Mom’s video shakes insanity plea

She held her daughter’s head under water for at least two minutes, until the little girl’s heart stopped beating.

Then she did it again.

Of this there is no doubt, no denial.

Probably, it was 19-month-old Sophia who was drowned first. During a police interrogation, her mother describes vaguely how the toddler had been scooped from the tub strangely still and then having to chase down Sophia’s sister, 3-year-old Serena, who didn’t want to take her evening bath.

Picture that, for a moment, a child who may have realized that her own mom was intent on killing her, with nowhere to run.

It’s impossible to determine when Elaine Campione was telling the truth and when, or if, she was lying in all the interviews conducted later by police and psychiatrists.

In one conversation, Campione told a doctor about having flashbacks or maybe it was a movie her confused brain was recalling, she wasn’t sure. But there was an image that had come to her, of Serena pressing Sophia’s head into the bath water.

The 35-year-old accused has never tried to point the finger of homicidal blame at anybody else, her lawyer claimed here this week; quietly admitted the dead girls were lying in her bed — go look — when cops came pounding on her door early on the morning of Oct. 4, 2006.

“She did. She did try to blame someone else,’’ Crown Attorney Enno Meijers countered on Friday, in his closing address to the jury. “She tried to blame Serena for Sophia’s death.’’

Campione, who never once raised her head in the witness box during Meijers’ three-hour summation of a case that will go to the jury next week, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of her daughters. The defence has acknowledged that Campione “caused the girls to drown’’ but argues she should be found not criminally responsible due to severe mental illness — that the doting mom, her mental equilibrium tragically askew, was unable to grasp the legal or moral wrongness of her actions.

The prosecution, while conceding Campione was emotionally distraught and indeed mentally sick, says she nevertheless fully understood what she was doing, planned it, deliberated on it — all requirements that must be met for a first-degree murder conviction — and vengefully committed the crimes to spite her estranged husband, choosing to kill the girls rather than lose them in a looming custody battle.

“She would rather kill the girls than let him have them. She said as much before she killed them and she said as much after she killed them.’’

There is, most damaging, the videotape that Campione herself shot between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4, by any definition a confessional: Footage of the girls on the last evening of their lives, Sophia splashing in the tub and Serena colouring, then 47 minutes when the camera is shut off, and then Campione reappearing on the screen, sitting on a sofa, unleashing a toxic diatribe against her husband, Leo, forever wounding words of venom and scorn, of sending the girls and herself (she had taken a drug overdose, allegedly intending suicide) to Heaven.

At some point, she made herself a cup of tea.

Not until some 36 hours later — after grooming the corpses, laying them out on her bed, setting out their burial clothes, writing funeral instructions — did she call police to her Barrie apartment, passively informing them her daughters were dead.

Killing her daughters was not a spontaneous decision, made during an episode of sudden and exculpative psychosis, Meijers argued. Campione had already told her sister, in a phone call, that if she couldn’t have the girls “nobody would.’’ She’d given away an expensive coat the maternal grandparents had bought as a gift for Serena, telling a neighbour: “They will never grow into a Size 6.’’ Gave away Dora the Explorer bed linen because “they’ll never sleep in twin beds.’’

And, an entire year earlier, when leaving her husband and moving temporarily into a women’s shelter — where she looked down her nose at others in the same predicament, women fleeing abusive partners, children in tow — Campione had confided to another resident: “One day, I’d like to do a grand gesture. Leo will come home and find me and the kids dead in the house.’’

The horrific scene police discovered that morning four years ago was exactly the tableau Campione had envisioned, Meijers told court. “What these officers walked into was a set, a perfectly prepared stage.’’

On the tape she’d conveniently rewound to an appropriate starting point and left on a table — the screed that was cued to resound after her death — a clear-eyed Campione hurls vitriol at her husband:

“There’s no way I could have them with you. You’re a horrific monster!

“You’re constantly lying lying lying lying. Now you deal with this you. You deal with it for the rest of your life.

“I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.’’

Meijers: “Is there any mistaking the tone? Is there any mistaking the purpose of this tape, the pure, vindictive hatred?’’

The prosecution asserts this was a spousal revenge killing, carefully plotted. The defence maintains a floundering and mentally deteriorating Campione, despondent over a custody hearing scheduled for later in the week where her compromising mental health records would be entered to illustrate her unfitness as primary caregiver to the children, snapped under duress, plummeting into a recurrence of psychotic unreality.

Onus is on the defence to prove mental illness so profound that it rendered Campione irrational and not responsible for the criminal act.

Meijers summoned strong arguments to discredit this position, which had been disputed by psychiatrists who testified as duelling expert witnesses.

The prosecutor argued that Campione simultaneously detested her husband and longed for a reconciliation — a hope that waned as Leo appeared to be moving on with his life, sending her papers to sell the matrimonial home, apparently starting a new relationship with another woman, and then playing “hardball’’ in his bid for full custody.

“The children remained the link to him. If she lost the children, the link is gone. As her hope is fading, her anger is resurfacing.’’

But it wasn’t her husband that a furious Campione set her sights on murdering. It was their innocent daughters, so that Leo would spend a lifetime in guilt and grief.

“There is overwhelming evidence that she planned it, she executed that plan, she set the scene for them to found. But then she woke up.’’

At that juncture, after failing to succumb to a drug overdose, Campione was left with a double-murder scenario she couldn’t alter, Meijers continued. She could only feign memory loss of the actual killings and plead insanity, he said.

“She knows the jig is up.’’

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply