NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The father of an eight-year-old girl who was killed by her mother says he's felt the worst pain of his life watching her young brothers suffer profound grief, confusion and shame.
Gabe Batstone told Lisa Batstone's sentencing hearing on Wednesday that the people his daughter Teagan loved most in the world were her stepbrother and half-brother, who were eight and two when she died.
"The first questions that they asked shortly after her murder and many times since offer a glimpse into their shattered innocence and raw emotional pain," he told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge.
" 'Why is my sister in the ground when other kids have sisters at school? Is Teagan's mommy going to kill me too?' "
Lisa Batstone, 46, was found guilty of second-degree murder in March. The court heard she placed a plastic bag over Teagan's mouth and nose in the early hours of Dec. 10, 2014.
She will serve an automatic life sentence but the purpose of Wednesday's hearing was to determine when she will be eligible for parole. The Crown requested 16 to 18 years, while the defence asked for 10.
Gabe Batstone told the judge that Teagan was robbed of seven decades of her life, including milestones such as graduations, marriage and having children of her own.
"Though what haunts you most days is the far more mundane losses of trips to the park, quiet cuddles, comforting hugs, even grocery shopping and just being with Teagan anywhere, any time," he added.
"The life of a happy, empathetic, funny, caring, innocent, athletic, sensitive and loving child was taken for no reason."
The father's current wife, Stephanie Batstone, said her bond with Teagan was as strong as those with her biological children. She said she will never recover from having to tell her sons their sister was dead.
For weeks afterward, her younger son screamed and cried in fear when he was left alone with his mother, she said.
"It finally occurred to us that he thought I killed Teagan, because to him, I was Teagan's mom," she said.
Though the boy has no natural memories of Teagan, he hides photos of her in his room and tells people he has five people in his family, not four. He also keeps toy guns under his pillow as protection, she said.
"We live in fear of Lisa Batstone," she said.
Her older son saw Teagan as his best friend and "partner in crime," she said, adding he had to deal with his own mortality at eight years old and lost his ability to be a kid.
Stephanie Batstone said she used to be a loving mother who put home-cooked meals on the table and played with her sons. Now she suffers from panic attacks and bouts of depression, she said.
"There are times all I can do is make them a sandwich and crawl into bed at 7 p.m.," she said. "Teagan's murder stole this from me and my children."
Crown attorney Christopher McPherson told the court Batstone abused her position of trust to kill a child and has continued to attempt to deflect blame for the death onto her husband.
Defence lawyer Rebecca McConchie said Batstone should be eligible for parole in 10 years, the lowest term possible, because the murder lacks certain aggravating factors, including a significant use of force or previous abuse.
She has dealt with depression and anxiety her whole life, attempting suicide multiple times before the murder, and she has since been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, McConchie said.
Batstone sobbed as she read a statement to the court apologizing to Teagan, her ex-husband and his family.
"I would give anything to go back and change what happened. Each morning I wake up to this excruciating nightmare and I don't know how this is real. I miss my sweet girl so much," she said.
"I cannot believe that I did what I did. But I know that her death is my fault."
Justice Catherine Murray reserved her decision until Sept. 3.
The court heard that Lisa Batstone felt resentment toward Gabe Batstone after their divorce in 2010 and in September 2014 she had a falling out with a close friend at church and stopped attending the institution.
The day before Teagan's murder, Lisa Batstone called her ex-husband and he ended the call because it was not an emergency. She complained to her counsellor that he was a "bully" and "hung up."
She smothered her daughter early the next morning. In a four-page letter, she wrote, "I can't believe I took my daughter's life ... I honestly believe that she's in a better place now with Jesus."
She placed Teagan's body in her car and began driving, but got stuck in a ditch. First responders found her cradling her daughter's body in the trunk of the hatchback.
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Laura Kane, The Canadian Press