Members of White Rock Baptist Church spent the day in B.C. Supreme Court Friday, in a show of support for a South Surrey mother who is charged with second-degree murder in the 2014 death of her young daughter.
“We’re here to support her,” retired pastor Fay Puddicombe told Peace Arch News. “I think it’s important people know (that).”
Lisa Batstone is charged in connection with eight-year-old Teagan’s death. The youngster, who had been a student at Rosemary Heights Elementary, was found deceased in the back of a car on Dec. 10, 2014, and her mother was arrested at the scene.
The pair had been members of the church for at least six years, the court heard Friday.
Puddicombe and David North, the chair of the church’s deacon board, said they and others from the church had been in the gallery for the majority of the week’s proceedings, which began three days earlier.
The support, North noted, is not about the trial’s “outcome” nor is it just for the accused – but for all affected.
“The whole thing is tragic,” he told PAN, noting a group prayer held every morning before court is “for the whole process.” “For Lisa, for the judge, the lawyers… we’re lifting up the whole process in prayer.”
Puddicombe noted the church’s commitment to care for Batstone was vocalized by senior pastor Ellis André four years ago, following Teagan Batstone’s celebration of life. At that time, André told PAN that the church would continue to care for Batstone, describing her as “part of our church family.”
“(André) said we would be here for her, and we are,” Puddicombe said.
Friday, the court heard evidence including that Batstone had expressed – in emails and texts – feeling “abandoned” by her church family in the months leading up to Teagan’s death.
In response to Crown counsel Christopher McPherson, family pastor David Haugan told the court that he began receiving messages after a conflict between Batstone and another church member – a neighbour of Batstone’s – came to light in September 2014.
Haugan said he was made aware of the conflict after a new “life group” was launched, he said. The group was among “13 to 15” church groups that met weekly or bi-weekly for Bible study and community building, Haugan said, noting that Batstone and the first host of the new group, Jacqueline Joseph – who later took the stand – “had a falling out” just before the group launched.
“All I know is Jacqueline did not want Lisa Batstone in her house,” Haugan said.
Haugan said he initially believed that choosing a different host’s home helped ease the strain, however, “what transpired after that was a problem between the two of them that was deeper than I understood.”
In reviewing about 30 pages of text messages and emails, Haugan confirmed “a large number” were between him and Batstone, and that one, sent to Batstone in mid-October, stated it “would be best” if she did not attend the group.
He explained the decision – made in consultation with other church leaders – was to create space between the two women.
Haugan said he stopped responding to Batstone after an email, received the next day, referenced his young son – “When John ages, I pray he doesn’t have to experience what Teagan is from adults at his church,” McPherson read.
Haugan said he had tried twice previously to set up meetings with Batstone regarding the conflict. Neither came to fruition.
Messages from Batstone continued through to the day Teagan died, the court heard. Haugan said he told his wife to call police after an email received just after 9 a.m. included the statements “Jackie is evil and she killed us,” and, “It’s too late now. I’m broken.”
“It had a tone of finality to it, so we became concerned for Teagan’s well-being,” he said.
In response to defence counsel Rebecca McConchie, Haugan agreed that Batstone “became obsessed with you as a result of being told to leave the life group,” and that messages he didn’t respond to included several “asking for forgiveness.”
“You never imagined that Miss Batstone would ever hurt Teagan,” McConchie said. “Teagan was her entire world.”
Joseph told the court Monday that while her daughter and Teagan were friends, her relationship with Batstone started to go downhill at the beginning of 2014, and she cut off communications that summer. Their children continued to play together in the townhouse complex’s common area, she confirmed.
Batstone, however, did not stop sending texts, Joseph said. Those included “just hateful… really nasty,” messages on the day of the new life group’s first meeting.
When Batstone, with Teagan, showed up at her door that night to participate, “I was so angry I couldn’t even talk,” Joseph said.
Joseph agreed with McConchie that Batstone “seemed to become increasingly reliant on you for friendship” as 2014 progressed, and that Batstone had “started to depend” on Joseph’s daughter to cheer Teagan up when she was upset.
Joseph said the latter was “absolutely” one of the reasons she stopped letting her daughter play at Batstone’s home.
The trial, which began Nov. 13, is scheduled through Dec. 7, though McPherson told PAN Friday that he expects the Crown’s case to continue to that week.