The distraught father of an eight-year-old murder victim asked a courtroom full of onlookers to place themselves in his shoes Wednesday as his ex-wife faced sentencing for killing their daughter.
“What would you not endure to save the life of your child?” Gabe Batstone asked.
“You would pay any ransom. You would quit your job. You would sell your house. You would give up a limb … Why would you do this? Because it pales in comparison to the pain of losing a child.”
‘An offence against a child’
Wearing a dark suit and tie, Batstone gave the first impact statement at a B.C. Supreme Court hearing being held in New Westminster to determine how long Lisa Batstone should spend behind bars before she is eligible to apply for parole.
Lisa Batstone was convicted last March of second-degree murder in the death of Teagan Batstone on Dec. 9, 2014.
She smothered her daughter with a plastic bag in an act Justice Catherine Murray described as “systematic, focused, purposeful and goal directed.”
“That goal,” Murray wrote in her decision to convict. “To end her daughter’s short life.”
Crown counsel Christopher McPherson reminded Murray of those words as he said Lisa Batstone should be incarcerated for between 16 to 18 years before she can ask for parole.
A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but judges can decide on a range of 10 to 25 years parole ineligibility depending on the circumstances of the crime.
The defence is asking for 10 years.
“This was an offence against a child,” McPherson said as he called for a term on the highest end of the range.
He pointed to Lisa Batstone’s continual attempts to deflect blame for her actions and the fact that she breached the almost sacred trust that a child places in a parent to guard their safety.
‘Is Teagan’s mummy going to die me too’
Gabe Batstone flew in from Ontario to give his statement in person.
He told Murray the two sons he has with his new wife have struggled to comprehend the loss of their sister.
One of the first questions his then-three year-old asked him: “Is Teagan’s mummy going to die me too?”
“No,” Batstone said he told the child. “We’ll protect you, buddy.”
“Then why didn’t you protect Teagan?”
Gabe Batstone describes the emotional exchange
Stephanie Batstone also took the stand to talk about the devastating loss of a child she considered as much hers as the two sons she and Gabe Batstone have raised since he separated from Lisa Batstone in 2008.
At every step of the process, she said the family has been confronted with new lows in terms of the process of grief, justice, loss and coping: finding a headstone; choosing a coffin for an eight-year-old and settling on the clothes in which to bury Teagan.
But Stephanie Batstone said by far the worst impact has been the effects on her sons. One just celebrated his 13th birthday, a bittersweet event knowing that Teagan would also have turned 13 around the same time.
The same boy has had to switch schools twice, taunted at one school where children on the bus he took each day would make a game of trying to guess how his sister was killed.
She said the other boy, who was three when Teagan died, has asked her what prison bars are made of. He said he hoped they would make the ones that held Lisa Batstone of titanium, so it would make if more difficult to escape.
“We live in fear of Lisa Batstone,” she told the court.
The final victim impact statement came from Gabriel and Stephanie Batstone’s youngest son. It was a drawing of a boy and a girl. Both have their arms in the air. The boy wears a cap and has tears on his face.
“I am really sad,” the boy wrote. “I miss Teagie.”
‘I deserve to go to jail’
Neither Gabe nor Stephanie Batstone made eye contact with Lisa Batstone as they walked up to the witness box and took the stand below the judge to give their statements.
Wearing a loose, long pink shirt, her brown hair thick and unkempt, Lisa Batstone appeared to stumble, overwhelmed with emotion as sheriffs escorted her from the courtroom on a break following the witness statements.
During the trial, Batstone’s lawyers argued that alcohol consumption and mental and emotional instability had contributed to her actions. They say she has since been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
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.”
‘You don’t use mentally ill people to make examples of’
Defence lawyer Rebecca McConchie argued that Batstone’s mental illness should be taken into consideration as a mitigating factor.
“You don’t use mentally ill people to make examples of,” McConchie told the judge.
“They didn’t ask to have their brains wired this way.”
McConchie also rejected the notion that Batstone is not remorseful for her crime.
“She knows that she’s the one who created this pain,” she said. “She lives daily with the realization that she killed Teagan.”
The defence lawyer also said the evidence did not show that Batstone had killed her daughter to spite her ex-husband — saying she thought she was saving the child who she believed was at the risk of great harm.
“That wasn’t reality,” McConchie said. “That was reality she perceived because of mental illness.”
Justice Murray interrupted McConchie several times as she grappled with the type of sentence needed to adequately mark the severity of Lisa Batstone’s breach of trust.
“How do I reflect that?” she asked.
In the hours after she killed her daughter Batstone wrote a note blaming her ex-husband for her decision to take her child’s life and posting notes that read: “You win Gabe” and: “You broke me,” in her townhouse.
She wrote that she “couldn’t believe” she had taken Teagan’s life: “I deserve to go to jail or institution plus death penalty.”