Calgary·Exclusive

Family of slain mother, toddler say unauthorized online fundraisers add to 'nightmare'

The mother of a Calgary woman found slain with her daughter in the Alberta woods says in an exclusive interview with the CBC that her grief has been coming in waves through the "nightmare" — and the last thing she expected to see was a stranger trying to cash in on the outpouring of support.

Jasmine Lovett's mother says strangers using family's name for online fundraisers

There's been an outpouring of support for a GoFundMe campaign to help pay funeral costs for Jasmine Lovett and her daughter, Aliyah. The fundraiser was approved by the family. (Kim Lovett)

The mother of a Calgary woman found slain with her daughter in the Alberta woods says in an exclusive interview with the CBC that her grief has been coming in waves through the "nightmare" — and the last thing she expected to see was a stranger trying to cash in on the outpouring of support.

"This has been a nightmare, you know, it's just, you can't even imagine how someone could do that,"  Kim Lovett said in an exclusive interview with CBC Calgary, speaking to the media for the first time about the tragedy.

The bodies of her daughter, Jasmine Lovett, 25, and granddaughter, Aliyah Sanderson, 22 months, were found on Monday in a wooded area off Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, following an intensive police search. 

They were reported missing two weeks earlier, on April 23, after missing a family dinner and police say they were last heard from on April 16.

Robert Leeming was charged Tuesday with two counts of second-degree murder. Leeming lived with the victims at his townhouse in the southeast Calgary neighbourhood of Cranston and had been in a domestic relationship with Jasmine that deteriorated over time, according to police.

Now Jasmine's grieving mother says the last thing she expected to see now was a stranger trying to cash in on the outpouring of support that the Lovett family has been receiving from friends and strangers.

Someone started their own fundraisers using the Lovett name.

"I think it's cruel and it makes us look bad, too, in a way. So I just want everyone to know we are not associated with this person and he hasn't asked us if he could use our name," Lovett said.

Similar but different

Lovett let her friend Dana Burrows start a GoFundMe account in the names of Jasmine and Aliyah in order to raise $30,000 to help pay for funeral costs. Any money that's left over, says Lovett, will be given to a women's shelter not yet chosen.

But on Tuesday, Lovett was notified of another GoFundMe page, also using Jasmine and Aliyah's names. 

Kim Lovett wants people to know she did not give permission for anyone to start this GoFundMe account in her daughter and granddaughter's names. Its since been closed. (GoFundMe)

Lovett says she didn't recognize the person's name who started it, Tyler Giglia.

"If they had their own GoFundMe that was separate from ours and didn't use our photo and tag our name to it, that would be different, but they did," said Lovett.

Giglia had raised $250 before Burrows contacted him and he shut it down. But Lovett says the potential to have benefited off their tragedy was huge.

Hours later, the family discovered another fundraiser by Giglia, this time on Facebook. The page said it was to help Robbie Sanderson and the Lovette (misspelled) family.

Lovett says Robbie Sanderson is Aliyah's father. But she says he hasn't been in contact with their family since last fall.

The Lovett family say they did not give approval for this person to start this account — and their family's name is misspelled. (Facebook)

CBC News reached out to Giglia.

In a written response, he said:

"I made a account for Robbie Sanderson and the Lovette family and received backlash from Dana I pulled the account down and still have it on my personal Facebook page for our friends. This is not the time for you to be talking to Robbie I cannot burden him with this outrageous behaviour of the public. Please do not include me personally in the story. Hopefully in your story you add how if u think someone is scamming contact go fund me."

When asked what he would use the money for, he said:

"For whatever it its needed for.. Not my decision. My Friend is a mess."

Burrows said she reported the GoFundMe page to the company. And she says others have reported the Facebook fundraiser.

CBC News has reached out to Facebook for comment.

Account frozen

But in the meantime, when Lovett tried to access funds from the original GoFundMe account started by Burrows, Lovett was told they were frozen but she doesn't know why.

"It's just very upsetting that someone would jeopardize that, and everybody has been so supportive and generous. For something like that to happen, it's just like I said, it's just alarming and it's made all of us very angry."

"We are legit, we are the ones that started it, on behalf of my daughter and granddaughter, and I don't think anyone would dispute that."

GoFundMe communications manager Caitlin Stanley said in an emailed statement that Giglia removed his campaign and all donors were refunded.

Stanley said GoFundMe will work directly with Burrows to ensure the money reaches the family.

"GoFundMe has a dedicated trust and safety team working around the clock to keep the platform safe," she said.

"In addition to the team of experts, we deploy proprietary technical tools and have multiple processes in place to verify the identity of campaign organizers and the beneficiary of the campaign. Before money is transferred, an individual or organization's information, including their banking information, must be verified."

Private memorial

Lovett says arrangements are being made for the funerals, which will be closed to the public and only include close family members.

She hopes to give her daughter and granddaughter the special memorial service that they deserve.

"[Jasmine] was obviously very close to her daughter and just loved her she was an amazing mother. She's kind of quiet and stayed home with her daughter and, you know, and she's just a very loving, caring person."

"She was just a very loving, quiet girl … this is too hard," said Lovett.

Two trees are being planted in their names in Fish Creek Park.

Lovett says she is truly thankful for all the love and support she's been receiving from friends and strangers.

Leeming faced animal cruelty charges

Leeming made a brief CCTV appearance before a justice of the peace Tuesday morning. His first court appearance will be May 14.

Leeming's lawyer, Balfour Der, said they will pursue bail "if it's reasonable and can be done," but in the meantime, Leeming will be housed at the Calgary Remand Centre. 

Last year, Leeming pleaded guilty to three animal cruelty charges after leaving his dog chained to a tree. He had left the dog there to die after telling his ex-wife he had given the animal away. Four days later, a peace officer found the dog in distress.

According to divorce documents, Leeming's ex-wife called him "cruel" and, in the weeks before their separation, she worried he had been planning to kill her.

She claims in court documents that she found a disturbing search history on Leeming's computer, including an article about chaining a dog to a tree and another one about a mother and child who died in a house fire.

"It didn't leave my mind that he actually did one of those things," she wrote in an affidavit.

In his own affidavit filed at the Calgary courthouse, Leeming said he had several guns, a firearms licence and about 60 knives, which he said he has been collecting since he was seven years old.

He did not deny the online searches outlined in his then-wife's affidavit.

The police say more than 250 tips came in from the public, and are urging anyone who has information regarding the case or who was in the Bragg Creek area between April 17 and 21 to contact them.

The charges against Leeming could be amended to first-degree murder if additional evidence is found, Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Underwood has been a reporter/editor with CBC news for more than 10 years filing stories from across southern Alberta for radio, television and online. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleen.

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