Guilty verdict in Calgary triple-murder case, consecutive sentences recommended
CALGARY — A man has been found guilty of first-degree murder for killing a couple and their young grandson and disposing of their bodies by burning them.
Amber Lucius is shown in an Alberta RCMP handout photo. The mother of a nine-year-old girl found dead in a vehicle on a road in rural central Alberta has admitted to killing the child.Laura Coward has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Amber Lucius. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Alberta RCMP MANDATORY CREDIT
CALGARY — The mother of a nine-year-old girl found dead in a vehicle on a road in rural central Alberta has admitted to killing the child.
Laura Coward has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Amber Lucius.
Coward was originally charged with first-degree murder and was to go to trial next week.
She is to return to court for sentencing March 3.
Amber was reported missing Aug. 31, 2014 and her mother was arrested two days later near Sundre standing outside a vehicle where her daughter's body was discovered.
Court documents described a bitter divorce between Coward and the girl's father, Duane Lucius, and a custody tug-of-war over their daughter that continued up until the girl was found dead.
Her father alleged in a court affidavit when Coward filed for divorce in December 2007 that his wife wasn't the same after the birth of their daughter.
"She would anger easily and we would argue often," he said.
The couple separated in October 2007 after three years of marriage. Lucius, 44, worked in construction and Coward had a job as an accountant.
She also has an older daughter from a previous marriage.
The couple initially shared joint custody of both girls, but the children primarily lived with Coward. The woman claimed in affidavits that her estranged husband often didn't take medication for his epilepsy and was prone to outbursts. She said she feared for her safety and the safety of the girls.
In several other affidavits, Lucius alleged his wife was using his epilepsy as an excuse to deny him visits with the children. He said he hadn't had a seizure since he was 18.
He also alleged that she refused to grant numerous court-ordered visits. He provided a doctor's assessment that Coward was excessively possessive and protective of Amber.
A letter on the court file from a daycare operator in Vauxhall, Alta., described Coward as an "excellent mother" and called Amber a "cheerful and friendly little girl."
Affidavits in the court file contain allegations not necessarily proven in court.
In June 2013, a judge named Lucius as Amber's primary caregiver and she moved back to his parents' farm with him. Coward and the other child moved to a nearby rural property to be closer to Amber.
Documents say RCMP were called several times to intervene in the couple's disputes.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press