Langley, B.C., mother Kerryann Lewis has been found not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her seven-year-old daughter.
Aaliyah Rosa was found dead on the bathroom floor in her mother's apartment in Langley's Willoughby Slope neighbourhood on July 22, 2018.
Crown prosecutors had argued that Lewis drugged and drowned her daughter, but on Friday, Justice Martha Devlin said in New Westminster Supreme Court that while the death was tragic and devastating, evidence presented at trial was not conclusive in establishing the mother's guilt.
The verdict was clearly upsetting to some in the courtroom who were heard yelling profanities after it was read out.
'Alternative scenarios' couldn't be ruled out: judge
Devlin said it was incumbent on the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lewis, 38, had intentionally drugged and then drowned the girl, but that "alternative scenarios" — like the girl falling into the tub — could not be ruled out and therefore supported inferences other than guilt.
She said while it may be shocking to think that Lewis left her daughter on the bathroom floor, there was no evidence that the girl was alive or dead when Lewis found her, and it did not make her guilty of murder.
"In this case there are many things we do not and cannot know," she said.
Devlin noted the Crown did not pursue other charges that may have been applicable in the case.
Stephen Rosa, Aaliyah's father, had custody of his daughter and last saw her alive around 10 a.m. the morning of her death when he dropped her off with Lewis for an unsupervised visit, the court heard.
When Lewis didn't show up to transfer Aaliyah back to her father at 5 p.m. later the same day, friends went to Lewis's apartment and found the girl's body cold and wet on the floor of an ensuite bathroom, wearing shorts and wrapped in a pink bathrobe.
Lewis was found face down in a bathtub. The Crown prosecutor said her blood showed signs of cannabis, benzodiazepines and alcohol.
The court heard that Aaliyah had two depressants in her system at the time of death, diphenhydramine and lorazepam.
Court also also heard that Lewis had bought Sleep Eze and Ativan, which contain those substances, at a Shoppers Drug Mart in the hours before her daughter died.
Devlin said that although she believed Lewis gave the girl drugs, she could not conclude that she intended to kill her daughter, or that they were the same drugs purchased earlier in the day as there were other drugs in the apartment containing the same substances.
Devlin said it was possible that Lewis had given Aaliyah the drugs to keep her quiet, and possible she had purchased the drugs for her own use as she was distressed over a very recent breakup.
The court also heard that Aaliyah had suffered a mild head injury, as well as an injury to the left side of her neck. Devlin said evidence presented made it reasonable to assume the injuries were accidental and not necessarily related to her death.