Judge reserves decision in attempted murder trial for woman who drove SUV into her mother

Donna Elder, 62, will find out on November 3 if a judge convicts her of attempted murder or finds her not criminally responsible for hitting Katherine Triplett twice with a vehicle.

Judge will decide on defence not criminally responsible application in November

In July 2018, Donna Elder drove her SUV into her mother and this KFC restaurant. (Court Exhibit/Edmonton Police Service)

Next month Donna Elder will find out if she will go to prison or a psychiatric hospital for trying to kill her mother. 

Elder is charged with the attempted murder of 85-year-old Katherine Triplett. She's also accused of aggravated assault and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The defence has asked Court of Queen's Bench Justice Brian Burrows to find Elder not criminally responsible. 

Defence lawyer Brian Hurley relied on an expert opinion from Elder's psychiatrist, Dr. Natia Bhatia, who believes Elder was acutely psychotic when she ran down her mother twice and thinks she was "unable to appreciate the nature and quality of her actions or know their wrongfulness." 

Elder's first and only brush with the law began on a July evening in 2018 when the two women went to KFC in west Edmonton to order a bucket of chicken and some potato salad for takeout. 

Elder, now 62, got the food and walked to her SUV in the parking lot. She left her mother in front of the restaurant, with a plan to pick her up. 

According to a report submitted by Dr. Batia, Elder said she began to hear voices once she got into her vehicle. 

"The male voice said that the pepper haired woman was going to hurt my mom and the voice kept saying that over and over very loudly and aggressively," Elder told the psychiatrist. "And I said in my angry voice that no one is going to hurt my mom." 

According to an agreed statement of facts entered during the five-day trial, Elder drove straight towards her mother and hit her. The elderly woman went flying through the air, crashing through a glass window and onto a table in the restaurant. Triplett slid to the floor. 

Katherine Triplett suffered severe injuries when she was hit twice by the SUV being driven by her daughter. (Court Exhibit/Edmonton Police Service)

Elder put her vehicle in reverse and sped forward once again. 

An employee said the first hit wasn't that hard, but the second hit "was like a bomb". 

Triplett was lying in a pool of her own blood on the floor with a broken bone sticking out. Some people in the restaurant fainted at the sight. 

According to the agreed statement of facts, when witnesses came to her aid, Triplett said, "I don't know why my daughter Donna would try to kill me." 

Triplett had to undergo emergency surgery and eventually her lower left leg was amputated. She died nine months later. 

'I want to spend the rest of our lives together'

Elder was taken into custody by police. When she was told at the scene what charges she faced, she called the charges "impossible." 

In the back of the police car, Elder kept whispering to herself, "No more." She was later unable to explain what those words meant. 

"I love my mom," she later told psychologist Dr. Andrew Haag. "I never want to hurt her. I want to spend the rest of our lives together." 

Surveillance video shows KFC crash


2 years agoVideo
A surveillance video shows a car crashing into a KFC critically injuring an 85-year-old woman. 0:33

The psychologist, who testified this week for the Crown said during one of his interviews with Elder, he asked if it was wrong to hurt someone. 

"I don't believe in violence. I don't believe in hurting people," she replied. "Of course it would be wrong if I hit somebody." 

Elder also told Haag that she felt guilty for hitting her mother, but said she did not blame herself, nor was she ashamed of anything. 

Haag concluded that Elder was suffering from a disease of the mind when she drove into her mother, but he found no evidence that she was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of her actions. He thinks she was able to understand that what she was doing was morally wrong. 

The psychologist also called Elder's claims of hearing voices "unsubstantiated and non-credible". 

Haag believes Elder should be found criminally responsible for her actions. 

"No matter which version of events from Ms. Elder that one might choose to accept, Ms. Elder had no psychotic explanation/rationale for reversing her vehicle and accelerating a second time towards Katherine," the psychologist wrote in his 49-page report. 

'She is not a reliable witness' 

Crown prosecutor Anders Quist said that Elder had many inconsistencies in the versions of events she told mental health professionals and the police. 

"It's likely impossible to determine precisely what happened. She is not a reliable witness," Quist told the judge. "There are many interpretations and the only thing you have to decide is if her being NCR the most likely. 

"I submit it's not." 

The onus is on the defence to prove Elder should be found not criminally responsible on a balance of probabilities. 

"It's not a balance of experts," Hurley said. "Ultimately the decision is up to the judge." 

Burrows has reserved his decision until November 3. 

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston