Elspeth Lodge March 2, 2011 – 4:05 pm
Toronto Police are searching for 95 gold bars allegedly bought in Montreal with a fraudulently obtained bank draft.
The bank draft, worth $1,895,751, was withdrawn in February in Montreal.
Two suspects have been detained for trying to sell some of the bars in Toronto, but so far police have only recovered one 10-ounce (nearly 300 grams) bar (pictured, above). And seventy-four like it — from Australia’s Perth Mint, with the mint’s symbol on one side and a kangaroo on the other — are still missing. Police are also looking for nineteen one-kilogram gold bars and two 100-gram bars.
Police are still seeking the identity of the person or persons who obtained the bank draft.
“We’re barking up a few trees, it’s an ongoing investigation” said Detective Ruth Moran of the Financial Crimes Unit on Wednesday.
“They could be from anywhere,” said Constable Tony Vella of the Toronto Police of the suspects. He asked the public to come forward with any information regarding the incident, and warned jewellery and metal businesses to be lookout for the bars.
The first suspect was arrested on February 14 when he tried to sell a bar to a Toronto gold company, said Constable Vella. Two days later, the gold bar was recovered when officers caught a second man allegedly attempting to sell it.
Toronto residents Thevarajah Thambipillai, 55, and Senthuran Kanapathipillai, 32, are both charged with possession of property obtained by crime.
The Canadian Bankers Association is offering a reward of up to $50,000 to anyone who can provide information that leads to the recovery of the gold bars.
Aaron Lynett, National Post
Police launched an investigation into elder abuse when an unconscious and frostbitten woman was found in the garage of this house in Scarborough.
Megan O’Toole and Elspeth Lodge, National Post, With Files From Postmedia News · Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2011
A 68-year-old mother is believed to have been living alone in a freezing Scarborough garage, hungry and sleeping on a piece of plywood, for months before police found her.
When they did, she was frostbitten and malnourished, having quietly slipped into unconsciousness.
Now, the woman’s son -who called an ambulance upon discovering his unresponsive mother -and her daughterin-law have been charged in an elder abuse investigation, and neighbours are expressing surprise at the news.
A young man living across the street said he had not seen the garage opened in years. What police found inside, Constable Tony Vella said, was appalling.
“It was just not a place for anyone to be living,” he said, noting the woman “was not properly being taken care of. She was not being given proper food; she was unconscious. There was frostbite and some injuries to her body.”
The woman was sleeping on what police dubbed “a makeshift type of bed” made of a piece of plywood. It was unclear whether there were any blankets or pillows, but Const. Vella said there were few other amenities save for a portable toilet “that was not cleaned out,” and overpowered the garage with the smell of urine.
The woman was found last Wednesday. Kwong Yan, 43, and Qi Tan, 28, were arrested and charged two days later with failure to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm -charges that could be upgraded if the victim, who remained in life-threatening condition Monday, succumbed to her injuries.
Exactly how the situation got so bad remains unclear, but what police know is this: Until November of last year, the woman was living inside her son’s home on Marrakesh Drive in Toronto’s east end.
It was in November, just as the bitter winter chill began to descend, that Mr. Yan and Ms. Tan moved the 68-yearold from their home into the uninsulated garage.
Its only source of heat was a dryer vent that allowed in a small amount of warmth, but not enough to dispel the cold.
Her son and daughter-inlaw allegedly failed to provide the victim with adequate food, police said, leaving her increasingly malnourished.
Neighbour Wilson Ho, a high-school student whose parents know the accused, said he had not seen the garage opened in about three years. Mr. Yan had helped his own parents with home renovations, Mr. Ho said.
“I was pretty surprised [to hear the allegations],” he said, noting he believed Mr. Yan travelled often for work.
Victor Nagle, who lived across the street, said he could not recall seeing an elderly woman at the house. Many other neighbours say they did not know the accused, and were unaware of what was going on in the garage down the street as the victim’s condition deteriorated.
Last Wednesday, Mr. Yan himself picked up the phone and called an ambulance after finding his mother unconscious. When emergency workers arrived and discovered her living conditions, the matter became a police investigation.
Two days later, Mr. Yan and Ms. Tan were arrested and charged.
Media vehicles were camped out Monday near the couple’s modest, two-storey home in the area of McCowan Road and Finch Avenue East. The garage remained closed and knocks on the front door went unanswered.
Investigators were attempting to determine why the woman had been relocated from the home into the inhospitable garage. Const. Vella confirmed there were tenants renting space inside the home, but that there was “plenty of room.”
“It is my understanding that there were rooms in the house she could have lived in,” he said.
According to the federal government’s national seniors council, it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of elder abuse in Canada because of factors such as under-reporting and confusion about what constitutes abuse.
