American chocolatier charged in deaths of Canadian animation pioneer and his wife at Caribbean resort

Police arrested an American chocolatier and his suspected accomplices in connection with the murder of a Canadian animation pioneer and his wife near their resort on the Caribbean island of Dominica last Friday.

The charred remains of Daniel Langlois, a 3D pioneer whose company created images for films like “Star Wars,” and his wife, Dominique Marchand, were discovered in a burnt vehicle around a mile away from their property, said police inspector Fixton Henderson.

Jonathan Lehrer, an American chocolatier who owns Bois Cotlette Estate next to Langlois’ resort, was taken into custody along with his wife, Henderson said. Police also apprehended an American man named Robert Snider Jr., and a man from Dominica, he said, adding that Snider was staying on Lehrer’s property.

Police believe the slaying may be connected to a yearslong dispute between Lehrer, 57, and Langlois, 66, over a public road running through their adjacent estates.

Daniel Langlois
Daniel LangloisCourtesy Government of Dominica

The Morne Rouge Public Road runs through Lehrer’s chocolate estate to provide access to Langlois’ sustainable luxury resort, Coulibri Ridge, according to an application for an injunction.

Langlois brought the case to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in 2018, claiming that Lehrer had been finding ways to obstruct the road by placing boulders across it, building a trench, and leaving supplies and metal pipes in the way, according to the court judgment.

The court ruled in favor of Langlois, but Henderson said the feud continued.

Lehrer and Snider were charged with murder and remanded to a state prison. They were not offered plea deals, Henderson said.

Lehrer’s wife and the man from Dominica were arrested but not charged, he said.

Police have not performed an autopsy on the bodies, which Henderson described as “charred beyond recognition.”

The murders are believed to have happened sometime between 4 p.m. on Nov. 30 and 8 a.m. on Dec. 1.

Langlois, a Quebec-native, founded Softimage, which created 3D image software used to make special effects for movies like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” “Men in Black” and “The Matrix.” It was also used to make video games, according to an obituary posted by his foundation.

Before founding Softimage in 1986, Langlois worked as an animation director in Canada, and developed the first stereoscopic 3D computer animation in IMAX format, according to the obituary.

Pascale St-Onge, a member of Canada’s Parliament, shared her condolences on the social media platform X, calling Langlois a “visionary” in digital technologies and cinema who left a lasting impact on generations.

“His legacy reflects his innovative spirit. My thoughts are with his loved ones,” she said.

During the latter part of his life, Langlois turned his efforts to his philanthropic organization, the Daniel Langlois Foundation, and the resort Coulibri Ridge, which prides itself on “sustainable luxury” according to its website.

Denise Charles, the minister for tourism and a parliamentary representative for the Soufriere Constituency, said in a statement that the couple was dedicated to the community, including in their support of projects after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“In life, you meet people who are talkers and those who are doers, people who do things to seek fame, or recognition, and people who actually care,” Charles said in the statement. “Daniel and Dominique cared.”