Amber Lucius's mother charged with 1st-degree murder
Father is 'devastated by the tragic loss of my innocent, sweet and lovely daughter'
Laura Coward, the mother of nine-year-old Amber Lucius who was found dead in a vehicle in southern Alberta last week, has been charged with first-degree murder.
Coward, 47, was in court to face charges of breaking and entering and abduction.
But those charges were replaced with the murder charge during her Monday morning appearance in a Didsbury court, which is located just north of Calgary.
Coward appeared in court via closed circuit television. Her head was down and she was heard crying.
Amber's body was discovered on Sept. 2 in a vehicle on a rural road near the town of Sundre, about 50 kilometres from Didsbury.
Coward was found and arrested "in the vicinity" of the vehicle later that day, RCMP say.
Killing planned, RCMP allege
RCMP Insp. Garrett Woolsey said the first-degree murder charge applies to this case because of "elements of premeditation."
Roughly 35 investigators have worked "tirelessly" on the case, he said. Woolsey said he can't comment on the cause of death or the motive, nor would he say who called 911.
Outside the courthouse Monday, lawyer Mark Daoust said Coward has applied for legal aid.
"I think it was pretty obvious what her emotional state was in court and I'll just leave it at that," he said.
In a written statement released Monday, Duane Lucius said a private funeral for his daughter will be held later this week.
"I am devastated by the tragic loss of my innocent, sweet and lovely daughter. My heart is broken. The time I had with Amber was cut short but the time I had with her will always be the most special time of my life," he wrote.
Court documents show Coward and Lucius were involved in a custody battle over Amber, who lived in a rural area near Wetaskiwin.
A court document obtained by CBC News filed on Sept. 2 — the same day the girl was found dead — shows Coward did not return Amber by 6 p.m. on Aug. 31, as ordered by the court.
RCMP became "aware of the situation" late on Sept. 1, Woolsey said. A senior RCMP officer is reviewing whether or not an Amber Alert should have been issued for the girl.
Woolsey said he wanted to extend the sympathy of the RCMP to the father and the girl's family.
"It's this type of file that impacts communities, impacts RCMP officers, but most importantly impacts the family," he said.
RCMP officers also have resources available to help them deal with the emotional effects of such a crime, he said.
"Homicide investigations involving children are the worst of crimes. Children are true innocents. Homicide investigators deal with many deaths each year, but a child's death particularly affects all these investigators."
Excerpt from statement by Duane Lucius:
I am devastated by the tragic loss of my innocent, sweet and lovely daughter. My heart is broken. The time I had with Amber was cut short but the time I had with her will always be the most special time of my life.
Amber’s death comes as a terrible shock to all those who had the honour of knowing her, including her family and friends. This loss is felt by our entire community.
Amber was lots of fun. A parent never knows when a child may be taken from them, so I urge you to make the time to have fun with your children, and never take them for granted.
I want to thank the community for all the support I have received since I got this terrible news.