CALGARY — A man who has admitted to murdering his girlfriend said he killed her because she blamed him for the accidental death of her 22-month-old daughter.
Robert Leeming broke down sobbing several times Wednesday when he took the witness stand at his trial on a second-degree murder charge in the 2019 death of Aliyah Sanderson.
He has already entered a guilty plea in the second-degree murder of the girl's mother Jasmine Lovett, who was 25.
Leeming, 36, testified that he and Lovett moved in together in October 2018 and had a romantic relationship until the following January. He said they remained friendly and he helped take care of Aliyah — including taking and picking her up from daycare and sometimes putting her to bed.
He said he picked up Aliyah from daycare on April 16, 2019, had given her a snack and saw her begin to climb some stairs.
"I heard a thump and I saw her lying on the ground. She seemed all right. I picked her up and dusted her off."
Leeming said Aliyah seemed normal when she was put to bed. Lovett came home and checked on her. He and Lovett had dinner and watched TV.
When he went upstairs to check on the girl 45 minutes later, he said, something was wrong.
"I picked her up and found she was limp and unresponsive."
Leeming said he called Lovett upstairs and she wasn't able to revive the girl either.
He said he went downstairs to get his phone and was confronted by Lovett.
"We were in the kitchen and were both crying and shouting at each other. She stood up to me and pointed at me and asked if I had done anything to Aliyah," Leeming said through tears.
"I freaked out. I snapped and hit her with a hammer on the head. I remember hitting her twice."
Leeming said he stood there for awhile but didn't hit her again.
"She was dying and I wanted it to stop. I went to the garage and picked up a .22 (rifle) and shot her in the head," Leeming said. "It was the only thing I thought could be quick."
Leeming said he didn't harm Aliyah.
"I loved her. She was a wonderful kid," he said. "I treated her as my own. I enjoyed being there for her."
His lawyer, Balfour Der, asked: "Did you have a reason to kill Aliyah?"
"No," Leeming replied.
"Did you kill her?"
"No," said Leeming.
Leeming said he wrapped the bodies of his girlfriend and her daughter in blue-and-black blankets, and put a roll of paper towels near Lovett's head "to stop the blood."
He loaded them into the back of his car the next day and drove out to a campground west of Calgary, he said. He sat there drinking beer and smoking before losing his nerve and driving back to the city with the bodies, he said.
Leeming said he eventually found a remote day-use area, where he poured gasoline on the bodies to keep away wildlife. He returned the next day with a load of mulch and covered them up.
He said he hid the bodies to "get away with killing Jasmine" and that he knew he'd be blamed for Aliyah's death.
"I didn't want them to be apart so I left them together."
During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Doug Taylor said Leeming knew how badly Lovett was injured after the hammer attack.
"She was lying there, wounded, but alive correct? And you didn't call for help right?" asked Taylor.
"Correct," Leeming replied.
"For all you know you could have saved her," Taylor said.
Leeming replied it was possible.
He said he disclosed the location of the two victims to undercover police officers because he wanted it to be over and was suffering "guilt and shame."
"In the back of my mind I knew they were officers," he said.
"It was an opportunity for them to be found."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press