Alberta mom cannot recall drowning her sons
Allyson McConnell's defence expected to focus on mental state
An Alberta woman who drowned her two young sons in a bathtub told a crowded courtroom today she could not remember what happened that weekend two years ago.
Allyson McConnell cried as she looked at pictures of the bathroom in her Millet home where the boys were found by their father Feb. 1, 2010.
Asked by her lawyer whether she had drowned Connor, two, and 10-month-old Jayden, McConnell said, "It is my understanding." Asked whether she remembers doing it, she said, "I do not."
But during cross-examination Monday afternoon, McConnell testified that three months into her therapy at Alberta Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Edmonton, she dreamt about Connor being at the bottom of the bathtub.
"He was looking up at me. He was calling out for me," she said. "I could actually hear him but I couldn't reach him."
When asked if she also had an image of Jayden in the tub, McConnell replied: "I could have. I don't know."
McConnell, testifying in her own defence in a Wetaskiwin courtroom, is being tried on two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of her two sons.
The defence hopes to establish that McConnell cannot be held legally responsible because she suffered from mental illness and was unable to form the intent to murder.
McConnell said she took sleeping pills and drank Bacardi Breezers, an alcoholic soda, on Friday night Jan. 29, 2010.
"I hoped I would overdose," she said. "I was totally overwhelmed."
Asked whether her older son was alive while she consumed the alcohol, she said she had no answer.
She told the court she remembered waking up vomiting with a metallic taste in her mouth.
She also remembers waking up in the bathtub holding electrical appliances. "It was dark," she said. Previous testimony indicated a breaker had tripped.
She told the court, not only can she not recall drowning her sons, she's still trying to figure out why she did it.
She was adamant she loved her sons and never had thoughts of harming them, only of hurting herself.
Her former husband, Curtis McConnell, who found the boys dead in the tub Monday, stifled his sobs in the front row of courtroom gallery.
Allyson McConnell, looking thin and drawn, stared at her lawyer as she took the witness box. She seemed stumped when her lawyer, Peter Royal, asked her age.
"I'm 33 years old, I believe," she said after a pause, explaining, "I haven't kept track of it recently."
Since the drownings, McConnell has made numerous suicide attempts.
McConnell attempted suicide for the first time after becoming pregnant by her own father at 15, she told the court, adding she subsequently had a miscarriage at 10 weeks and told no one about it.
"I didn't think my life was worth living," McConnell testified.
Bitter custody battle
Her former husband sat in the front row of the crowded courtroom, leaning forward as she began testifying about the start of their relationship.
McConnell said she met Curtis on his birthday in 2006 while both worked at a resort in British Columbia.
The McConnells were involved in difficult divorce proceedings and a bitter custody battle before the boys died. The couple had separated in March 2009, a month after Jayden was born.
Her pregnancy with Jayden was unexpected, she told the court Monday, adding she found out about it just as she landed a job in Leduc, Alta.
A judge prevented McConnell from returning to her native Australia with the boys three months before she killed them.
During the trial, McConnell has sat hunched over in the prisoner's box, not making eye contact with anyone. She only showed emotion when her ex-husband described finding the boys in a bathtub filled with water at the family's Millet home, 40 kilometres south of Edmonton.
Her psychiatrist is expected to testify this week followed by McConnell's sister and mother.
With files from Janice Johnston and Scott Fralick