But the council estimated in a 2007 report that between 4% and 10% of Canadian seniors experience some kind of abuse.
Still, the scenario described by police in this case is “extreme,” said Ken Cunningham, president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, an organization that advocates for seniors’ interests.
“More often what we’re hearing about is financial or verbal abuse,” Mr. Cunningham said, noting seniors can be easy targets for financial scams because they grew up in a climate of greater trust, when “your handshake was your bond.”
Mr. Yan and Ms. Tan, who appeared in court Saturday, are scheduled to appear again Tuesday morning.
Police were appealing to anyone who might be familiar with the couple’s family life or have any information on the case to contact investigators at 42 Division or Crime Stoppers.
Elspeth Lodge March 1, 2011 – 1:17 pm
A Toronto man now faces charges in two different alleged fraud schemes.
In January, police alleged the 30-year-old man targeted seniors, asking them to pre-pay for a full winter’s worth of snow removal.
Police say he charged North York seniors $60- to- $180 for prepaid snow removal, but never returned to clear the snow.
Now, Toronto Police allege that he also pretended to be a graphic designer. Elman Iakiiaev of Toronto allegedly entered into a contract with a North York restaurant on January 25, accepting a deposit but never providing the business with the promised menus, signs and other advertising materials.
Mr. Iakiiaev was charged with with fraud under $5,000 and failing to comply with recognizance on February 27 and appeared in court on February 28.
Helicopter targeted by 10-year-old with laser, police say
Elspeth Lodge February 18, 2011 – 4:33 pm
A York Regional Police helicopter flying near Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street was forced to divert from its route on Wednesday after it was hit with a bright green light.
The helicopter’s crew narrowed the source of the light to a home on Richmond Hill’s Pathlane Road. There, police say, they confiscated a laser pointer from a 10-year-old boy. The boy’s parents were home, but hadn’t realized what their son was up to.
While shining a light or laser at an aircraft is a criminal offence, the boy wasn’t charged since he was under 12.
“It was a very deliberate attack,” said Sergeant Rob O’Quinn of the York Regional Police. “It was repeated hits, he was tracking the plane, hitting it over and over again.” The laser was a “typical laser,” he says. “Not very strong, but strong enough.”
Shining any type of light at an aircraft in dangerous, Sgt. O’Quinn says — it can cause “flash blindness” in pilots.
These types of incidents have been on the rise lately, says Sgt. O’Quinn. One man decided a helicopter was too noisy and shone a flashlight at it from his back-yard.
Wednesday’s incident was especially serious, he says, because the helicopter wasn’t simply on patrol, as had been true for former instances, but was actually thwarted from helping officers on the ground responding to a weapons call.
Man charged with possession of child pornography
Elspeth Lodge February 17, 2011 – 4:18 pm
A Toronto Police undercover investigation has resulted in a Toronto man being charged with possession of child pornography.
On Wednesday, police searched a home near Danforth and Broadview Avenues; there, police seized computers and hard drives allegedly containing child pornography
Charged is Robert Hagon, 27, of Toronto. He was scheduled to appear in College Park courts on Thursday.
Police seek missing teen last seen near Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road
Elspeth Lodge February 17, 2011 – 3:57 pm
Police fear for the safety of an eighteen-year-old female who was reported missing by her family on Wednesday.
“We have information that we are concerned about” in relation to her whereabouts, says Constable Tony Vella of Toronto Police.
Kolsoom Chinar Khan was last spotted in the Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road area. She’s described as 5’2″ and around 110 pounds, with brown eyes and long brown hair.
Ms. Khan was last seen in a black hijab, a multicoloured dress and a black coat.
Elspeth Lodge February 17, 2011 – 3:28 pm
Police are searching for a man in connection with a January shooting at a Danforth and Donlands bar. Two men are already facing 14 charges in connection with the incident.
Police allege that three men surrounded an eighteen-year-old male, with one of the men pulling out a gun and shooting the victim in the stomach.
The teen suffered a serious, but non-life threatening, injury.
The men were taken into custody after Toronto police executed five search warrants around the GTA, seizing a gun holster and other related evidence.
Police are still looking for twenty-eight-year-old Shaun Davis of Toronto.
Mr. Davis is wanted on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit indictable offence.
Police describe him as black, 5′ 8″ and around 140 pounds with black hair, and warn that he is armed and dangerous; anyone with information regarding his location is urged to contact the police.
In custody are Akins Fortune, 22, who faces six charges, including attempted murder and aggravated assault; and Kibrom Tesfay, 18, facing five charges, including attempted murder.
A Toronto man has been charged after a 39-year-old was allegedly stabbed five times on Sunday.
Toronto officers responded to a call at 390 Dawes Road around 9:09 p.m. There, they found the victim, who was admitted to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Glenford Johnson, 25, of Toronto faces the charges of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a weapon and aggravated assault.
