'I'm past the anger': Defence wraps evidence in Calgary toddler death trial

·2 min read

CALGARY — The defence concluded its case Friday in the trial of a man who has admitted to the murder of his girlfriend but denies he also killed her 22-month-old daughter.

Robert Leeming, 36, has pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Jasmine Lovett and not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Aliyah Sanderson.

The mother and child were reported missing in April 2019 and, a few weeks later, their bodies were found in a shallow grave in a recreational area west of Calgary.

Leeming was the only witness to testify for the defence.

"No further defence evidence," his lawyer, Balfour Der, told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi, who heard the case without a jury.

Leeming testified that Aliyah accidentally died after falling down some stairs and that he killed Lovett when she accused him of harming the girl.

He told court that he "just snapped" and bludgeoned Lovett with a hammer. As she lay bleeding on the floor of the home they shared, he went and retrieved a .22-calibre rifle and shot her in the head.

Leeming said he didn't hurt Aliyah, whom he described as "a great kid." He said he happily took on parenting duties to help his on-and-off-again girlfriend.

Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for Tuesday.

Crown prosecutor Doug Taylor promised to provide legal precedents to the judge before final arguments.

"The court does not have to be able to find with certainty the exact mechanisms of how it is that the accused would have committed the murder against Aliyah Sanderson, just so long as he is found to be legally responsible for it," Taylor said.

Aliyah's grandmother, Jodi Sanderson, said outside court that she's eager for the case to end.

"It's hard to watch. You know what happened, but to hear it explained in detail was pretty traumatic. I'm glad we're finally coming to a close and it'll be all over soon," Sanderson said.

She's past being angry, she added, but a conviction would provide some comfort.

"That would be the biggest relief. He's already admitted to Jasmine. That's another thing that really rocks me to the core. To not admit to Aliyah, at least ... some wrongdoing, is very hard to listen to."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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