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‘They mattered:’ Calgary court hears from family of murdered mother, daughter

CALGARY — Friends and relatives told a Calgary sentencing hearing they’re haunted by images of a slain mother and daughter’s final moments and they lament the potential that was lost.

Victim impact statements were read in court Friday as convicted double murderer Edward Downey sat placidly.

A jury found Downey, 49, guilty last year of first-degree murder in the 2016 deaths of Sara Baillie and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman.

“You didn’t have the right to decide that their lives didn’t matter, because they mattered to us. They mattered a lot,” Baillie’s aunt Marilynne Hamilton told Downey, her voice choked by tears. Her husband Scott and daughter Alex were by her side.

Framed photos of Baillie and Taliyah were placed in Downey’s line of sight.

The trial heard Downey believed Baillie had influenced her best friend to break up with him and to not work for him as an escort. The Crown argued that Baillie’s daughter was a witness who needed silencing.

The convictions come with an automatic life sentence, but a judge is to determine whether Downey must wait 25 or 50 years before he can apply for parole. The Crown is seeking consecutive periods of parole ineligibility, meaning Downey would be 96 before he has a chance at freedom.

The trial heard that Baillie, 34, was found dead in a laundry hamper in her daughter’s closet with duct tape wrapped around her face, neck and wrists. Taliyah was missing. The girl’s remains were found in some bushes east of the city three days later.

Both died by asphyxiation.

Downey repeatedly denied the killings in his testimony.  

Alex Hamilton said she should be having happy flashbacks about her cousin Baillie, who she said was like a sister, and Taliyah, who she described as her favourite part of any day.

“Instead my head is flooded with the awful things they were forced to endure,” she said, adding she has trouble sleeping and panic attacks.

“I do not wish this type of trauma or heartbreak on my worst enemy, not even you Mr. Downey.”

Scott Hamilton, an uncle, said the family was robbed of joyful moments that never happened — Taliyah starting Grade 1, dance recitals, soccer games and birthdays.

He said he tries not to think about the hours between the deaths of mother and daughter, but questions haunt him.

“Did Taliyah know that Mr. Downey had murdered her mom? Was she missing her mom? … Was she crying out to be saved?”

He said there’s an ice cream stain from Taliyah on his car’s passenger seat that he still can’t bring himself to clean.

Baillie’s mother and Taliyah’s grandmother, Janet Fredette, said she can’t close her eyes at night without imagining her daughter fighting for her life, and that the greatest impact has been a loss of hope for a happy future.

“I live on, but the three entwined lives that were Sara, Taliyah and me are gone,” she said in a statement read by prosecutor Ryan Jenkins.

Baillie’s best friend, who testified behind a screen at trial and cannot be identified because of a publication ban, also had her victim impact statement read by Jenkins.

“(Sara) would have wanted you to know that you didn’t break us,” the friend wrote.

“She would have wanted you to know that you didn’t win. I want you to know that you didn’t win.”

Prosecutor Carla MacPhail cited a number of aggravating factors, including Downey’s record of escalating crimes since his early twenties, the brutality of the murders and their deliberate nature.

“He traded the life of a five-year-old for a chance to escape liability.”