Mr. Johnson is expected to appear in court on Monday.
Phil Carpenter / Postmedia News
Miriam Glasswell is a flattery “specialist.”
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Monday, Feb. 14, 2011
So, Valentine’s has come and gone, and you dropped the ball. Instead of going the clichéd flowers-and-chocolate makeup route, why not use this post-V-Day massacre to give your special someone an unexpected treat? Perhaps, say, a dose of much-needed flattery?
If so, Miriam Glassman has just the trick. After leaving her job as marketing manager, the Montreal entrepreneur created Flatter Me, a business designed to deliver ego-stroking boosts over the phone. It’s only been four months since she started, but word-of-mouth has helped launch the company to solid success — Glassman indeed lives off flattery alone.
Glassman says “the appeal is pretty mass” — she has an even number of male and female clientele, drawing from all age groups. While all her calls are in English, Glassman says she has flattered clients far and wide, from Russia to New Zealand. (She recently hired an employee to introduce French-language services.) For $5, Glassman delivers generic compliments to the desired subject, such as, “You’re amazing.” But as her business evolves, Glassman also finds herself fulfilling more personal requests, such as one elderly man who wanted her to recite poems to his childhood sweetheart.
Typically, clients give Glassman some guidance, which she uses to customize calls. “I think you have to enjoy making people feel good and enjoy expressing themselves,” she says. “Experience has allowed me to become a ‘specialist.’ ”
• For more information, visit flatterme.ca.
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Monday, Feb. 14, 2011
Nova Scotia stands to lose much of its Catholic heritage and opportunities for future expansion as two of the province’s three dioceses prepare to sell real estate assets that will help compensate victims of sexual abuse.
Old rectories and houses belonging to the dioceses as well as undeveloped land on which future churches could have been built are hitting the market in order to pay the multi-million-dollar bill for crimes committed by priests who have been long dead.
They’re also struggling to avoid filing for bankruptcy, a move that could significantly limit the funds at the dioceses’ disposal.
While the sale of land and real estate will help speed up a lengthy process both the Diocese of Yarmouth and the Diocese of Antigonish wish to deal with and move on, it also comes at an emotional cost.
“People felt like they were paying for something they had nothing to do with,” Antigonish diocese spokesperson Father Paul Abbass said. “It will always be felt as a huge pain.”
After pooling liquid assets belonging to the parish and the diocese, the Antigonish church has so far sold about 10 valuable properties, totaling around $2-million. They’re still in the process of putting land and buildings on the market, said Fr. Abbass. But that only scratches the surface of what they owe for an $18.5-million settlement made in 2009 for a dozen cases of sexual abuse, with another $3-million settlement coming on its heels after six more claimants came forward.
In May 2010, they guessed about 400 properties could be sold — everything from community halls, unused rectories, unoccupied houses and vacant land. Now, the diocese is hoping to shed only 200 to 300 properties, which could bring in $10-to $12-million, Fr. Abbass said.
While bankruptcy is an option, it’s a drastic one they hope to avoid. They are also cautiously optimistic that they won’t have to resort to selling parish properties that are in use.
Parishioners found it difficult to sell even the empty land, Fr. Abbass said, adding that they “will experience a range of emotion” if their diocese begins to sell buildings to cover abuse settlements.
Still, there’s a feeling that the sales are worth it if they want a chance at a bright future, he said.
“I would like us to get past this. I would like to get to a place where this isn’t all we talk about.”
The Yarmouth diocese must pay about $1.5-million for six separate sexual abuse settlements after two priests sexually abused children from the 1950s through the 1970s in Digby and Yarmouth counties.
The church is now preparing to sell off assets to help pay out the victims, said Diocese of Yarmouth spokesperson Marilyn Sweet.
“As I understand it, the plan for paying out the settlement amounts is being developed and from that it will become clear if it will be necessary to sell properties, when that time will be right, and which ones will be put on the market first,” she said, adding that the diocese is looking to advisors for help.
According to Ms. Sweet, the Diocese of St. Georges, now part of Cornerbrook-Labrador City Diocese in Newfoundland is also selling properties to help pay settlements.
Victims’ lawyer Aaron Lealess said he didn’t discuss with the diocese how they’d pay for the individually negotiated settlements, but he did know land sales were a possibility.
He said his clients are using the settlements to provide a sense of “closure.”
The damage may not be over for the Nova Scotia church.
“The Diocese of Yarmouth has been facing more than 20 cases of sexual abuse,” the church said in a statement. “In all of these cases, the proffered process is to reach an appropriate settlement through negotiations in a process that is respectful of the victim and with fair consideration for the legal obligations of the Diocese.
”While some cases have been resolved through mediation, there are more to be negotiated through this process in the near future. It is important to allow the process to be followed for each case.”
