CONTENT WARNING: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing for some readers
Frustrated by lack of access to her child, a recent breakup with a boyfriend, and financial issues, Langley’s KerryAnn Lewis allegedly sedated and then drowned her seven-year-old daughter, Aaliyah Rosa, the Crown argued Monday on the first day of a B.C. Supreme Court murder trial.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Martha Devlin is hearing the case.
Crown prosecutors Kristen LeNoble and Christopher McPherson began what is expected to be a multi-week trial by laying out the case against the accused, who is charged with first-degree murder in the July 22, 2018 death of Aaliyah in a Langley Township apartment.
LeNoble said the Crown will attempt to prove that Lewis not only killed her daughter, but had planned the act in advance.
Lewis’s background leading up to the day of Aaliyah’s death was laid out by the prosecution, including her marriage to Steven Rosa, Aaliyah’s father, and the couple’s acrimonious split in 2016.
At the time of Aaliyah’s death, it was Rosa who had primary custody of Aaliyah, and Lewis was frequently upset about her lack of visitation time, LeNoble said.
LeNoble told the court that the accused was upset at being limited to visits twice a week only, with no overnight stays allowed. A nightly video chat with Aaliyah frequently did not happen, which was another source of tension for Lewis, the prosecutor said.
She also noted that Lewis had been admitted to the hospital several times between 2010 and 2018, having attempted suicide with prescription medications.
According to prosecutors, the day before Aaliyah’s death, Lewis’s then-boyfriend stormed out of the apartment after a fight. He headed to a friend’s place in the early morning hours of July 22, and in a text exchange with Lewis in the morning, he said they were through and he would be back for his things later in the day.
Following that, LeNoble said Lewis sent a number of text messages to a “gifting club” of which she and her ex- boyfriend had been members. She had apparently invested about $15,000 in the “club” and was trying to get her money back, in part for legal fees for her fight over custody of Aaliyah.
During the course of the day, LeNoble said Lewis’s messages show she had realized she would not see her money back any time soon, if at all.
That day, Lewis picked up Aaliyah for one of her regular custody sessions from Rosa, in the parking lot at the Langley Events Centre (LEC) at 10 a.m.
In the days to come, LeNoble said the Crown will call witnesses to detail what is known of the rest of Lewis’s movements that morning, including a trip to a nearby pharmacy where Lewis bought blue Powerade, and over-the-counter sleeping medication. She also filled a prescription for ativan.
After a stop at a liquor store to pick up a 375 ml bottle of vodka, Lewis apparently returned to her apartment with Aaliyah. A key fob she used accessed the building’s garage before noon and records show she did not leave again.
Disability paperwork Lewis filled out, and photographed with her phone, that day includes an extensive answer to one question that expressed anger at her ex-husband Rosa, the toll the custody battle was taking on her, and one part that appears to read, in part, “My life is so messed up, I can’t even take her,” said LeNoble.
The first call to the police came from Steven Rosa, who arrived to pick up Aaliyah at LEC at 5 p.m., only to find no one there to meet him. He came back at 7 p.m., and still not finding Lewis or Aaliyah, he phoned the Langley RCMP.
Officers began making inquiries attempting to locate the child, LeNoble said.
At about 9 p.m. that evening, Lewis’s ex-boyfriend and two friends arrived at the apartment, with the ex planning to remove his belongings. They found the door partially blocked from inside with boxes and furniture.
They pushed their way in, and Lewis was in the master bedroom with the door closed. It wasn’t until about half an hour later that the group found Aaliyah lying on the floor of the bedroom’s en suite bathroom next to the tub, cold and wet. They took her to the living room and called 9-1-1, but the Emergency Health Services personnel didn’t try to revive the girl.
“She had been dead for some time,” said LeNoble.
Crown plans to introduce toxicology evidence about drugs found in Aaliyah’s system.
Lewis allegedly tried to drown herself in the bathtub as well, but was pulled out by one of her ex-boyfriend’s friends, an off-duty police officer from Lethbridge, Alta. EHS paramedics took Lewis to Langley Memorial Hospital, and she was charged with murder a month later.
The Crown has an extensive list of witnesses they plan to bring to the stand in support of their account of the alleged murder, including RCMP investigators, the people who discovered Aaliyah’s body, and a number of police officers.
After the Crown’s opening statement, much of the remainder of day one in this trial was consumed with the testimony of the police officers who investigated the scene, including about how they seized and iPhone that was registered to Lewis.
The Langley Advance Times covered Monday’s court proceedings via an audio-only conference call link, due to COVID-19 protocols making in-person attendance at B.C. courts difficult.