Edmonton mother accused of killing five-year-old daughter will learn fate May 7

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Crown and defence lawyers traded arguments Thursday as the murder trial of an Edmonton mother accused of killing her five-year-old daughter drew to a close.

Lauren Lafleche, 34, is charged with fatally injuring Shalaina Arcand in the family’s apartment in October 2015. Arcand suffered injuries, including to her brain, which medical experts likened to those sustained in high-speed car crashes. She died after four days in hospital.

Lafleche’s trial for second-degree murder, assault with a weapon and failure to provide the necessaries of life began last November. It was scheduled to take 15 days but has been repeatedly delayed, including after Lafleche tested positive for COVID-19.

Court heard Arcand was injured in the family apartment around midnight on Oct. 13, 2015. Paramedics responded to a 911 call at the residence near 116 Avenue and 124 Street sometime after 1:30 a.m.

Crown prosecutor Laurie Trahan argued Lafleche had the sole means of inflicting the wounds, and that her subsequent actions suggest she was trying to conceal what happened.

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Lafleche did not testify but in statements to police and first responders blamed Arcand’s injuries on a fall from a bed into a dresser, or a fall from playground equipment. She also said some of the injuries may have been caused by Arcand’s siblings.

Both of Arcand’s siblings testified for the Crown. Her younger brother is nine, while her older sister is now in her teens.

An image of Shalaina Arcand from her obituary. She was five when she died in October 2015 from head trauma. In October 2016, her mother was charged with second-degree murder and assault with a weapon.
An image of Shalaina Arcand from her obituary. She was five when she died in October 2015 from head trauma. In October 2016, her mother was charged with second-degree murder and assault with a weapon. Supplied

Court heard that after Arcand was injured, Lafleche washed her in the bathtub with the help of her older daughter, then dressed her in clean clothes. Lafleche phoned her father before calling 911.

Trahan said Lafleche’s behaviour was “bizarre. But I think it is not bizarre for someone who is trying to cover up a crime.”

First responders testified they found Arcand unresponsive on the floor of the apartment, and that she appeared to be bruised and underweight.

Trahan admitted the Crown has not established the exact cause of the injuries. “Like most domestic violence, it happened behind closed doors.” But she urged Justice Avril Inglis to conclude that Arcand’s injuries were intentionally caused, and that Lafleche had the sole opportunity to inflict them.

She added that in cases of alleged child abuse, “there’s often no motive. What there is is a lack of patience, a lack of understanding, a lack of self-control.”

Defence lawyer Peter Royal argued the Crown had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“There really is absolutely no evidence at all consistent with the Crown’s theory as to murder,” he said.

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Royal said the court should be cautious with the testimony of Arcand’s older sister, who he argued provided inconsistent evidence about whether her mother had struck Arcand with a belt and a spatula (the assault charge covers the eight months leading up to Arcand’s death). 

Royal acknowledged the girl was in the “impossible position” of having lost a sister, and testifying against her mother.

A spatula seized from Lauren Lafleche’s apartment. Lafleche was charged with murder in the 2015 death of her five-year-old daughter, Shalaina Arcand. She was also accused of assaulting Arcand with a belt and a spatula.
A spatula seized from Lauren Lafleche’s apartment. Lafleche was charged with murder in the 2015 death of her five-year-old daughter, Shalaina Arcand. She was also accused of assaulting Arcand with a belt and a spatula.

“But it doesn’t forgive or excuse the inconsistencies in her evidence,” Royal said.

Royal argued that had the Crown not foregone a preliminary inquiry, “it’s highly likely the murder charge would not have survived” and that his client would have been committed to stand trial on a lesser charge such as manslaughter.

As for the alleged inconsistencies in the evidence, Royal said it is not the defendant’s job to give a plausible explanation of what occurred.

Trahan faced multiple questions from Inglis about whether the Crown had proven Arcand had not been in an auto accident before her death, noting that multiple experts described her injuries as akin to resulting from a car crash. 

Inglis is scheduled to give her decision May 7.

— with files from Anna Junker

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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