Police belive the men placed skimming devices over the card-reading slots of various ATMs and attached pinhole cameras facing the pin pads of the machines.
Police allege the men left the equipment in place for up to two hours and then transferred client card data onto computer, allowing for the creation of counterfeit cards.
After a two-week investigation, officers searched four Toronto apartments and seized counterfeit payment cards, laptop computers, several pinhole cameras, card-reader overlays, electronics, manufacturing tools and counterfeit identification.
Detective Phil Hibbeln of the fraud squad said it is possible there are some victims who have yet to notice that funds are missing from their accounts.
While the officers can’t comment specifically on what led them to the men allegedly responsible, Detective Hibbeln said TD Bank “was a big help.”
Facing charges are: Alexander Livchits, 27, Calin Nicusor Nicula, 26, Ionut Oltean, 29, Petru Mosneag, 43, and Jozef Kiss, 41, all of Toronto.
Elspeth Lodge January 17, 2011 – 8:00 pm
A Newfoundland school bus driver has been suspended after allegedly asking schoolchildren to push his bus up a hill after it stalled in the snow.
A school board official said Monday a passerby saw the incident, in the parking lot of Holy Spirit High School outside St. John’s on Thursday.
The witness reported it to the CBC, but the board official said it is unclear whether the bus driver actually instructed the children to get out of the bus, or if nearby kids “just happened” to see it in trouble and ran to help. Either way, the official said it was against protocol and someone could have gotten hurt.
She stresses the investigation is ongoing and there is a need for stories “to be confirmed.”
Normally, protocol would predict that they park the bus and wait for assistance: “The bus was still in the parking lot and kids could have gone back into the school or waited for another bus to come pick them up.”
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
At least three Prince Edward Island teens have been contacted on Facebook by a fake talent scout promising them a career as a model in exchange for photos of themselves in lingerie, incidents that highlight the risk to children who expose their personal details online.
Angela Campagnoni, owner of City Models Talent Agency, said she got a call from the mother of 15-year-old girl asking why one of her talent scouts, someone named Laura McDonald, had contacted her daughter on Facebook and requested she send photos of herself in her bra and underwear, along with a list of her friends.
The talent scout had sent a private message to the girl and tried to add her as a “friend” on the site, which would allow access to the teen’s personal information. The messages urged the girl to act quickly or risk losing her chance at becoming a model. The teen sent back a scantily scad photo.
At first, the girl’s mother was excited that her daughter had been discovered by a reputable talent agency, Ms. Campagnoni said. But she became suspicious when the scout started asking for more photos, saying the first wasn’t good enough.
Ms. Campagnoni, whose agency is based in Halifax, told the woman she doesn’t solicit models on Facebook and doesn’t employ anyone named Laura McDonald.
Police in Summerside, P.E.I., said they have received three complaints from parents all complaining that Laura McDonald from City Models was asking their daughters to send sexually suggestive photos. Most of the girls were connected to each other on Facebook and the scout had offered some of the teens money to forward the names and photos of their friends, police said.
Legitimate agencies like City Models receive applications by as many as 10 girls a day looking to be models and never solicit new clients online, Ms. Campagnoni said. Nearly a third of its clients are underage and the agency involves parents in every step of the scouting and modelling process.
No real modelling agency approaches clients on Facebook, Ms. Campagnoni said. “A normal agency would never use that method,” she said, adding that most legitimate scouts approach potential clients in person, “especially with someone underage.”
Ms. Campagnoni worried that predators were targeting vulnerable girls “with stars in their eyes” excited at the prospect of being discovered that they readily sent off photos without considering the consequences.
“She probably came home from school, was very excited, everyone else got excited, did it, and then thought about it later,” Ms. Campagnoni said.
Child luring over the Internet has become a growing concern for police in Canada. A 2009 Statistics Canada report found the number of Internet luring cases nearly doubled between 2005 and 2007. Fewer than half the cases had been solved.
Elspeth Lodge December 16, 2010 – 12:42 pm
Tony Michael Connolly of Toronto was charged Wednesday with a series of 15 residential break-ins and six attempted break-ins in the Kingston Road and Warden Avenue and Kingston Road and Midland Avenue areas.
Undercover officers from the 41 Division Major Crime Unit were patrolling the area Wednesday when they allegedly caught Mr. Connolly in the act of breaking into a residence.
After what police say was an attempted escape, Mr. Connolly was caught and now faces 23 charges, including possession of burglar’s tools.
Toronto Police Constable Tony Vella said the police believe Mr. Connolly was acting alone. Const. Vella alleges that he scoped out residences before robbing them.
All of the alleged robberies were consistent, Const. Vella said. “Electronics, jewelry and money” is what the suspect was after— he was not looking for violence. All the houses in question were forensically examined.”
