Prosecutors allege Edmonton soldier attempted to murder her 3 children over custody decision

An Edmonton soldier attempted to kill herself and her three children rather than allow her ex-husband to gain full custody, Crown prosecutors alleged Monday. 

The mother of three pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson as a two-week trial got underway in Edmonton’s Court of King’s Bench.

The woman cannot be identified because of a publication ban to protect the identities of her children.

In an opening statement, Crown prosecutor Dallas Sopko said that in July 2015, the woman was reckoning with her ex-husband, whom she despised, having been granted primary custody of the children.

“This case is about a mom who came to the conclusion that she would rather kill herself and her three children rather than comply with a court order,” Sopko said.

Years of investigation

Sopko said he will call evidence showing that the mother took her children on a spending spree weekend at West Edmonton Mall, spending much more money than she normally would.

On July 19, 2015, the children were supposed to attend camp, but were sick so that they spent the day watching movies in their mother’s bed, which is where they fell asleep, Sopko said. 

He said at some point, the mother went to the basement and lit a fire with the intent of killing both herself and the children.

Four neighbours, who all testified Monday, rescued the mother and children from the burning home after noticing smoke coming from the home. 

It took several years of investigation by military police to lay charges, Sopko said.

Among the evidence prosecutors plan to point to is a letter investigators obtained that was written by the accused and addressed to her friend.

The prosecutor said it begins with the sentence “By the time you get this I will be either in jail or dead.” 

The note is written on Fantasyland Hotel stationary, which is the hotel inside West Edmonton Mall.

Statement to military police

A video recording of a four-hour statement the soldier gave to military police on March 8, 2016 was also entered as evidence, and is being played for the trial. 

In the first portion of the recording played Monday, the soldier, dressed in fatigues, sits at a table with military police officer Capt. Jay Baskerville, who explains that she is a suspect but that she is not under arrest.

“It’s been proven that it’s not an electrical fire — it’s a deliberately set fire,”  Baskerville tells the woman. “It is an arson investigation. We are trying to determine what happened.”

He tells her she has a right to call a lawyer or leave, but she says she came to speak to him to explain her side of the story. 

Baskerville asks the woman if she deliberately set the fire in her home, which she denies while crying.

The woman tells the investigator she was hoping the house fire would turn out to be electrical, and that she’s upset that someone would want to hurt her or that they would hate her so much that they would start a fire. 

She also tells the investigator about acrimony between her and her ex-husband.

“I married an asshole,” she says. “He’s threatened me many times before.”

When asked in the recording about the expensive weekend staying with her children at the hotel in West Edmonton Mall, she acknowledges that she doesn’t have a lot of money. She says that she is a good saver and able to manage the spending as the children were about to go to camp and then stay with their father.

She says she got a military discount on the hotel room, and that as hotel guests they got entry to Galaxyland for free.

She adds that she had already set aside money for back-to-school clothes and that she pitched it to the children as a “shopping spree” to get them excited.

“I was trying to make the best and the most of the time with the children.”

The rest of the video will be played at intervals throughout the trial as other witnesses are called to testify.

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