Alberta mother who drowned sons guilty of manslaughter
Judge not convinced Allyson McConnell could form intent to kill boys
An Alberta woman who admits to drowning her two young sons in her bathtub was found guilty today of manslaughter.
Justice Michelle Crighton rejected Friday a conviction on the more serious charge of second-degree murder.
"I would describe her as being tormented by the death of her boys, but at the same time confused regarding her role in that," she said.
Crighton told the court she has reasonable doubt about whether Allyson McConnell could form the intent to kill her sons, ages 10 months and two years.
During the trial, the prosecution argued McConnell killed her boys at the family home in Millet, Alta., as revenge against her husband, Curtis McConnell. The couple had been in a bitter divorce battle.
But the defence said McConnell's mind was so clouded by booze, sleeping pills and severe depression that she couldn't have formed the intent required to convict her of second-degree murder.
McConnell testified during her trial that she couldn't remember anything about the events of that cold winter weekend in early 2010.
Black hole in evidence
"Due to the black hole in the evidence, the court is left not knowing what happened in the McConnell home during the final few days of the McConnell children's lives, including what Allyson's mental state was when she drowned them," Crighton said.
"It is left with a reasonable doubt that she had the specific intent to kill her children," she said.
"The accused is entitled to the benefit of that doubt and, accordingly, she cannot be convicted of second-degree murder."
McConnell will be back in court on May 9 for sentencing.
The Crown expressed disappointment with the decision.
"I think the Crown proved murder, so I'm disappointed in that regard," said prosecutor Gordon Hatch. "But a verdict of murder would not have been any more satisfying in that these boys are dead and we can't do anything about that."
Hatch indicated the Crown will likely be looking for more jail time.
Hatch also said the McConnell family was also disappointed, but did not want to comment.
Allyson McConell's family also refused to speak to reporters after the verdict.
"The most important thing now is her recovery," defence lawyer Peter Royal told CBC News.
Royal said given the nature of McConnell's crimes and how other inmates might react, the Edmonton Institution for Women would "not be appropriate," for her to serve her sentence.
Royal said he will ask the judge to send her to the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon and will begin working immediately on having her transferred to her native Australia.
Not known when boys were drowned
It's not known when exactly during a three-day span that McConnell drowned infant Jayden and toddler Connor.
Investigators found several searches on her computer relating to suicide and drowning, including a search that asked: "How long does it take to drown?" and another asking: "How long does it take to die from strangulation?"
Officers also found a rope tied to a joist in the basement. A chair was sitting underneath.
On the morning of Feb. 1, McConnell drove to Edmonton, parked at a toy store, had lunch and then tried to kill herself by jumping off a bridge onto a busy freeway.
The trial was told it was her estranged husband, Curtis McConnell, who pulled the lifeless bodies of his little boys from a tub of freezing cold water.
He testified he frantically ran to get a neighbour to come and look in the bathroom, just in case he had imagined the whole thing. His wife had left her wedding ring sitting atop the toilet seat.
He said their divorce had been bitter and they had fought over custody of the boys, whom McConnell wanted to take back to Australia with her.
Curtis McConnell has also filed a lawsuit against his wife asking for damages for the children's deaths.
With files from Canadian Press