal-based Softimage, a groundbreaking animation software studio wich helped create the 3D special effects on landmark films like 1993’s Jurassic Park, the 1997 film Men in Black and the 1999 visual feast The Matrix. He was the company’s chief technology officer until 1998, three years after Microsoft acquired the company in a deal worth nearly $US270 million. Microsoft sold the studio to Avid Technology that same year.
Lehrer, a New Jersey native, owned Bois Cotlette, a preserved chocolate plantation on Dominica. He was arrested alongside Floridian Robert Snyder Jr. The two appeared Wednesday in Roseau Magistrates’ Court.
Langlois and Marchand were found dead on Dec. 1 inside a burned-out car, according to local outlet Dominica News Online. The two had been reported missing. Langlois and his partner opened up a luxury eco-resort in 2022 and had been working on the project for several years.
The paper noted Langlois had previously taken Lehrer to the island nation’s courts over some dispute regarding a public road running through his estate. The chocolate baron had reportedly gone full NIMBY and laid boulders and tried digging trenches along the road to cut off access through his property. The courts eventually decided that Lehrer couldn’t unilaterally cut off access to the resort.
Police said the animation studio founder and his partner were murdered sometime between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2, according to the Toronto Star. The two were found inside the burned car in such a gruesome state police struggled to identify the bodies. Cops reportedly said the couple were killed at the Bois Cotlette estate.
Gizmodo reached out to Lehrer’s attorneys in Dominica for comment, but we did not immediately hear back.
Langlois was a well-known philanthropist on the island, according to the Star, having donated money to the neighboring community to help rebuild a local primary school after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Bois Cotlette website references how Lehrer is a descendant of the family who controlled the old plantation in the late 1700s. He bought the estate after it was “overrun by over a decade of neglect.” The plantation makes money by taking visitors on tours of the grounds.
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