Man pleads guilty in 2019 death of Calgary mother, not guilty in death of 22-month-old girl
The Calgary man charged in the deaths of a mother and daughter whose remains were discovered in a mountainous area in 2019 pleaded guilty Monday to one count of second-degree murder and not guilty to the other.
Robert Leeming, 36, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death of 25-year-old Jasmine Lovett and not guilty in the death of her 22-month-old daughter, Aliyah Sanderson.
Calgary police say the mother and daughter lived in a Cranston condo owned by Leeming and their deaths are believed to be the result of domestic violence.
Investigators suspect the pair were killed inside the home in in mid-April 2019, in the days before they were reported missing for failing to arrive at a dinner.
The pair’s disappearance became a homicide investigation on April 25 and their remains were located on May 6, 2019 in a heavily wooded area near Grizzly Creek, a day-use area in Kananaskis country.
Leeming was arrested and charged the following day. He is a British citizen who had lived in Calgary for roughly six years at the time of his arrest.
Leeming's trial will now proceed on his charge of second-degree murder for Sanderson. He is to be tried by Justice Keith Yamauchi. Prosecutor Doug Taylor and defence lawyer Balfour Der are running the 19-day trial.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Lovett and Leeming first met on an online dating app in September 2018.
The court learned Tuesday that Leeming had begun seeing other women during his relationship with Lovett
Lovett and her daughter lived together at Leeming's Cranston townhome and paid rent. All three of them also regularly attended family style dinners with Jasmine’s mother Dianne Lovett and partner, but missed a family dinner scheduled for April 19, 2019.
Diane attended the Cranston home where her daughter lived on Easter Sunday of that year where she reported she had seen two pairs of running shoes that appeared to be hosed down or rinsed with water.
Dianne called Calgary Police four days later and reported both Aliyah and Jasmine missing because she had not heard from either since April 14, 2019.
Two days later, Leeming was arrested for murder, his Cranston home was searched and his cellphone was seized. He was released 24 hours later, but gave drunken interviews to media outside a southeast Calgary pub telling reporters that police had the wrong man.
According to facts read in court, Leeming was stopped by police travelling eastbound on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary for driving 132km/h in a 110km/h zone. He was alone in his vehicle near Jumping Pound Road when he was ticketed.
On May 5, 2019, the CPS priorities crime team began an undercover operation called 'Operation Highwood' which resulted in two undercover officers being led by Leeming to the bodies of Sanderson and Lovett.
Court heard the bodies were discovered buried in shallow graves under branches and mulch near Grizzly Creek off Highway 40, according to prosecutor Doug Taylor.
"Four-and-a-half hours after it began, the accused led the undercover officers to the bodies of Jasmine and Aliyah," said Taylor.
"The accused made statements to these undercover police officers. The statements were audio recorded and at one point a video recording captured the accused together with both undercover police officers while at a covert location within the City of Calgary."
AUTOPSY REVEALS BRUTAL DEATH OF MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Autopsies performed on the bodies of Lovett and Sanderson show both suffered multiple injuries consistent with a homicide.
The medical examiner's office found that Lovett died of firearm and blunt force injuries to the head. As for Sanderson, it was determined she suffered scalp hematomas and subdural hemorrhages to the brain surface and spinal cord.
Prosecutor Doug Taylor says this evidence alone should be enough to convince Justice Yamauchi that Leeming is guilty for both deaths.
"As we learned moments ago, the accused admits that he murdered Jasmine Lovett, yet he maintains that he did not murder 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson," said Taylor.
"Prosecution respectfully suggests that once all evidence is heard and considered in this case, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the accused Robert Andrew Leeming murdered Aliyah too."
Jenavie Lovett, Jasmine Lovett’s sister, is expected to testify in court Tuesday afternoon as the Crown’s first witness.
'THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS STRANGE': LOVETT'S SISTER
Jenavie Lovett -- Jasmine Lovett’s sister -- took the stand as the first witness Tuesday afternoon, describing her sister’s relationship with Leeming as lacking intimacy and with several communication issues.
Several text messages between Jenavie and her sister also outlined a suspicion that Leeming was seeing other women during the relationship.
“Their relationship was strange, it seemed like emotionally it wasn’t on the level a relationship would be," Jenavie said.
"She had issues getting Robert to open up emotionally.”
Jenavie added that Leeming often showed more interest in Aliyah.
“Robert was glued to Aliyah and almost seemed to care more about Aliyah than he did Jasmine,” she said.
“From the outside it seemed like Robert really cared about Aliyah and really stepped into the parenting role when Jasmine and Robert were in a relationship with her. He would cook for her, put her to bed, and watch Aliyah if she had to leave the house.”
In her testimony, Jenavie says she communicated with her sister via text on April 15 to solidify plans to meet up for an Easter dinner on April 19.
She received no response to her message and a Facebook message sent to her sister also went unanswered.
Jenavie says she drove over to Leeming’s house and knocked on the door, but there was also no answer and only a single light left on in the basement.