Lawyer for double murderer urges judge against 'custodial death sentence'

By The Canadian Press
March 8, 2019 - 2:15am

CALGARY — The lawyer for a Calgary man convicted of killing a Calgary mother and her young daughter says 50 years in prison before any chance of parole would be tantamount to a death sentence.

A jury found Edward Downey, 49, guilty last year of first-degree murder in the 2016 deaths of Sara Baillie and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman.

The convictions come with an automatic life sentence, but Justice Beth Hughes is to decide whether Downey must wait 25 or 50 years before he can apply for parole.

The Crown is seeking consecutive periods of parole ineligibility, meaning Downey would be 96 before he has a chance at freedom.

His lawyer, Gavin Wolch, argued Friday the sentences should be served concurrently, meaning Downey would be 71 when he his eligible for parole.

"Consecutive ineligibility would extinguish any glimmer of hope. Even concurrent time leaves only a sliver," said Wolch, noting his client is remorseful.

"You could call it a custodial death sentence."

Downey apologized Friday to Baillie and Taliyah's friends and family — but did not admit to killing them.

"I'm very sorry for what happened to Sara and Taliyah. I'm sorry to the families that you lost your loved ones," he said in a soft, hoarse voice.

"There was things that I should have did. I know there's nothing I can say to bring your loved ones back."

Hughes will give her decision at a future date that has yet to be set.

Earlier, victim impact statements were read in court as Downey sat placidly.

"You didn't have the right to decide that their lives didn't matter, because they mattered to us. They mattered a lot," Baillie's aunt Marilynne Hamilton told Downey, her voice choked by tears. Her husband Scott and daughter Alex were by her side.

Framed photos of Baillie and Taliyah were placed in Downey's line of sight.

The trial heard Downey believed Baillie had influenced her best friend to break up with him and blamed her for her friend refusing to work for him as an escort. The Crown argued Baillie's daughter was a witness who needed silencing.

The trial heard Baillie, 34, was found dead in a laundry hamper in her daughter's closet with duct tape wrapped around her face, neck and wrists. Taliyah was missing. The girl's remains were found in some bushes east of the city three days later.

Both died by asphyxiation.

Downey repeatedly denied the killings in his testimony.  

Scott Hamilton, Baillie's uncle, said the family was robbed of joyful moments that never happened — Taliyah starting Grade 1, dance recitals, soccer games and birthdays.

He said he tries not to think about the hours between the deaths of mother and daughter, but questions haunt him.

"Did Taliyah know that Mr. Downey had murdered her mom? Was she missing her mom? ... Was she crying out to be saved?"

He said there's an ice cream stain from Taliyah on his car's passenger seat that he still can't bring himself to clean.

Baillie's mother and Taliyah's grandmother, Janet Fredette, said the greatest impact has been a loss of hope for a happy future.

"I live on, but the three entwined lives that were Sara, Taliyah and me are gone," she said in a statement read by prosecutor Ryan Jenkins.

Baillie's best friend, who testified behind a screen at trial and cannot be identified because of a publication ban, also had her victim impact statement read by Jenkins.

"(Sara) would have wanted you to know that you didn't win. I want you to know that you didn't win."

Prosecutor Carla MacPhail cited a number of aggravating factors, including Downey's record of escalating crimes since his early twenties, the brutality of the murders and their deliberate nature.

"He traded the life of a five-year-old for a chance to escape liability."

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said it was Baillie who refused to be an escort

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