The suspect was to appear in court on Thursday.
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Toronto Police have identified 14 officers believed to have been involved or nearby during the controversial arrest of Adam Nobody during the G20 Summit in June. The names of the 14 officers have not been released to the public, but have been forwarded to the Special Investigations Unit, said police spokesman Mark Pugash. The SIU is looking into whether criminal charges should be laid in the case, which has garnered significant public attention. Video of the arrest of Mr. Nobody showed him being apprehended by riot police during a demonstration at Queen’s Park. The SIU deemed “excessive force” was used, but could not identify the officers involved. Stills from a video shot by an unnamed University of Toronto student, and published in the Toronto Star, show the face of an officer who appears to strike Mr. Nobody repeatedly with a baton.
Peter J. Thompson / National Post
Pedestrians walk past the Main Street Public Library Branch on Toronto’s 137 Main Street, Friday December 3, 2010
Elspeth Lodge December 8, 2010 – 7:06 am
Four days after a deadly crossbow attack that left one man dead and his son accused of murder, the Main Street Library that was the scene of the bloodshed reopened its doors to the public.
A customer said she found re-entering the building “disconcerting” and found herself wondering “if ghosts exist.”
The scene inside early Tuesday afternoon was one of calm concentration as librarians went about their usual tasks.
About a dozen adult patrons browsed books and surfed the Internet.
Anne Marie Akins, Community Relations Manager for the Toronto Public Library system, said staff are still “shaken” by the incident, but to varying degrees.
“This neighbourhood loves this branch. It is a safe environment.”
Andrew Barr, National Post
Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
Police are searching for two drivers after the death of a 31-year-old Brampton woman, who was struck twice in succession by vehicles that fled the scene.
Erica Carmichael was at the intersection of Torbram Road and Walker Drive when she was struck by a transport truck on Wednesday at 5:37 p.m.
After the truck hit Ms. Carmichael, it continued east on Walker Drive. A cargo van travelling behind the transport truck then collided with Ms. Carmichael and also departed eastbound from the scene.
She was declared dead at the scene.
Police report the victim was going from the “southeast corner of the intersection to the northeast corner” at the time of the collisions.
Constable George Tudos of Peel Regional Police said investigators are reviewing surveillance tapes from nearby businesses to discover what happened.
A witness is reported to have stopped to help the victim and then pursued the truck in his car, but did not return to the scene. Police are trying to track down the witness and any others who can help identify the vehicles involved. The transport truck was described by police as “bright white, with a sleeper type cab and a 53-foot box trailer.”
The only information they have about the second truck is that it is white.
Elspeth Lodge December 3, 2010 – 7:56 pm
A Toronto student succeeded in attracting hundreds of supporters yesterday to a rally accusing administrators at Northern Secondary School of violating his rights to free speech.
But he also attracted a number of students from the school who weren’t so supportive, many gathering nearby and chanting: “Get a real cause!”
Emil Cohen’s backers included a local politician, parents and random citizens who heard about the “Appeal for Emil: Rally to End Censorship by Northern Administration” through the media.
The Grade 12 student was suspended for two days and lost his physical education privileges after a speech at a school athletic assembly criticized the school for its poor treatment of the soccer team. His speech was cut short and he was escorted off the stage.
“Sometimes you have to speak up. I don’t think it was disrespectful at all,” said Cara Worthington, whose husband was coach of the Northern Secondary school soccer team for 19 years.
That opinion was not shared by students who stood nearby in support of other sports teams. “Who is ‘we’?” one of the students yelled. “The school’s over here not over there!”
They managed to drown out Mr. Cohen when he attempted to deliver the complete version of his athletic assembly speech.
Among the allegations made by Mr. Cohen is that the school favoured the football team when it came to scheduling use of the field and the soccer team was supplied with inadequate equipment, uniforms and coaching.
While the two groups of protesters traded barbs, school superintendent Ian Allison stood off to the side, observing the scene and siding with no one.
“We’re here to support the students,” he said. “In terms of this rally, this is an opportunity for Emil and others to express themselves.”
The athletic assembly was an opportunity for something altogether different.
“The issue here is not the speech itself,” he said. “The issue is there was a process, and he didn’t follow through.”
Mr. Allison said the student did not work with staff and the speech was not approved. The assembly was intended to celebrate the achievements of student athletes in the school.
The rally organizers want the school to remove the suspension from his permanent record, return phys ed privileges, formally apologize, and ensure that students have the right to free speech.
Rosario Marchese, MPP and education critic for the NDP, criticized the school for its actions.
“It is absolutely wrong,” he told the crowd. “The teachers involved made a mistake and they should admit it. They should apologize to him and learn from this mistake.”
There was no indication from Mr. Allison that the administration would change its mind about Mr. Cohen’s suspension.
