Nov 16, 2010
Elaine Campione's whole body began to shake and she burst into loud sobs after the jury found her guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her daughters Serena, 3, and Sophia, 19 months.
The defence had conceded from the beginning that Campione drowned her children in October 2006, just days before a family court appearance at which her ex-husband was to fight for custody. But lawyer Mary Cremer had urged the jury to find Campione not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.
Three of the jurors wiped tears from their eyes Monday as the verdict was delivered.
Justice Alfred Stong told the court that because of the "unimaginable facts of this case" he is ordering the Ministry of the Attorney General to cover any counselling the jurors may want.
"The circumstances of this case are undeniably and inordinately tragic," Stong said after the verdict was read. "One can only hope that they do not reflect, even at their most extreme, a direction of our society."
Stong continued on, telling the court about the "breakdown of the family unit" and an "increasing inability to make personal commitments, much less permanent commitments."
"It is more than disconcerting to think that if Ms. Campione had not been so abused, so used and discarded as a person, her two daughters could still be alive," Stong said.
The jury, which heard seven weeks of testimony and deliberated for nearly a week, was tasked with sifting through evidence of Campione's suicide attempts and mental illness. They heard doctors had diagnosed her as having unspecified psychosis with borderline personality traits, post-traumatic stress disorder from spousal abuse, depression and an eating disorder when she was younger.
The trial heard that Campione spent time in psychiatric wards, attempted suicide, had delusions that people were trying to kill her and steal the girls and exhibited bizarre behaviour including not letting one of her daughters touch anything red and claiming she saw aliens.
During their deliberations the jury asked the judge three questions, including asking him to clarify the phrase "morally wrong."
The Crown didn't deny Campione was mentally unwell, but lawyer Enno Meijers argued it did not prevent her from knowing right from wrong. He had argued Campione killed the girls out of spite so her abusive ex-husband couldn't get custody.
While assault charges against Leo Campione were stayed after his wife was charged with killing their children, the trial heard evidence that he hit his wife and eldest daughter.
Leo Campione and his family have been given the chance to make victim impact statements on Wednesday before Elaine Campione is formally sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Campione's lawyer said she hopes her client will get the help she needs in prison, but called the case a tragic indictment of Ontario's mental-health system.
"From June 2005 to October of 2006, Ms. Campione sought help six times and she became an involuntary psychiatric patient three other times," Cremer said outside court.
"It's a sad statement in that our system is horribly underfunded. We are not equipped to deal properly with mental-health issues. We are short of psychiatrists."
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said his government would "take a very close look at the case, in particular the findings, to find out what exactly we might do."
"We always have a responsibility in government to take a look at the findings, the facts that were brought forward, to determine what we might do to improve the quality of care and oversight that we provide to children in particular," said McGuinty.
Campione is "devastated" by the verdict, said Cremer, who added she is considering an appeal.
"This is a woman who was suffering, ravaged terribly by mental illness," she said. "She herself lost her children as well in this whole ordeal."
The sisters were found on Oct. 4, 2006, after Campione calmly called police to say her children were dead, though she likely killed them two days earlier.
When officers arrived they found the little bodies dressed in pyjamas, posed in Campione's bed holding hands. The odour of decomposition was already in the air. A photo album and a rosary had been placed with their bodies and little Sophia's hair had been combed. Underneath a tuft of hair that had been brushed across Sophia's forehead were marks that looked like the bath mat.
In that room a videotape was found showing footage from the night of Oct. 2, 2006 of the sisters playing and colouring. The tape was turned off at 8:39 p.m. and then at 9:27 p.m. the video camera is turned back on and Campione is sitting alone on a couch facing the camera.
"Leo, there are you happy?" she says. "Everything's gone ... The idea that you could actually have my children — God believes me and God's taking care of them now."
She goes on to spew vitriol about her ex-husband, calling him a "hideous monster" and "the devil."
"I want you to know how much I hate you," Campione says on the video. "You couldn't leave us alone. You wanted to win and you won ... Are you happy? ... You beat your wife to death and your children and don't you ever, ever, ever forget it."
The camera was turned on again at 8:19 a.m. on Oct. 3 and Campione, sitting in the same spot, tells the camera she tried to overdose but it didn't work. The camera is turned on again soon after.
"It's morning and our babies are in heaven," Campione says.