“We started dating in 1990,” Pierre Torch told Dateline about the early days with his wife, Yvonne. “We got married in 1991.”
Pierre was born and raised in the city of Newburgh, New York. His whole family is from there. “My grandmother, my grandfather, my uncles, my great-grandparents,” Pierre told Dateline. “Our houses were all right together.”
According to Pierre, growing up in Newburgh was like growing up in any other town. He said there wasn’t anything particularly special about the city he called home. “It was a relatively safe area,” he said.
Pierre grew up to help keep the area safe himself. “I really enjoyed helping people,” Pierre said. At 16 years old, Pierre joined the Middle Hope Fire Department as a volunteer and at 18, he became an EMT. A few years later, he joined the Newburgh volunteer ambulance corps. “What a rush it was the first time I saved someone’s life,” Pierre told Dateline.
Pierre said that his love of saving people also led him to meeting the love of his life, Yvonne. “I knew her father for many years,” Pierre told Dateline. Yvonne’s father was also a volunteer firefighter and worked alongside Pierre. He said he saw Yvonne for the first time when she came to visit her father at the station. “I was like 25 or 26, and I saw this girl with a young baby in her hands,” Pierre said. “I’m looking at her and it’s like, ‘Ooh, she’s kind of cute.’” Pierre said he didn’t make his move right away.
Aside from his volunteer work, Pierre was also an electrician. “I did some work for her father,” Pierre told Dateline. “I kept on going over to the house because he owed me some money.” Pierre said he never got paid, “But I got his daughter,” he said, with a laugh. “I got the better end of the deal.”
The two started dating in 1990. “Once we went out that first time, we were inseparable,” Pierre said. He told Dateline he was attracted to Yvonne’s outgoing personality. “She was such a great person,” he said. By 1991, they were married. Pierre became a stepfather to Yvonne’s baby, Ashley. “I raised her since she was one and a half,” Pierre said. He told Dateline that he and Ashley are very close, and he considers her his blood daughter. The couple’s daughter Tiffany came along in 1993.
The family of four enjoyed the simple life in Newburgh. “We would just hang by the pool,” Pierre said. “Go to the mall.” Yvonne had her own things she enjoyed as well, like doing hair.
“I kind of pushed her into getting her cosmetology license,” Pierre said. He told Dateline he noticed his wife was “gifted and talented” with hair right after the two got married. He said Yvonne attempted to get jobs in salons, but the task proved to be more challenging than expected. “Everybody was like, ‘You’ve gotta have a following,’” Pierre recalled hearing his wife say. “‘We don’t want to hire you unless you bring customers here.’”
So, in 1994, Pierre said Yvonne decided to open up a shop of her own. She called the salon “His and Hers” and it was located in the heart of Newburgh. “I painted the whole place,” Pierre said. “I finished off the inside of the building for her.” Pierre told Dateline his wife was incredibly excited to have her own shop.
Yvonne had worked in the salon for nearly a decade when she and Pierre made a big family decision. They were going to move to Florida.
Pierre told Dateline that they loved visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida, so much that they decided they wanted to move there after their most recent visit in May of 2004. “We had decided that we were going to pack up everything, sell our house, and move,” Pierre said. “We wanted to get jobs in Disney.” Pierre told Dateline that when they returned home, Yvonne got to work right away researching houses in Florida.
While they prepared for their big move, their lives fell back into their regular routine.
Until June 9, 2004. “It was a beautiful day out,” Pierre recalled. “I made Yvonne her breakfast like I did every morning.” Pierre said the two snuggled before heading out to work. “My last memories are good memories,” he added.
Pierre told Dateline that his bright, cheery day, quickly turned into the worst day of his life.
“At around 10 a.m., my grandmother came in to get her hair done,” Pierre told Dateline. The next customer who came in, he said, found Yvonne dead on the salon floor.
Pierre said his stepmother, who also worked as a volunteer firefighter, called him and told him to get down to the salon as quickly as he could. “I jumped in my car. I was flying down the street,” Pierre said. He said all he knew at the time was that there had been a death at the salon. “At first, I was like ‘OK, it’s probably one of the customers,’” he said. Pierre told Dateline that Yvonne had a lot of older clients, so he thought maybe one of them had passed away.
But when Pierre arrived at the salon, he realized that Yvonne was the one who had died. “I was just totally dumbfounded about the whole thing,” Pierre said. He told Dateline that, initially, he thought Yvonne’s death was an accident. “Somebody told me that she hit her head.” It wasn’t until Pierre received the death certificate a few days later that he said he realized Yvonne had been murdered. “The death certificate said blunt force trauma,” he told Dateline.
According to Pierre, he wasn’t the only one confused -- the community was, too.
He said everyone loved Yvonne, and no one could believe that someone would actually want to hurt her. “I mean, the amount of people that showed up to her funeral says a lot,” Pierre said. He added that the funeral director told him that he had “never seen a turnout for a funeral like this.”
The New York State Police Department got to work right away trying to figure out who killed Yvonne. But the leads were scarce. Although he wasn’t with the department at the time, Matthew Schaffer is now the lead investigator assigned to the case. He confirmed that Yvonne Torch was killed on June 9, 2004, between 10:40 a.m. and 10:55 a.m. at “His and Hers Salon” located at 51-50 Route 9W in Newburgh, New York.
Pierre told Dateline that at the beginning, investigators were looking at him as a suspect. “I spent the next three weeks going through sheer hell,” Pierre said. But police eventually ruled him out.
Investigator Schaffer confirmed Pierre’s account. “I honestly don't believe he was ever really considered a suspect,” Schaffer said. “He was just the person that had the most information.”
The investigator told Dateline that at the time of Yvonne’s murder, “there were a lot of possibilities” of who could have killed her, but they “never really narrowed down” the list.
And that remains true today, over 18 years later. “They never found a suspect,” Pierre told Dateline.
Investigator Schaffer confirmed that there are still no known suspects for Yvonne’s murder, but told Dateline that they are still working hard on the case. “We’re going through reading every document,” Schaffer said. “It just takes a lot of time to be able to digest all this information.”
Despite the lack of leads in his wife’s case, Pierre says he still hasn’t given up hope. “I have a lot of faith right now,” he told Dateline. Pierre said now that there is a new team of investigators dedicated to the case, he’s “got a really good feeling” about getting justice for Yvonne. “I’m really hoping something’s going to happen soon.”
Anyone with information about Yvonne’s murder is asked to contact the New York State Police Department at (845) 344-5370 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.