Elspeth Lodge November 30, 2010 – 1:42 pm
Police have launched a fraud investigation after an ATM skimming device was discovered by a customer at the Toronto Dominion Bank on Saturday, November 13 near Bathurst and St. Clair Avenue West.
Police don’t believe any PINs were compromised, because the perpetrator never returned for the device, said Constable James Turnbull, a fraud investigator with 13 Division.”It was stopped right away, these happen commonly throughout the city.”
Often, says Constable Turnbull, the installers are part of organized crime factions in the city. A security camera image of a male suspect has been released and police hope the public can help identify him.
Mother found guilty of drowning children in tub
National Post Staff November 15, 2010 – 10:26 am
By Kenyon Wallace and Elspeth Lodge
Jurors wept Monday as they convicted a Barrie, Ont., mother of two counts of first-degree murder for drowning her two little girls in the family bathtub four years ago.
Elaine Campione, 35, wept, too, as she learned how she will likely spend the next 25 years of her life: behind bars.
Looking pale, thin and exhausted, Campione hunched forward as she cried, her long dark hair falling over her shoulders onto her baby-blue collared shirt.
“The circumstances of this case are undeniably and inordinately tragic,” Judge Alfred Stong told the crowded courtroom. “One can only hope that they do not reflect, even at their most extreme, a direction of our society.”
A few women on the jury wiped tears from their eyes as Justice Stong read the verdict after nearly seven days of deliberations, while Ms. Campione’s parents, sitting in the front row, were visibly shaken at the news. They have been by their daughter’s side the whole trial, forming a close relationship with her defenders, waiting patiently to hear what fate awaited their child.
Defence lawyer Mary Cremer described her client, who had been treated for depression, as a person “ravaged by mental illness.”
“This was an illness that she never asked to get,” she told reporters after the verdict. “It was an illness that unfortunately overtook her to the point where she just became sicker and sicker and sicker.”
In the year before she killed 3-year-old Serena and 19-month-old Sophia, Campione had been hospitalized three times for various psychiatric breakdowns. She tried to kill herself. She believed she was being followed by men who wanted to kill her. She thought aliens were visiting earth. She believed red symbolized blood and forbade Serena from touching anything of that colour.
During the trial, the jury heard how Campione wrote in a journal that she was sexually abused as a child in her native New Brunswick by a man who owned a farm where she did chores.
“It is more than disconcerting to think that if Campione had not been so abused, so used and discarded as a person, her two daughters could still be alive,” Judge Stong said.
The jury put the most stock in the Crown’s submission blaming Campione’s intense hatred for her estranged and allegedly abusive husband, Leo Campione. The drownings came shortly before she was to head to family court for a custody hearing.
She held them under the water in the bathtub of her Coulter Street apartment in Barrie. She then dressed them in pajamas, lay them down on her bed and wove rosary beads through their cold, lifeless hands. She called police two days later.
A home video, which Campione filmed the night she killed her children, shows a vindictive, angry woman. The footage begins with baby Sophia playing in the bathtub, laughing, smiling. Cut to an hour later, and the children are dead.
“Are you happy now?” Campione spews at the camera in a message intended for her husband. “You can visit them in their caskets.”
Campione will be formally sentenced on Wednesday, when her husband is expected to read a victim impact statement to the court. The judge said the Ministry of the Attorney General will be responsible for covering the cost of any counselling jury members need after the two-month trial.
Rosemary Gartner, a criminology professor at the University of Toronto, Monday likened the verdict to others in similar murder cases.
“In cases of mothers killing their kids, juries tend to have extreme emotional reactions. One reaction is that anybody who does something like this is obviously a bit crazy and deserves sympathy. The other side says, well, this is clearly the devil,” said Prof. Gartner.
The former reaction is a legal phenomenon known as “jury nullification,” where a jury will take into account mitigating factors, such as mental illness, or will even take pity on a young mother, and hand out a reduced sentence, as in the case of Andrea Yates, a Houston, Texas, mother who drowned her five children in her home’s bathtub in June 2001.
Ms. Yates was originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison, but a jury overturned the verdict on appeal in 2006, ruling she was not guilty by reason of insanity.
In 2008, an Ontario Superior Court jury found Xuan Linda Peng guilty of second-degree murder for drowning her 4-year-old daughter Scarlett in the bathtub of her family’s Toronto home four years earlier. She had originally been charged with first-degree murder.
Judge defines ‘moral’ for jurors in Campione case
Elspeth Lodge November 12, 2010 – 11:21 pm
BARRIE — The jury deliberating the fate of a Barrie woman who drowned her two young daughters will continue their deliberations for a fifth day today.
