Prosecutors in the murder trial of Lisa Batstone say that whether the South Surrey mother had intent to kill her daughter on Dec. 10, 2014 is the issue for the court to decide – and evidence will prove that was the case.
“Ms. Batstone made a decision to kill her daughter,” Crown co-counsel Fatemeh Nejatali told the court during opening statements Tuesday morning in BC Supreme Court in New Westminster. “Lisa Batstone killed Teagan during the early hours of Dec. 10 by suffocating her with a plastic bag.”
Batstone is charged with second-degree murder in connection with her eight-year-old daughter’s death.
Nejatali told the court that 21 witnesses will be called in the case, including RCMP, a toxicologist and Teagan’s father, Gabe.
Evidence shared is to include details of a gap in electronic activity including emails and texts by Batstone in the early hours of Dec. 10, 2014 – a gap Crown asserts is the time during which Teagan was killed.
The court was to also hear about four letters police found during a search of Batstone’s home. One, Nejatali told the court, included the line “I can’t believe I took my daughter’s life.” Another, found on top of a garbage can under the kitchen sink, states, “I’m so sorry.”
The letters offer “a window into (Batstone’s) state of mind,” Nejatali said.
Two of the letters were found attached to a closet door at the top of stairs leading up to the home’s main floor, Houston RCMP Sgt. Jason Burndred testified. Written in large black letters, one read, “You win Gabe” and the other, “You broke me.”
All four were among exhibits shown to the court by Burndred Tuesday afternoon. Burndred was with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team at the time of Teagan’s death, and confirmed he was the primary investigator and exhibits officer in the case.
Holding the four-page letter with gloved hands – to preserve the evidence – Burndred read it aloud, sharing thoughts Batstone is alleged to have written in the hours after Teagan died.
“I deserve to go to jail or institution, plus death penalty,” Burndred read.
The letter goes on to allege she suffered “relentless mental and emotional abuse” and how Batstone was “putting (Teagan) first daily.”
“I tried, because Teagan deserved better,” Burndred read. “I just couldn’t imagine leaving here and leaving her to him.
“I loved her to the moon and back and now she’s in no pain.”
Sgt. Heather Burwell, a member of the forensic identification team who attended Batstone’s home Dec. 12, 2014 to assist in executing the search warrant, told that in addition to documenting the letters and other items found at the scene, she photographed the contents of the kitchen garbage bin. Plastic bags, including a double-bagged set wrapped with duct tape, were among the contents logged, Burwell testified.
The bags were also among exhibits later shown to the court by Burnbred.
Nejatali told the court that evidence to be shared over the course of the trial – scheduled through Dec. 7 – will prove that Batstone had intent to kill her daughter, and that resentment of her ex-husband and his new wife played a role.
The trial start followed several days of voir-dire evidence that was heard last month to determine if statements made by the accused to witnesses after eight-year-old Teagan’s body was found would be admissible in trial – which Justice Catherine Murray ultimately ruled would be the case.
During the voir dire, the court heard from witnesses including Const. Elizabeth Cucheran, the officer who arrested Batstone after she was found curled up with her daughter’s body in the trunk of a car in a cul-de-sac just south of Crescent Road shortly after noon on Dec. 10, 2014.
Teagan had been a student at Rosemary Heights Elementary.
Cucheran told the court that Batstone, after being told at the Crescent Road scene that she was “under arrest for impaired driving,” told the officer, “I murdered her.”
Medical professionals who interacted with Batstone at Peace Arch Hospital following her arrest were also among witnesses who gave evidence during the voir dire.
Dr. Douglas Maskall, a PAH psychiatrist, recounted what he had been told of how Teagan died; and how Batstone had said she “just wanted (Teagan) to be with Jesus.”
Maskall also told the court that Batstone had said she killed her daughter to “protect” the youngster from her father – who the court heard Batstone had an “acrimonious” relationship with – and because she didn’t want Teagan to “have her (mother’s) brain.”
Batstone had struggled with mental health since her teens, Maskall said. She told him at PAH following Teagan’s death that she had asked for psychiatric help months before. Batstone had been scheduled to see a psychiatrist in January 2015, Maskall noted.
Social worker Jennifer Culbert shared with the court Batstone’s description to her of how she had suffocated her daughter then tried to kill herself.
Batstone also said that she killed Teagan “to spite” her ex-husband, Culbert said.
Tuesday, Nejatali told the court that Teagan’s relationship with her father was not what Lisa Batstone had portrayed. (Family members last month told Peace Arch News that the father and daughter had a loving relationship. Outside court Tuesday, they refused to comment.)
The father, after flying out from Ottawa to spend time with his daughter that week, had dropped her off at school on Tuesday, Dec. 9.
“She was killed in the early morning hours of Wednesday,” Nejatali said, noting the court would hear that Batstone called her daughter’s school that same morning to say she was sick, and cancelled an appointment the pair had at a local physiotherapy clinic, again citing illness.
Batstone was ordered in January 2015 to stand trial on a charge of second-degree murder, after a court-ordered “fitness assessment” deemed her fit for the proceedings. However, there were multiple delays over the years that followed.