By: Scott RossPublished: November 12, 2022

Terry Jo Duperrault

Arthur Duperrault had a wife, three kids, a successful career, and a dream: a sailing vacation from Florida to the Bahamas. By summer 1961, he had saved up enough money to make that dream a reality.

In November of that year, Duperrault chartered the Bluebelle, a 60-foot ketch, and hired fellow WWII veteran Julian Harvey to skipper the boat, with Harvey’s wife (his sixth--yes, it’s relevant, we’re not shaming anyone) coming along to serve as cook. They set sail on November 8 and by the 12th reached the Bahamas, where Duperrault declared it “a once-in-a-lifetime vacation,” and vowed to return. The family went back to the Bluebelle that night and after dinner, 11-year-old Terry Jo Duperrault and her 7-year-old sister, Rene, retired to their rooms below deck.

"Later I heard screaming and stamping and I woke up and it went away,” Terry Jo later explained. “and I went upstairs to see what it was and I saw my mother and my brother laying on the floor and there was blood all over. I went up to the captain and he shoved me down."

Not long after that, Harvey came into her room with what appeared to be a gun, but didn’t harm her. She soon saw oil and water rising in her cabin and once it reached the level of her bunk, she decided she had to go back up above deck.

"I asked him if the boat was sinking and he said, 'yes,' and he went up forward to do something, and he came back and he said, 'Is the dinghy loose?' and I said, 'I don't know,' and he jumped in after it and I couldn't see him and I couldn't see the dinghy so I got the little raft and got in it and went away and I couldn't see anything."

Luckily, Terry Jo kept her wits about her, untying a small cork raft that was lashed to the deck and made her escape from the sinking ship--Harvey had apparently smashed holes in the boat, casuing it to take on water.

The following day, an oil tanker called the Gulf Lion rescued Harvey, who was floating along René in his boat. He told authorities he had been caught in a sudden squall which had tossed the ship, snapping the mast, which then pierced the hull and sparked a fire before, the Bluebelle and its passengers sank to a watery grave.

Three days after Harvey’s rescue, on November 16, a ship calledCaptain Theo came upon Terry Jo, who was miraculously alive after nearly four days adrift without food or water. The crew tried to wash the salt off her skin, applied lip balm and gave her water and OJ to drink, but she still slipped into unconsciousness, but not before saying her name and the name of the boat. The crew quickly called for her to be airlifted to a hospital, where she began to recover.

Harvey was in the midst of an interrogation on the 17th when he learned that Terry Jo had been rescued. "Oh, my God," he said, and then, "Why, that's wonderful." He then asked if they could take a brief break from the questioning, whereupon he drove to a motel, checked in under a fake name, wrote a two-page suicide note that neither explained nor apologized for what he’d done, but saying "I got too tired and nervous. I couldn't stand it any longer” and asked to be buried at sea. He then slit himself with a razor on his thigh, ankles and jugular.

An investigation into Harvey revealed a distinguished record as a pilot during the war, as well as a long history of suspicious accidents, one of which killed his wife and mother-in-law, and hefty insurance payouts. Had it not been for Terry Jo, he would’ve collected $20,000 for the death of his wife, thanks to a policy he’d taken out just two months earlier. The best guess was that he had planned to kill onlyl his wife, but was caught in the act by one of the Duperraults and figured he had to clean house.

By November 20th Terry Jo was well enough to tell authorities what had acutally happened. There had been no storm, no snapped mast, no fire. Just mayhem and murder. She would later return to Wisconsin, where she lived with relatives, subsequently changed her name to Tere and eventually grew up to have a family of her own. Total badass.

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