Elaine Campione, 35, is on trial in Ontario Superior Court, on two counts of first-degree murder. Her lawyer has admitted the 35-year-old woman caused the death of her children, three-year-old Serena Campione and her 19-month-old sister Sophia, in October 2006, but argues Ms. Campione is not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.
Yesterday, the jury asked for a definition of ‘‘morally wrong,” a phrase Justice Alfred Stong had used in his instructions before their deliberations. He read them the Canadian Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘‘moral.’’
The jury also asked for a definition and review of ‘‘balance of probabilities,’’ another phrase from his instructions. He repeated what he had told them earlier, that the defence needs to prove Ms. Campione was not criminally responsible on a simple ‘‘balance of probabilities,’’ rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Ms. Campione looked pale and solemn, her eyes cast downward, almost closed, as the judge and lawyers spoke yesterday. She wore a pink-collared shirt and black coat, sitting nearly still.
Her parents and sister-in-law have been waiting calmly outside the courtroom with no news for three days now.
In the morning, Ms. Campione’s mother was asked, ‘‘Do you think there will be a verdict today?”
She shook her head, and said simply: ‘‘I don’t know.’’
Ms. Campione was 31 when she called 911 early in the morning to say she had drowned her two daughters in the bathtub of her low-rent apartment.
Ms. Campione and her former husband, Leonardo Campione, had been locked in a bitter custody battle over their daughters. Their four-year relationship ended with Ms. Campione accusing her husband of years of abuse and threatening to flee with the girls to her native New Brunswick. The two were set to appear in family court a day after Ms. Campione phoned to say she had killed her daughters.
Her lawyer, Mary Cremer, argued that her client was a loving mother who struggled with mental illness.
The Crown worked to paint Ms. Campione as a woman consumed with hatred for her former husband, who drowned her children as a final act of revenge.
A two-hour videotape of the girls, allegedly filmed by their mother on the day they died, was played in court earlier in the trial. The girls were seen in frilly clothing and then again in a bubble bath. Ms. Campione was heard at one point talking about the cleanliness of her apartment.
The camera was shut off. When the videotape resumed, the jury saw Ms. Campione crying and stating that her daughters were now in heaven. She was also heard making critical comments about her former husband, calling him “evil” and blaming him for not permitting her to leave Ontario with the children.
She drowned them, but is she guilty?
J.P. Moczulski, Reuters Files
Leo Campione at the funeral for his two daughters in 2006. Their mother, Elaine, is on trial for their deaths.
Joe O’Connor And Elspeth Lodge, National Post · Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
Elaine Campione appears haunted in the photograph. Her eyes, dark and sad, are puffy and framed by black circles. Her smile is weak, forced. A gold crucifix dangles from her neck.
Ms. Campione’s left arm is wrapped around her three-year-old daughter, Serena. Serena does not look like her mother. Not in the photograph. Her eyes are dancing. She is smiling, and wearing a plastic yellow sand pail as a hat.
Her mother’s right arm is supporting her baby sister, Sophia. Sophia has the same dark eyes as her mother, only hers, too, are full of light. Sophia has chubby little arms and the wispy blond hair of a baby. The two little girls are the perfect innocents.
On Oct. 2, 2006, their mother drowned them in the bathtub of her apartment in Barrie, Ont. Ms. Campione dressed them in their pajamas the next day, wove rosary beads through their tiny, lifeless fingers, clasped their hands together and tucked them into her bed before finally calling police on the morning of Oct. 4.
Ms. Campione was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. For the past two months a court in Barrie has listened as two competing narratives emerged around who, and what, Elaine Campione really was.
Her lawyer, Mary Cremer, told the jury her client was a caring mother who doted on her children even as she struggled with mental illness.
The Crown painted her as a calculated killer, a woman so fueled by hate for her estranged husband that she was willing to murder her own kids.
The 35-year-old does not dispute her actions. She admits to holding the girls underwater until the last air bubbles escaped from their lips. At issue then in an emotional case, which has riveted a bustling bedroom community about an hour north of Toronto, is Ms. Campione’s mental state: Whether she was suffering from a mental disorder, experienced a clear break from reality, and whether she can be held criminally responsible for her horrific crimes.
A sequestered jury has been locked in deliberations for several days, and retired last night without a verdict. They will resume this morning. Their task is unenviable.
Ample testimony of the killer’s erratic behaviour was heard in court; about how Ms. Campione was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward three times in the year prior to the killings; how she attempted suicide; how she forbid her daughter, Serena, from touching anything red — because it symbolized blood; how she thought she was being followed by men who wanted to kill her and how, after being discharged from the psych ward on one occasion, she ran about her in-laws house babbling about aliens.
Her lawyer says the evidence shows a woman who was unraveling fast. That she was already broken mentally, and at the same time terrified
of losing custody of her kids to her estranged husband–an abusive man she feared — in an increasingly messy family court battle.
