South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone has been found guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the December 2014 smothering death of her eight-year-old daughter, Teagan.
Justice Catherine Murray made the ruling at noon Friday (March 22) in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, after sharing lengthy reasons for the finding and noting the only issue for her to rule on was “whether the accused had the requisite intent for second-degree murder.”
Murray found “the killing was deliberate.”
“The accused’s actions were purposeful and goal-driven.
“Stand up, Ms. Batstone. I find you guilty of second-degree murder.”
The decision – for which an estimated 50 people turned out, including Teagan’s father, Gabe – comes two months after closing arguments in the disturbing case were heard.
Batstone was charged with second-degree murder after Teagan’s body was found in the trunk of a car in a cul-de-sac off Crescent Road on Dec. 10, 2014.
During trial, prosecutors contended evidence made it clear that Batstone had intent to kill her daughter. They pointed to the fact that Batstone never called 911, and that she left notes that read “I’m so sorry” and “you win Gabe, you broke me,” as well as a four-page letter with phrases that included, “I couldn’t imagine leaving here and leaving her to him.”
Murray agreed the evidence leads to a sole conclusion.
“The whole of the evidence points to only one inference,” she said. “When the accused smothered her daughter… whatever the motive… the only possible inference is that her intent was to end Teagan’s life.”
Defence counsel had argued that the mother’s level of intoxication at the time of Teagan’s death – along with borderline personality traits, significant levels of depression and a “cloud of stressors” – may have limited her ability to gauge the consequences of the act.
“It’s impossible to know… what truly was in Batstone’s mind in these crucial moments” before Teagan’s death, defence counsel told the court.
Murray, however, found the “factual foundation” for a defense of intoxication “lacking”; and disagreed that psycho-social stressors in Batstone’s life at the time she killed Teagan were reaching a climax.
She also found that evidence showed Batstone not only knew that holding a bag over her daughter’s mouth and nose would lead to death, but that she had planned to kill Teagan. As well, statements Batstone made of wanting to “die the same way Teagan did,” further support the finding that Batstone knew her actions would kill her daughter.
And, “she did nothing to try to save her,” Murray said.
Over the course of the trial, the court heard from the arresting officer, medical professionals who interacted with Batstone following her arrest and Teagan’s father, as well as other witnesses.
Testimony included that the mother had told hospital officials that she just wanted Teagan “to be with Jesus,” and that she killed Teagan “to spite Gabe.”
Prior to the start of court Friday, a post to the Teagan’s Voice Facebook page noted a hope “for some sanity and justice in this tragic saga.”
After court, Gabe Batstone told media the day wasn’t a win, as no verdict could bring Teagan back.
“There’s no victory, there’s no happiness. Teagan remains dead today and she will be tomorrow,” he said.
At the same time, “justice was served – at this moment in time,” he said.
“To see (the verdict) so well-thought-out, and so clear, laying out just what was obvious to those who had to live it, was meaningful.”
A conviction of second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence, and lawyers are to return to court on June 12 for a hearing regarding how long Batstone should remain ineligible for parole.
Gabe Batstone said his ex-wife took “seven decades of Teagan’s life” away from her, and should serve the same amount of time in jail.
Recognizing such a term is not an option, he said he “would love not to think and worry about her in our own lives (for) as long as possible.”
The judge-alone trial began in October.