A Calgary jury has convicted Edward Downey of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman.
The mother and daughter were killed on July 11, 2016.
The Crown argued Baillie was killed because Downey, 48, blamed her for his deteriorating relationship with his girlfriend and that Taliyah was murdered because she likely would have been able to identify him as her mother’s killer.
Following the three-week trial, it took the sequestered jury less than three hours to make their deliberations.
Clapping, cheering and crying from the victims’ family and friends was heard as the verdict was read.
Downey looked straight ahead as the verdict was read and showed no emotion.
Following the verdict, 11 of the 12 jurors recommended Downey face a consecutive 50-year parole ineligibility, with one juror making no recommendation.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Beth Hughes thanked the jurors for serving their community, and family members of the victims shouted « thank you » and clapped as they left the courtroom.
‘Sara died trying to help her friend’
Baillie’s mother, Janet Fredette, read an emotional statement following the verdict.
She thanked the press for giving the family privacy throughout the trial, police for their work on the investigation, victim services for their support, and Crown prosecutors for the verdict.
« It has been a long two-and-a-half years to get to this moment in time, » Fredette said, with her family standing behind her.
« We are most pleased with the outcome of the trial and we are sure justice will be served… Now I can go home and bury Sara and Taliyah’s ashes and let them rest in peace.
« Our hope is that in time, and little by little, this powerful love we feel for the girls will gradually take up more and more space in our minds each and every day, that pictures and songs of the happier times will settle on us and drive out the darkness that has become part of our daily lives for the most recent past. »
Fredette said the result is proof the system works.
« Sara died trying to help her friend out of a bad situation. She is a hero, » she said.
« Sara’s death ensures no other individual will be harmed by Mr. Downey. »
The judge had instructed the jury to make a decision on a « rational and fair consideration of all the evidence. »
According to the prosecution, Downey hated Baillie because she had influenced her best friend — a woman who can only be identified as AB — who was dating Downey at the time. AB had refused to work as an escort for Downey, who has a history of pimping out his girlfriends.
Their relationship had deteriorated and one day before the killings AB texted Downey telling him to pack his bags.
Text messages from Downey to his then-girlfriend in the month before the deaths showed he disliked Baillie, calling her « disrespectful » and expressing anger that AB was spending time with her.
Prosecutor Carla MacPhail told jurors the Crown’s theory is Downey showed up at Baillie’s apartment on that morning and killed her by wrapping her face in duct tape and then strangling her. He then stuffed her body in a laundry hamper.
Baillie’s body was discovered hours later in her daughter’s bedroom closet. Two of Downey’s fingerprints were on the duct tape wrapped around her face, neck and wrists, according to evidence presented during the trial.
But Downey testified in his own defence, and while he admitted to being in Baillie’s apartment on the morning of the killings, he told defence lawyer Gavin Wolch he was there with acquaintances to make a drug deal. Downey said he knew one of the men as Terrance but couldn’t remember the name of the other.
While in the apartment, Downey said, Baillie put her daughter in a bedroom and then got into an argument with Terrance in another room. When Terrance called out for duct tape, the unnamed friend threw him the roll and he ripped off a piece, he testified. When he handed it to Terrance, Baillie didn’t say a word, according to Downey.
He left the two men in the apartment, drove home and then returned to find the pair outside waiting for him, he testified.
The Crown told jurors Downey invented the two men and called his version of events « patently absurd. »
Evidence from Downey’s cellphone put him at Baillie’s home during the time period when she was killed and in the rural area near where Taliyah’s body was recovered later that same day.
Downey said he was to meet Terrance and the other man at a northeast location but then decided to keep driving east instead, which is how he explained his cellphone pinging off towers near where the child’s body was dumped.
All the while, Downey was text messaging with a new love interest. MacPhail suggested that when their conversation ceased for five minutes it was because Downey was dumping Taliyah’s body in a stand of bushes.
Emotions boiling over
Family members of the victims, including Taliyah’s father, Colin Marsman, packed into the courtroom every day to bear witness to the difficult evidence, often unable to hold in their horror, sometimes gasping and sobbing as gruesome details were revealed.
Downey’s mother has also been in the gallery throughout the trial. She was late returning to the courtroom to hear the verdict, entering shortly after it was announced.
The judge and sheriff warned those in the courtroom to be respectful as emotions boiled over following the verdict, with one person telling Downey, « you’ll rot in there. »
A first-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
His sentencing date will be set on Jan. 15, and victim impact statements will be heard during sentencing.