Leo Campione was pushing to obtain his wife’s hospital records. Off medication, beyond supervised care and feeling cornered, a complete psychotic episode ensued where — or so the defence contends — the act of murdering her children was viewed by Ms. Campione as an act of grace, a way of saving her precious babies.
The Crown believes otherwise. The photograph of the haunted-looking Elaine Campione is not the only visual aid the jury has been handed to consider. There is a home video, shot by Ms. Campione, from the night of the killings. It shows Sophia, her baby girl, smiling, laughing, and playfully splashing about in the tub while her mother sings “twinkle, twinkle little star.”
The camera is then turned off. An hour later, the video resumes. It is Ms. Campione, spewing an angry tirade at her husband, telling him their children are dead.
“Are you happy now,” she says. “You can visit them in their caskets.”
There is a cold and institutional feel to the courthouse in Barrie. It is a grim place, and with their daughter’s fate hanging in the balance — and their precious granddaughters murdered by her hand– Ms. Campione’s parents have sat quietly in the hallway while the jury deliberates.
Theirs is a solemn vigil. During the wait, a man pushing a stroller happened by. He stopped next to them. They waved and smiled at the squirming child inside.
It is impossible not to feel the heartbreak in this awful script, not to see how lives get ripped apart by a crime too horrible to contemplate.
The tot in that stroller looked to be about three. Serena, with her big sweet eyes, and bubbly smile, was the same age when her mother drowned her in a bathtub.
It was in their apartment on Coulter Street, just off Highway 400, a busy artery where life — in all its happy normalcy — just keeps on rushing by.
Woman solves Wheel of Fortune puzzle with just ‘L’ revealed
Elspeth Lodge November 10, 2010 – 10:24 am
“Is it just me, or was that the most amazing solve we’ve ever had?” asked Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak. Only the letter “L” had been revealed last week when Caitlin Burke shocked the Wheel of Fortune audience by correctly solving a seven-word puzzle. The phrase that won her a Caribbean vacation? “I’ve got a good feeling about this.”
Ms. Burke, a huge fan of the show, had always impressed friends and family with her puzzle solving skills, according to CNN. She claims her success is a result of watching the show a lot and thinking positively. “If you have a good feeling about something, just go for it!” she tells CNN.
The 26 year-old Penn State graduate is a New York fashion magazine editor, and a native of The Clinton Township, N.J.. According to WTOP.com, Ms. Burke won more than $53,000 in total from her stint on the game show.” (Her trip to the Caribbean alone was worth $6,500.) Ms. Burke plans to pay off her student loan, buy a Chanel bag and start a business.
35-year-old man faces 260 gun-related charges
Elspeth Lodge November 9, 2010 – 11:41 pm
Police have laid 260 firearm-related charges against a 35-year-old Toronto man after uncovering a stash of guns and ammunition believed to be destined for “drug dealers and gangsters.”
Officers from the firearm and gang task force and from the 14 Division major crime unit arrested Eric Reid on Thursday on outstanding warrants. Police say he was in possession of three replica handguns at the time.
The following day police searched a storage facility in the Greensboro Drive and Kipling Avenue area, where they recovered 13 long guns, 22 handguns, three extra-capacity magazines and 5,581 rounds of ammunition.
Another raid on Saturday produced two handguns and 181 rounds of ammunition at a home in Richmond Hill.
Police believe that all of the guns were obtained during two break-and-enters in the Durham region between Oct. 26 and Oct., 27. One of the victims has been charged by Durham Regional Police with careless storage of firearms, which were left in a Port Perry storage unit.
Six handguns reported stolen have yet to be recovered, though police believe they are on the streets of Toronto.
Among the charges laid against Mr. Reid are: possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition, possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, trafficking in firearms, unauthorized possession of a prohibited device and possession of firearm obtained by the commission of an offence.
He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, at 2201 Finch Avenue West, at 10 a.m.
Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images
Poppies at the Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory on November 8, 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Elspeth Lodge November 9, 2010 – 10:26 am
The Royal British Legion is banking on the sound of silence. It’s released a “2 Minute Silence” track on iTunes with the hope that it will top the music charts for the U.K.’s Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. The goal? Raising money for vets, and getting people to sit back and reflect as the track “plays.”
The £1 purchase price (which includes a “music” video) goes towards supporting serving and ex-service personnel and their families. The video depicts celebs (including Thom Yorke, Andy Murray, David Tennant and Mark Ronson) being, well, silent.
Iron Maiden frontman and radio DJ Bruce Dickinson said, “My first thought about the 2 Minute Silence single was that it was the work of a madman – my second thought was no, it’s the work of a genius! It’s an honour to be involved with it,” according to Musicvice.com.
There is now a Facebook page to help create (presumably very quiet and respectful) buzz.