'Freaked out and snapped': Calgarian testifies he killed girlfriend but not her toddler

·3 min read
Robert Leeming, right, has admitted to killing his girlfriend Jasmine Lovett but has pleaded not guilty in the death of her daughter. (Lovett family/CBC - image credit)
Robert Leeming, right, has admitted to killing his girlfriend Jasmine Lovett but has pleaded not guilty in the death of her daughter. (Lovett family/CBC - image credit)

Robert Leeming told a Calgary judge he "freaked out and snapped" after his girlfriend suggested he was involved in her daughter's death, hitting her in the head with a hammer twice before he ended her life with a gunshot.

On Wednesday, the 36-year-old began testifying in his own defence at his second-degree murder trial.

He's pleaded guilty to murdering girlfriend Jasmine Lovett but not guilty in the death of her daughter, 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson, who Leeming has now claimed died after an accidental fall down a set of stairs.

Through much of his testimony, Leeming cried and hiccuped. He told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi that he loved Aliyah and "treated her as my own."

'I heard a thump'

In April 2019, Leeming, Lovett and Aliyah were living together at a southeast Calgary town home.

Leeming told the judge on April 16, after he picked Aliyah up from school and brought her home, she fell down the stairs.

"I heard a thump and I saw her lying on the ground," Leeming told his lawyer, Balfour Der.

Aliyah seemed fine afterwards, and the two watched TV together, said Leeming.

But a couple of hours after he put her to bed, he says he discovered she was unresponsive.

'She was dying … I wanted it to stop'

By that point, Lovett was home from job interviews. Leeming says when neither could rouse the toddler, they went downstairs to the kitchen to get his cellphone.

"[We] were both crying and shouting at each other. She stood up to me and pointed at me and asked if I had done anything to Aliyah. I freaked out and I snapped and hit her with a hammer on the head," said Leeming.

After the initial attack, "she was dying and I wanted it to stop," he said.

Leeming testified that he couldn't bring himself to hit her again so he went into his garage, picked up a .22 and shot her in the head.

"It was the only thing I thought could be quick."

'I tried to hide it all'

Der asked his client what happened next.

"I tried to hide it all," Leeming said.

He stuffed part of Lovett's body into a plastic bag and tried to sop up the blood with a paper towel roll.

Leeming said he rolled both bodies in blankets and put them in the trunk of his car.

He said spent the next few hours "cleaning and drinking."

Evidence presented earlier in the trial suggests Leeming then drove to Kananaskis and left the bodies in shallow graves.

Undercover operation leads cops to bodies

Days later, after missing Easter dinner, Lovett was reported missing by her family.

Leeming was a suspect early on.

Days after Lovett's family reported her missing, Leeming was arrested and taken into police custody. He was released within 24 hours without being charged.

Two weeks after that police launched an undercover operation that took place on May 5 and into the early morning hours of May 6.

Two undercover officers befriended Leeming, telling him they had retrieved a bag of evidence from a nosy neighbour and offered to help him with his problems.

Lovett 'wanted too much,' says accused

One of the officers asked Leeming what Lovett had done to anger him.

Leeming told the officers Lovett "wanted too much … she wanted to get ... married."

He said Lovett knew he had been seeing someone else.

Five hours into their interaction, Leeming led the officers to the bodies in Kananaskis.

The victims had been doused in gasoline and wrapped in blue blankets before they were covered in dirt, mulch and branches.

Lovett had been shot and had suffered blunt force head injuries, according to a forensic pathologist. Her daughter had also suffered blunt force trauma to her head.

Leeming will continue his testimony under Der's questioning Wednesday afternoon.

After that, prosecutor Doug Taylor will cross-examine the admitted killer about his role in the toddler's death.

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