Crazy Joe

Quite a few years ago I worked on the Chilco ranch in BC. It was about 1969 when I first arrived. A couple of others arrived just before me and we wound up batching together and sharing the cooking. One of these was a fella by the name of Gaston Santare but he went by the name of Joe. He was from Vermont, had a bit of a temper but generally was fairly good to get along with. I didn’t learn a whole lot about his past because that was a time when there were quite a few draft dodgers and the old code still persisted. “If a guy did his work and didn’t complain too much, nobody asked personal questions.” He apparently didn’t mind working with me too much because there were a couple of times he wanted me to go homesteading with him.

I knew he had been in the Lac La-Hache area before coming to the Chilco and that when he arrived, he was leading a young blue roan horse, maybe a 2 year old. He didn’t drink, however I did hear a story about a time he passed out on a pool table in a bar.

One summer a bunch of kids (15 year olds) and I were putting up hay on one of the outlying homesteads and Joe was looking after the cattle. One day after a heavy night of rain, the kids went fishing down the creek. They happened on Joe snoozing by the riverbank and as a practical joke, moved his horse to a different tree. These kids were raised with horses so I’m pretty sure that they tied the horse properly. Anyway, Joe disappeared for a couple of days and when he returned he said his horse got away and he had to chase it down. He then moved into a bush camp by himself and wouldn’t have anything to do with the kids. I had coffee with him in his camp a few times and a comment he made was, “They’re lucky they don’t know what I did back home!” I asked, “What did you do?” his reply, “You don’t want to know!” by his tone I could tell he meant it!  I left it at that and almost forgot about it.

I quit the ranch in 1973, moved to Alberta in 74 and never really thought about it until Aug of 1985. I was looking to buy a few head of sheep so I went to the sheep man in the area. His wife informed me she was the one that knew about sheep. Anyway, we discussed sheep and a bunch of other stuff and he learned that I had worked on the ranch out in B.C. He then asked asked if I knew a Gary out there. It just happened that Gary was the third one at the ranch that I shared a cabin with. Later that night I was reading the Edmonton Journal and there buried in the paper was a little column with the heading, “Police still can’t identify hermit shot in B.C. cabin”

Prince George, B.C (CP)

Gaston Santare, the 44 year old hermit who died in a mysterious shooting incident last week which killed two others will take some unanswered questions to the grave.

Police have not determined why the shooting occurred….. The article went on to say they can’t prove that the guys name was Gastone Joseph Santare who also called himself Crazy Joe or that he was not. The article ended by saying that his possessions consisted mostly of empty tobacco tins that fit into to a couple cardboard boxes.

I remember that reading this was weird because it put us all together again on the same day in one way or another. I called the police in Alexis Creek and found out that the real Gaston Santare was alive and well in Vermont. I was able to place Joe in B.C a couple of years earlier than they knew about. I never heard any more about him or what the police found out but I’ve always wondered if he could be involved with some cold case in Eastern US or Canada.

I thought back on what I knew of Joe and it amounts to not much.

He definitely did not like kids! I think he came from a large family. He did something serious ‘back home.’ He could speak French although he didn’t. Chances are he wasn’t from Vermont although he could have been. He had a prominent jaw. Anytime pictures were taken, he ducked out of them. (I never saw a picture with him in it) He did not want to be found. I fully believe he quit drinking so that he would not say something he shouldn’t.

If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them and I’m really, really happy I didn’t go homesteading with him!

Sometimes you think you know someone but…


Frank Peters


  1. Darren Skomoroh says:

    Not sure if we’re talking about the same ‘Joe’ Santere but my cousin, Ken Skomoroh, and his girlfriend, Joanne Mychaluk, were killed by a Joe Santere up at Alexis Creek, BC in 1985. Santere was also killed during a shootout when it was believed that he was trying to break into my cousin’s cabin. Local authorities found the three killed shortly after. Santere was described by the media as “deranged mountain man”.

    • Frank says:

      Thanks for commenting. Sorry for your loss. Yes this the same “Joe”. I wonder if they’ll ever find any other killings related to this guy?

      • Darren Skomoroh says:

        Thanks for your sentiment. This all makes sense now. And I’m wondering the same thing, how many other killings may be linked to this guy.

  2. Darren Skomoroh says:

    My apologies but I found the article and I spelled the name incorrectly. It should read SANTARE, not ‘Santere’ as I originally posted.

  3. Frank says:

    Just fount this link.,%201986

    Apparently they found the ID of ‘Crazy Joe’ from his fingerprints. Nelson Francis Beauchesne of Vermont and Quebec, an american forces deserter. Another website I found said he was 35 at the time. Also that he used the ID of his step brother. Not sure how accurate this is.

    • Darren Skomoroh says:

      Thanks Frank. I was able to look at the article and saw with great detail as to what transpired. Pretty grim stuff…..and sad.

  4. Darren Skomoroh says:

    Thanks for the link. I can let my family know as well. I don’t believe that the veracity of this information is in question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *