A Calgary man who admitted to murdering his former girlfriend but denied killing her daughter has been found guilty of killing the young girl.
Robert Leeming, 37, pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial to the second-degree murder of Jasmine Lovett in 2019 but not guilty in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson.
Leeming was convicted of second-degree murder Monday in connection with the death of the little girl.
His lawyer said during closing arguments in November that there’s no evidence to prove Leeming was responsible for the girl’s death.
Leeming testified he was looking after Aliyah when she fell down some stairs, then he found her limp and unresponsive when he checked on her later.
He said he snapped when Lovett accused him of doing something to her child and struck her several times with a hammer before coming back with a rifle and shooting her in the head.
The bodies of the mother and child were found buried in a shallow grave in Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary, in May 2019 after they went missing weeks earlier.
While reading his 54 page verdict, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi said Leeming continuously lied throughout his testimony.
“Mr. Leeming is not a believable witness,” said Yamauchi.
In his decision, Yamauchi said the testimony of medical examiner that indicated a fall ‘could not do that to Aliyah’ weighed heavily on his guilty verdict.
The judge found that Leeming had committed an unlawful act of assault on Sanderson that resulted in her death.
He says beyond a reasonable doubt, Leeming “intended the natural consequences of his actions,” knowing the injuries Sanderson sustained would result in her death.
“Mr. Leeming made a decision as to how he would conduct himself,” said Crown prosecutor Douglas Taylor following the announcement of the verdict.. “I would agree with you he told quite a few lies.”
It was a gut-wrenching experience for the family as they waited for Monday’s verdict.
Jodi Sanderson, Aliyah’s grandmother, wept in the courtroom as the judge convicted Leeming in the death of her 22-month old granddaughter.
Leeming sat in a grey sweater in court on Monday morning with his head down, showing little emotion.
“His actions and demeanour were nothing but disturbing,” said Sanderson.
“At one point, they thought he was falling asleep, so we stopped for a little bit to wake him up which was extremely weird,” added Lovett’s mother, Kim Blankert.
For the victims’ family, today marks the beginning of a healing journey.
“I actually wanted to get up and hug the judge but I know that would have looked super weird,” said Blankert. “We’re pleased that we got justice and relieved that is over.”
A sentencing date has not been confirmed. A second-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence but the duration of Leeming’s parole exclusion will be determined.
Douglas said the Crown had not yet determined what sentence it would request.
“We’re going to process the reasons for decision, have a look at the facts and we’ll craft our sentencing position based on that,” he said.
“I would say it’s safe to say we’ll be asking for something in excess of 10 years,” added Taylor.
A court date to schedule a sentencing date is set to take place February 11, 2022.
A second-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence but the duration of Leeming’s parole exclusion will be determined.
Leeming’s lawyer said during closing arguments in November that there’s no evidence to prove Leeming was responsible for the girl’s death.
Balfour Der says he and Leeming are both ‘disappointed’ by the verdict.
“We ran a defence and believed that the man had a legitimate defence and that they hadn’t proved his guilt in relation to Aliyah,” said Der to CTV News.
“Credibility is a big part of this case. If he is not believed then that takes away the part of the defence that he spoke to.”
Der said the defence is looking at all options.
“We have some things in mind in what we would like to do,” said Der.
“Whether there is an appeal from this or not, time will tell (once) we digest the decision to see if there is anything that lends itself to an appeal.”
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News’ Austin Lee.
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