LAVAL, Que. — Amanda and Sabrina De Vito are the forgotten victims of their parents' indifference, a victims' advocate said Friday as the Crown and defence tangled in court over what would constitute an appropriate sentence for their mother.
Adele Sorella was convicted in March of two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of nine-year-old Amanda and eight-year-old Sabrina. The girls were found dead in the family home in Laval on March 31, 2009.
The Crown on Friday recommended that Sorella serve 14 years before becoming eligible for parole, while the defence recommended the minimum of 10 years.
But nobody delivered victim impact statements on behalf of the girls, suggesting they were largely forgotten, said Nancy Roy, the director of a Quebec group representing victims and their family members.
"Today we realize how sad it is that these little girls, Amanda and Sabrina, departed with the total indifference of their families," Roy said in an interview. "Nobody was there to represent them."
In delivering his sentencing arguments, prosecutor Simon Lapierre said that protecting young children is one of society's foremost values, and the failure to do so must be denounced in the strongest terms.
He argued Sorella shouldn't be eligible for parole before serving 14 years, taking into account the severity of the crime and Sorella's position of trust over her daughters, but also her struggles with mental illness and her lack of previous crimes.
He noted that the absence of victim impact statements didn't mean the girls were not loved. "Even if nobody came to testify on the consequences of the crime, it's clear that these crimes had an important, a devastating effect on the family," Lapierre said.
He said Amanda and Sabrina's father, Giuseppe De Vito, a convicted Quebec mobster who was found dead in prison in 2013, expressed sorrow over their deaths and regretted not having helped them. The girls' grandparents, uncles and a teacher all testified during the trial about the shock and sorrow of their deaths.
But Roy said the presence of family members and loved ones at a sentencing hearing can have an impact on a judge's sentence.
She said the trial centred largely on Sorella's state, with little focus on Amanda and Sabrina, who lived their short lives under "difficult circumstances" with a mentally ill mother and a criminal father on the lam. "I think she should accept her responsibility in this," she said of Sorella.
Roy attended the hearing Friday with Marlene Dufresne, whose 17-year-old daughter Gabrielle Dufresne-Elie was murdered in 2014. Dufresne, whose daughter's killer was convicted of second-degree murder last year, said she came to court to advocate for the lost girls. "They were babies 8, 9 years (old). It's not old," she said.
"They knew nothing of life. They hadn't learned anything yet. They were innocent, and those lives were taken away from them." Although she did not address the court, Dufresne was hopeful the judge — the same who presided over the trial of her daughter's killer — noticed her presence.
The crime carries a minimum sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years. Sorella's lawyer, Pierre Poupart, said there was no reason for a longer sentence, citing the fragility of Sorella's mental state and the fact that she poses no risk to society.
Poupart said his client is still mourning her daughters and regrets not being able to protect them or knowing how they died. "Her entire life is a regret," he said.
Sorella testified during her trial that she had little memory of the day when her daughters were found dead. And medical experts testifying for the defence said Sorella experienced a dissociative episode the day of the killings.
The girls' bodies showed no signs of violence, and the cause of death was never established. A pathologist testified that a hyerbaric chamber in the house used to treat Sabrina's juvenile arthritis was a possible cause of death by asphyxia.
Sorella declined an opportunity to address the court Friday because she felt too emotional, Poupart said, but she might submit a written statement.
Superior Court Justice Sophie Bourque is scheduled to deliver her sentence on June 26. Sorella's lawyers are appealing her conviction, arguing the verdicts were unreasonable and not supported by the evidence.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press