Calgary

Crown credits 'brilliant police work' after man's 2nd murder conviction in deaths of girlfriend and toddler

The man who confessed to killing a Calgary mother has now also been convicted of murdering the woman's toddler, a child he'd previously told the court he loved.

Robert Leeming pleaded not guilty in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson

Robert Leeming, left, pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial to the second-degree murder of Jasmine Lovett, right, in 2019 but not guilty in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson, her toddler. (Julie Debeljak/CBC, Lovett family)

The man who confessed to killing a Calgary mother has now also been convicted of murdering the woman's toddler, a child he'd previously told the court he loved.

On the first day of his October 2021 trial, Robert Leeming, 37, pleaded guilty to murdering girlfriend Jasmine Lovett but not guilty in the death of her daughter, 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson.

On Monday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi convicted Leeming, finding he'd lied in his testimony.

"Mr. Leeming is not a believable witness," said Yamauchi reading from his 54-page decision.

'Brilliant police work'

Both of Aliya's grandmothers were in court for the decision and expressed relief at the verdict.

"I think I held my breath the whole time," said Kim Blankert, Lovett's mother.

"Obviously happy is not the best word but pleased we got justice and relieved it's all over."

Outside the courtroom, prosecutor Doug Taylor credited "the men and women of the Calgary Police Service" for Monday's verdict. 

"This was brilliant police work that resulted in bringing Mr. Leeming to justice for what he did," said Taylor. 

Leeming was cheating on Lovett

In April 2019, Lovett and Leeming were in a relationship after having met on a dating app the year before. Lovett and her daughter lived with Leeming at his Cranston townhome and paid rent. 

But Leeming had begun seeing another woman.

Leeming told undercover officers Lovett wanted to marry him.

On April 16, Leeming was taking care of Aliyah. He'd picked her up from daycare and brought her back to the townhome he owned.

Leeming testified in his own defence and claimed that while caring for the girl, Aliyah died after accidentally falling down stairs in the townhome the three shared in April 2019.

Aliyah would have been 'gasping for air'

The judge did not believe Leeming's testimony that he heard a "thump" and discovered the girl had fallen down stairs off the living room. 

The medical examiner testified that Aliyah had suffered three distinct head injures. She would have lost consciousness, suffered seizures and would have been "gasping for air," said the judge as he summarized the medical evidence.

"Mr. Leeming did not testify to any of this," said Yamauchi. "This court does not accept Mr. Leeming's evidence."

The killer's rejected testimony also included a story that Lovett returned home to find her daughter unresponsive in bed. 

Leeming said when Lovett questioned whether he was to blame for Aliyah's injuries, he attacked her with a hammer before shooting her in the head.

Robert Leeming spoke with CBC News before he was charged with the murders. The judge found Leeming told a CBC reporter 21 lies in that interview. (CBC)

Before he was charged with the two murders, Leeming spoke with CBC News. In that interview, the judge found Leeming lied 21 times. 

Weeks after the mother and daughter disappeared, Calgary police launched an undercover investigation, targeting Leeming.

Five hours into that investigation, Leeming took the undercover officers to the bodies he'd hidden in Kananaskis in shallow graves.

"Someone tried to expose who I am and it ended badly," Leeming told the officers.

A sentencing hearing will take place at a later date. A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

The judge can impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility. Taylor would not say what he intends to seek for a sentence.

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