The Calgary man who is accused of beating his stepdaughter to death said he lied to undercover police officers when he confessed to the killing because he "didn't want to lose" the attractive lifestyle his new friends had introduced him to.
Justin Bennett is on trial for second-degree murder in the 2017 death of Ivy Wick, 3, who was the daughter of his then-girlfriend Helen Wordsworth. Bennett has other children of his own.
Ivy was injured on Sept. 27, 2017. She died eight days later, on Oct. 5, after she was brought to hospital suffering serious head and brain injuries.
Bennett was charged a year after the toddler's death, following a lengthy undercover police operation that ended with Bennett graphically describing his rage against the child who had interrupted his video game.
Bennett 'loved' new life
Over that year, undercover police convinced Bennett he had been accepted into a quasi-criminal organization.
The men who befriended Bennett showed him a life he said he "loved" and a group he badly wanted to stay part of.
The jobless, near-homeless Bennett, who could barely read, suddenly had an income, a job and friends, and was attending fancy restaurants in new clothing purchased by the undercover officers.
"I loved it," Bennett said to his lawyer, Allan Fay.
Bennett knew police were investigating him for Ivy's death, and as they closed in, he was taken to the leader of the group he believed he was working for.
'I smashed her head'
Earlier, he'd been witness to an undercover scenario where police pretended one of the men in the group was sent to Regina and protected after he assaulted a woman.
Bennett's new group of friends promised they could also keep him out of trouble.
Video played earlier in the trial showed Bennett telling "the boss" — an undercover police officer — that he checked to make sure his girlfriend was showering before punching Ivy in the head, shoving her into a wall and tripping her as she ran away.
"I smashed her head," he said.
Bennett 'didn't want to lose everything'
But on Thursday, he said that confession was a lie.
"I didn't want to lose everything," he said.
The group's boss told Bennett his story didn't match Ivy's injuries. On Thursday, Bennett testified he made up a story to align with the medical evidence.
In his testimony, Bennett also painted Ivy's mother as the one capable of abusing the child.
He testified she would get "very angry" with Ivy — had flicked her daughter in the lip and once carried her by an ankle to the girl's bedroom.
On the day of Ivy's fatal injuries, Bennett said, the girl ran to her room after getting in trouble for a tantrum. Then, he said, he heard a "scream and a thud."
Once in the bedroom, Bennett said, he saw Ivy was unconscious. Ivy's mother, who had been in the shower, came into the child's bedroom.
Bennett testified Ivy's arms were wet when he picked her up off the floor.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Blair Nixon is presiding over the judge-alone trial with chief Crown Sue Kendall prosecuting the case.