A man accused in a double murder killed a woman who was trying to protect a close friend and then silenced the woman’s five-year-old daughter who was a witness, a Crown prosecutor suggested Monday.
Edward Downey, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Sara Baillie, who was 34, and her daughter Taliyah Marsman in July 2016.
In a quiet, hoarse voice, Downey pleaded not guilty Monday before a jury in a Calgary courtroom.
Prosecutor Carla MacPhail said in her opening statement that Baillie was close friends with Downey’s girlfriend, who can only be identified as A.B. because of a publication ban.
She told the jury Downey had struck his girlfriend in the face in front of Baillie. He also blamed Baillie for A.B.’s decision to break up with him and not work for him as an escort, she added.
MacPhail said the girlfriend was more than an intimate partner — she paid the bills and provided a home and a vehicle.
“You will be asked to consider what impact this had on Mr. Downey,” MacPhail told the jurors.
She described how loved ones became concerned when Baillie didn’t show up on July 11 for her shift as a waitress at the Chili’s Grill and Bar at the Calgary airport and Taliyah didn’t attend daycare.
Baillie’s aunt, Marilynne Hamilton, testified that concerned friends and family searched Baillie’s suburban basement suite later the same day.
She said Baillie’s purse was on the floor of her daughter’s room with her wallet still inside. Taliyah’s iPad was plugged in on the bed — unusual, as the child would rarely part with her prized device.
Baillie’s car wasn’t there. MacPhail told the trial it would be found later parked around the corner.
“Something’s not right,” Hamilton recalled thinking.
A friend who was also there called 911.
Officers arrived and spoke to Hamilton and her husband in the living room. Just as they were finishing up, an officer took a final look around.
Hamilton said she heard a gasp from the other room.
“I was pleading for him to tell me what he saw and if it was Sara and Taliyah,” she testified, weeping.
“He just kept saying, ‘I don’t know.’”
Hamilton said she and her husband were told to stay where they were.
“We heard him on the radio. He called out different names,” she said. “He said, ‘I need everybody here now.’”
The jury heard Baillie’s body was found was found stuffed into a laundry hamper in her daughter’s closet, duct tape “wrapped around, around, around” her face and neck.
Taliyah was missing and an Amber Alert was issued.
The girl was discovered dead under a bush in a rural area east of Calgary three days later.
“She was almost six, old enough to identify her mother’s killer, especially if she knew him,” MacPhail said.
The cause of death for mother and daughter was deemed to be asphyxiation, the jury heard.
The courtroom’s public gallery was so packed with loved ones and media that an overflow courtroom with a video feed needed to be set up.
Hamilton testified she was close with Baillie and Taliyah and that they’d visit four or five times a week.
Baillie loved her family and friends, she said.
“She was the type of person who would have given the last dollar in her wallet to somebody else who needed it,” she said.
“She loved Taliyah. Taliyah was her life.”
When asked if Baillie was protective of Taliyah, Hamilton said she was. She was asked whether the same was true for her friends and family.
“Absolutely,” Hamilton replied.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press