Girl, 5, likely killed because she witnessed mother's murder, Crown tells jurors

Sara Baillie was killed because she was trying to rescue her best friend from life as an escort in an abusive relationship, and her daughter was murdered because she'd witnessed her mother's death, the prosecution suggested to jurors as Edward Downey's first-degree murder trial got underway Monday morning.

Downey faces 2 charges of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of Sara Baillie and Taliyah Marsman

Edward Downey, 48, has been in custody since his arrest. His jury trial is set to last until December 14, 2018. (CBC)

Five-year-old Taliyah Marsman was likely killed because she witnessed her mother's murder, the prosecution told jurors on Day 1 of Edward Downey's trial, which got underway Monday in Calgary.

Downey, 48, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Taliyah and her mother, Sara Baillie, 34, who were killed July 2016.

Baillie's body was found stuffed in a laundry hamper in her daughter's bedroom in the basement apartment they shared in northwest Calgary.

Downey's fingerprints were on the duct tape that had been wrapped around her head.

'Old enough to ID her mother's killer'

Prosecutor Carla MacPhail told jurors the Crown's theory is that Taliyah witnessed Downey killing her mother.

"She was almost six, old enough to identify her mother's killer, especially if she knew him."

Taliyah did know Downey — he was the boyfriend of Baillie's best friend.

The Crown's theory is that Baillie may have been killed because she was trying to rescue her best friend — a woman who can only be identified as AB — from life as an escort and from her abusive relationship with Downey. 

Baillie had witnessed Downey punching AB in the face a month before her death. Downey had texted friends about his displeasure with Baillie.

Sara Baillie and Taliyah Marsman were killed in July 2016. (Facebook)

On July 10, 2016, the day before Baillie's body was discovered, AB texted Downey, telling him: "It's time to pack your bags, I'm ending this relationship."

"This was the breaking point," MacPhail told the jury. "You will be asked to consider what impact this had on Mr. Downey."

Downey had also "taken steps toward [AB] working as escort but she decided she did not want to do it."

In a text message to a friend, Downey wrote: "I'm down to one bitch and she's square … I had her hanging with that white one."

MacPhail suggested Downey blamed Baillie for his breakup and because AB had decided she did not want to work as a prostitute for him.

'We heard him gasp'

Officers went to her home in the northwest community of Panorama Hills to check on her at the family's request. 

The day after the breakup text message, AB — who worked at Taliyah's daycare — became concerned when the child didn't arrive by 10:30 a.m. It was at that point AB discovered Baillie also hadn't shown up at her job at the Airport Chili's Restaurant.

AB began alerting Baillie's family, who called police.

Marilynne Hamilton, Baillie's aunt, was one of the concerned family members who had arrived at her niece's home hoping to find out why she had failed to show up for work. 

Hamilton described the moment a Calgary police officer discovered Baillie's body in Taliyah's bedroom.

"We heard him gasp, he told us not to come in," she said through sobs. 

Taliyah missing

Duct tape was wrapped "around and around and around, Baillie's head, face, neck and wrists, said prosecutor MacPhail.

A bone in Baillie's neck was broken, her body was bruised and battered and she'd suffered injuries to her face. 

Baillie's five-year-old daughter, Taliyah, was missing from their basement apartment.

MacPhail told the jurors they will hear evidence that on the day the 34-year-old mother's body was discovered, neighbours witnessed a short, stocky man escort a child out of Baillie's white car into a car matching the description of AB's.

The night before Taliyah disappeared, she had FaceTimed with her father, Colin Marsman, to show him she had lost a tooth.

The girl's beloved iPad remained on her bed. 

An Amber Alert was activated and distraught family members made public pleas through the media for the safe return of the girl.

Cellphone evidence

Three days later, investigators discovered Taliyah's body on a rural property, in a stand of bushes, about eight kilometres east of Calgary.

She had been asphyxiated. 

Downey's cellphone was forensically examined. Police discovered it had been near Baillie's home the Monday morning that her body was discovered and then in then rural area where Taliyah's body was found later in the day.

In fact, it was Downey's cellphone data that police used to help find the child's body, said MacPhail. 

Downey was charged with two counts of first-degree murder the same day that Taliyah's body was found.

On Monday morning, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Beth Hughes delivered an opening address to jurors.

Downey is represented by defence lawyers Gavin Wolch and Meryl Friedland.

A jury of seven women, five men was selected last Wednesday. 

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.