'Limp and unresponsive': Accused in toddler's death testifies she fell down stairs

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CALGARY — A Calgary man who has admitted to killing his girlfriend testified Wednesday he had nothing to do with the death of her 22-month-old daughter. 

'Limp and unresponsive': Accused in toddler's death testifies she fell down stairs
© Provided by The Canadian Press

Robert Leeming broke down sobbing several times when he took the witness stand at his trial on a second-degree murder charge in the 2019 death of Aliyah Sanderson.

He has already entered a guilty plea in the second-degree murder of the girl’s mother, 25-year-old Jasmine Lovett. 

Leeming, 36, testified that he and Lovett moved in together in October 2018 and he had a romantic relationship with her until January 2019. He said they remained friendly and he helped take care of Aliyah — including taking and picking her up from daycare and sometimes putting her to bed.

“I loved her. She was a wonderful kid,” Leeming said. “It was great. I treated her as my own. I enjoyed being there for her.”

His lawyer, Balfour Der, asked: “Did you have a reason to kill Aliyah?”

“No,” Leeming replied.

“Did you kill her?”

“No,” said Leeming.

Leeming said he picked Aliyah up from daycare on April 16, 2019, and got her a snack at home while Lovett went to job interviews. He said he saw Aliyah start to climb a set of stairs.

“I heard a thump and I saw her lying on the ground. She seemed all right. I picked her up and dusted her off.”

Leeming said Aliyah seemed normal when she was put to bed. Lovett came home and checked on her. He and Lovett had dinner and watched TV.

When he went upstairs to check on the little girl 45 minutes later, he said, something was wrong.

“I picked her up and found she was limp and unresponsive,” Leeming said.

He said he called Lovett upstairs and she was also unable to revive the girl.

Leeming said he then went downstairs to get his phone and was confronted by Lovett.

“We were in the kitchen and were both crying and shouting at each other. She stood up to me and pointed at me and asked if I had done anything to Aliyah,” Leeming said through tears.

“I freaked out. I snapped and hit her with a hammer on the head. I remember hitting her twice.”

Leeming said he stood there for awhile but didn’t hit her again.

“She was dying and I wanted it to stop. I went to the garage and picked up a .22 and shot her in the head,” Leeming said. “It was the only thing I thought could be quick.”

Leeming said he wrapped the bodies of his girlfriend and her daughter in blue and black blankets and put a roll of paper towels near Lovett’s head “to stop the blood.”

Lovett and the child were reported missing after they didn’t show up for a family dinner.

Their bodies were later found buried in a shallow grave in a remote area west of Calgary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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