Edmonton soldier found guilty of attempting to kill her children by arson
A female Edmonton soldier was found guilty of attempting to kill herself and her three children by setting their home on fire in 2015.
The 45-year-old may not be named because of a publication ban to protect the identity of her children.
Prosecutor Dallas Sopko argued during the trial that the woman was so embittered at having recently lost primary custody of her children that she chose to die with them rather than see her ex-husband have primary custody has.
John Little, Judge at the Edmonton Court of King’s Bench, said the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it set the fire on July 19, 2015 with intent to kill the children.
Their children, two sons and a daughter, were 10, 8 and 7 years old at the time of the fire. Neighbors rescued her – and her mother – after hearing cries for help in the middle of the night.
“I’m not pleased with that conclusion,” Little said in court Friday morning.
In the days leading up to the fire, the mother took her children shopping at the West Edmonton Mall, where they stayed two nights at the Fantasyland Hotel.
A letter she wrote to a friend on Fantasyland Hotel stationery said: “If you get this I’ll either be in jail or dead” and “Please don’t feel bad or guilty if you think that you could have done anything.” Enclosed with the letter was $10,000 in cash, which the friend later returned.
Little said the letter told him she was planning “something dangerous or illegal or both.” She had claimed it was related to a planned confrontation with her ex.
The judge said the woman’s oral testimony was “riddled with illogical and unreasonable allegations” and that he did not find it credible. He found that she had tried to distract the person who was interviewing her for a military police investigation.
The mother had claimed in court that she withdrew more than $11,000 before the fire because she decided to buy a house and needed to put her money in one place. She said she put the money in a glove compartment in her car for safekeeping while she and the kids were at the mall.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” the judge said.
Fire experts who examined the home at CFB’s Edmonton base said they believed the fire was started intentionally.
They found no equipment failures or other signs that it might have been an accident.
They found smoke detectors and accelerant in a bag in the basement of the home where the fire started.
The woman admitted in court that her children would not have been able to reach and remove the smoke detectors and that she did not know who did it.
Defense attorney Curtis Steeves had argued that security at the home was lax after the fire and that firefighters were moving things, but Little said he was confident evidence had not been improperly tampered with.
Little said the woman made sure her children were all in a room with her, removed the smoke detectors and started the fire.
She had an opportunity to back down from the plan when her sons woke her up several times and warned of smoke and then fire, he said.
The woman, who has not yet been sentenced, will be under house arrest with some exceptions, including attending doctor’s appointments.
Her next court date is March 10th.