Stepmother convicted of 2nd-degree murder, forcible confinement in death of Granby girl

A woman has been convicted of second-degree murder and forcible confinement in the death of her seven-year-old stepdaughter in Granby, Que., about 80 kilometres east of Montreal.

Jury trial was held in Trois-Rivières

The trial of the stepmother accused of killing a Granby, Que., girl took place in a Trois-Rivières courthouse. (Mari-Laure Josselin/Radio-Canada)

A woman has been convicted of second-degree murder and forcible confinement in the death of her seven-year-old stepdaughter in Granby, Que., about 80 kilometres east of Montreal. 

The 38-year-old woman was charged in connection with the death of the child in the spring of 2019 — a death that sent shockwaves through the province, sparking public outcry and prompting an inquiry into Quebec's youth protection system.

The jury's decision was announced Thursday afternoon. It took the jury only five hours to come to its verdict after a trial that lasted more than six weeks.

The trial was held in Trois-Rivières, 140 kilometres north of Granby, at the request of the defence.

The accused was seen wiping her eyes, then remained stoic, stunned by the jury's decision. She later left the courtroom sobbing.

A conviction for second-degree murder automatically carries a life sentence with no possibility of parole for at least 10 years.

Grandmother calls for harshest sentence

Members of the girl's family were also present on Thursday, including her grandmother who attended all of the proceedings. She had had custody of the child for nearly four years.

Afterward, she said the conviction is the best Christmas gift she has ever received. There was no question in her mind that the woman was guilty, she said.

She said she was filled with emotions when the verdict was read, but she was able to control herself.

"I hope the sentence will be exemplary," she said, calling for at least 25 years behind bars before any possibility of parole — the maximum sentence.

Names in this case are being withheld due to a publication ban.

Trial began with 14 jurors

The jury was exceptionally composed of 14 people due to the looming threat of COVID-19. Normally, the law requires 12, but Judge Louis Dionne said the extra jurors would help ensure the case had a full jury throughout the trial.

As planned, two jurors were removed before the remaining 12 went into isolation to deliberate the case.

One of them was released from duty on Wednesday after announcing they were due for a COVID-19 test. At around 10:15 a.m. Thursday morning, Dionne picked a random number, releasing one more juror.

The accused admitted that in April 2019 she had bound her stepdaughter to the floor with packing tape. It began with the girl's legs overnight. In the morning the accused added more tape, binding the girl's whole body.

Evidence from the home where a seven-year-old girl was found bound by packing tape in a room. Her stepmother has been found guilty of second-degree murder. (Sûreté du Québec)

The stepmother denied ever covering the girl's mouth or nose, and that's what the defence case hinged on.

The stepmother claimed she was just trying to keep the girl from hurting herself until an appointment with a psychiatrist later that day.

The girl's father is also facing charges in connection with the death. His trial will likely take place next year.

The young girl had been followed by youth protection since birth, and her death highlighted many problems in the system.

That prompted the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government to create a commission to review the system, and it tabled a bill last week that will bring major changes. 

with files from Steve Rukavina and Radio-Canada