The Dupont de Ligoness family murders coverup theory explained

Netflix's popular true-crime series Unsolved Mysteries has covered over 1,000 mysteries since it started airing (originally on television.) More than half have since been solved. The mystery at the heart of one particular episode, however, looks set to remain frustratingly out of reach despite the best efforts of hobbyists sleuths to unravel its murky innards. In early April of 2011, we know that Agnes Ligoness and her three sons were murdered at their country estate in Nantes, France. We also know that the father of the murdered children and chief suspect in the case, Xavier Dupont de Ligoness, went missing soon after the murders took place. His fate remains unknown. Beyond these known facts, the Ligoness family murders is a slowly spinning cesspool of rumor, innuendo and speculation — as frustratingly obtuse as it is morbidly entertaining.

Here's a quick primer on the Ligoness family murders, and the bones of one of the stranger theories for why it all went down: that this is all part of an elaborate, decade-long cover-up.

Here's what we know

Xavier Ligonnes was no ordinary Frenchman. A bona fide Count (who appears not to have been afflicted with the pathological desire to count things and laugh maniacally), Xavier breathed the rarefied air of French nobility. People who knew the family said they were happy, content, and "normal" — or at least what passes for normal when you live a life of pastoral privilege in the French countryside.

In March of 2011, Xavier's father died, and Xavier inherited his old 22 rifle. Subsequent investigations revealed that he purchased a silencer and bullets for the weapon, and began practicing at a nearby gun range between March 26 and April 1. On April 11, a neighbor noticed something odd about the Ligoness home. The windows were shuttered, the house appeared to be uninhabited and a sign on the door simply read "return all mail to sender." A few days later, police investigated the home, finding it deserted. Photographs were gone. Beds were stripped. But there was no evidence of foul play.

A short time later Ligoness family members began to receive odd letters, purportedly written by Xavier. According to Women's Health Magazine, the letters explained that Ligoness had been working undercover for the American Drug Enforcement Agency. He and his family were being relocated to the United States, the letters claimed, adding that he and his family would be out of contact "for a few years."

Hmm.

Then it gets gory and weird

Weirdness stacked on top of more weirdness. All That's Interesting reports that on April 21 police investigators returned to the Ligoness family home to continue their investigation. This time they didn't come away empty handed. The bodies of Agnes and her three children were discovered, bundled in trash bags, and carefully buried beneath the back porch. Autopsies revealed the children had been drugged with a sedative, and that they'd been murdered somewhere between April 3 and 4. All had suffered fatal gunshot wounds to the head. The bullets had been fired by a 22 rifle. Each family member had been buried with a religious symbol — a strange incongruity against the indignity of a hasty trash bag burial. Xavier Ligoness was, of course, nowhere to be found.

So what happened to Xavier? Here's what subsequent investigation uncovered.

On April 12, security camera footage shows that Xavier was living it large at a five-star Toulouse resort in Southern France. On April 14, CCTV camera footage places Xavier in a remoter country town, Roquebrune-sur-Argens. He withdraws a small sum of money from an ATM, looks directly at the camera a moment (some say quite deliberately), and then footage captures him heading off on foot toward a remote and mountainous area. He's carrying a large bag. And there, any trace of him vanishes.

Why?

One possible explanation, according to one article in Screen Rant, boils down to money. Investigations revealed that Xavier was deep in debt from a string of botched business ventures. He was staring down the barrel of becoming a penniless aristocrat, no longer able to offer his family the life of privilege to which they'd become accustomed. Perhaps the double-whammy of guilt and the prospect of a life of poverty was enough to set him on a murderous path.

Then there's this coverup theory. It all gets back to those odd letters Xavier penned to family and friends in the days before the murders. What if there's a grain of truth there? Adding credence to the coverup idea, one Reddit sleuth has also pointed out some odd irregularities in how the case was handled. The identities of the victims were apparently never confirmed with DNA evidence. Moreover, the remains were hastily cremated. Even if the whole story of the DEA placing the Ligoness family on witness protection seems uncomfortably close to a corny 90's cop movie starring Mel Gibson, what if the letters are a sophomoric effort at covering up a deeper reason to disappear?

Sightings of Xavier's wife, Agnes, continue to trickle in. Some say she seems happy and well. Other accounts describe her as agitated. There have even been a few reports of sightings of Xavier himself, alive and well in Chicago. Who knows? Maybe, as Fox Mulder would say, the truth is out there.