British citizen Robert Leeming has pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Calgary mom Jasmine Lovett in 2019.
Leeming, now 36, entered the plea as his judge-alone trial in the death of the 25-year-old woman began Tuesday.
Leeming is also accused of the second-degree murder of Lovett’s 22-month-old daughter, Aliyah Sanderson. To that charge, he pleaded not guilty.
“Initially, it was extremely difficult,” said Kim Blankert, Lovett’s mom, outside the Calgary Courts Centre on Tuesday.
“He looks the same as he did the last time I saw him, so it just brought everything back to that first day. It feels like it’s all just happening all over again.”
Blankert wants justice for both her daughter and granddaughter.
“Jasmine was the best mom. She really loved being a mom. She was very kind. Very sweet girl,” she said.
Blankert said she didn’t get the chance to hear Sanderson’s first word.
“I just really miss them,” she said through tears.
“We are trying to move forward and think of only positive things and happy memories and keep their spirits close and move forward that way, but it’s been very difficult.”
Lovett and Sanderson were last seen on April 16, 2019, police said, adding that the last activity on Lovett’s bank account was two days later. They were reported missing on April 23, 2019, after they did not show up for a dinner.
The pair’s disappearance became a homicide investigation on April 25, 2019.
Police found their bodies in Kananaskis — in a “heavily wooded area near Grizzly Creek located off Highway 40” — on May 6, 2019. Leeming was brought into custody and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
Video: Accused pleads guilty to 2nd-degree murder of Calgary mother, pleads not guilty in toddler’s death (Global News)
Both suffered blunt force trauma
Court heard in an agreed statement of facts read by Crown prosecutor Doug Taylor that Lovett and Sanderson were “found buried in shallow graves, under brush, branches and mulch in a wooded area in Kananaskis Country near Fortress Junction Service.” Leeming led two undercover officers there 4.5 hours after a police tactic dubbed Operation Highwood was initiated.
According to the medical examiner, Lovett died of multiple injuries — she was shot and suffered blunt force trauma to her head — and Sanderson suffered blunt force trauma.
Taylor said Lovett and Leeming met on a dating app in September 2018. She and Sanderson moved into Leeming’s place a month later, living as “boyfriend and girlfriend” even though Lovett paid him expenses and rent, Taylor said.
‘It was very strange’
Jenavie Lovett testified that her sister and Leeming had an up-and-down relationship and often argued. She believed they were moving too fast.
“I was concerned because Jasmine said she was going to move in with Robert despite only having known him for a few weeks to a month. Naturally, as a sister, I had my concerns,” she said.
“It was very strange. It’s like emotionally, it wasn’t quite on the level that you’d think a relationship would be. I know Jasmine talked about having some issues in getting Robert to open up.”
The couple broke up at one point, she said. Lovett said her sister sent her a text message that said: “It’s not working out, and I’m not happy.” But they remained in the same home and eventually got back together.
Lovett said Leeming seemed to embrace co-parenting the little girl.
“He would cook for her. He would put Aliyah to bed. He would watch Aliyah if Jasmine had to leave the house,” she said.
“Robert seemed to be very fond of Aliyah. Everything was about Aliyah. He almost seemed to care more about Aliyah than he did about Jasmine.”
Court heard Lovett was pregnant with Leeming’s baby, but the pregnancy was terminated months before she died.
Lovett and Sanderson were killed between April 16 and 17, 2019, according to the agreed statement of facts.
Taylor said Leeming, Lovett and Sanderson attended a family gathering two days before it’s believed they were killed.
Video: Calgary police look for missing mother and daughter
The trial will proceed on the sole charge of second-degree murder in the death of Sanderson and is scheduled for four weeks.
“The accused admits that he murdered Jasmine Lovett, yet he maintains that he did not murder 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson,” Taylor said.
“The prosecution respectfully suggests that once all of the evidence is heard and considered in this case, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the accused, Robert Andrew Leeming, murdered Aliyah too.”
The prosecution expects to wrap up its case next week.
– With files from Global News’ Jill Croteau and The Canadian PressInternet Explorer Channel Network