TORONTO – A Toronto mother accused of killing her severely disabled daughter was found guilty of first-degree murder in the girl’s death on Sunday.
Cindy Ali, 45, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Ali had pleaded not guilty in the death of 16-year-old child Cynara, who had cerebral palsy and couldn’t walk, talk or feed herself.
Crown prosecutors had argued that after years of being the primary caregiver for the infant-like Cynara, Ali smothered her daughter with a pillow and then created an elaborate story about a home invasion to cover up her crime.
Ali’s defence lawyers argued, however, that Cynara was cherished by her mother and died either after seizures that might have been triggered by the alleged home invasion, or from a lung infection, which she was known to be susceptible to.
“I expect we will have instructions from Cindy Ali and her family to proceed with an appeal,” Ali’s defence lawyer Christopher Hicks said outside court following the verdict.
“There are some good legal issues that arose during the course of the trial, if we go to appeal we think we will have things to say about the course of the trial.”
Cynara was pulled off life support in a Toronto hospital in February 2011, two days after emergency personnel responding to a 911 call about a home invasion found her without vital signs.
Much of the case revolved around whether jurors would believe Ali’s home invasion account.
Ali testified in her own defence, saying she was home alone with Cynara one morning when two masked men in black suits rang her door bell and pushed their way into her home demanding a mysterious package, which they never found.
Ali said one of the men had a gun and made her take him through various rooms in the house in search of the elusive package while Cynara lay on the living room couch with the other man nearby.
At one point when she broke away from the man with the gun and ran to the living room, Ali testified she saw the second man with a pillow in his hand, standing by Cynara, who wasn’t moving and was “very quiet” and pale.
Ali said the two men then left, announcing they had the wrong residence, and she called 911 after shaking her daughter and finding her unresponsive.
Firefighters responding to the call found Ali on the floor, with no injuries, and Cynara on a couch with a pillow on her forehead and no pulse, court heard.
Ali didn’t move when asked to clear space for crews to conduct CPR on Cynara and didn’t answer questions about her child, court heard.
Ali testified she was “frozen” at the time and had trouble processing questions from first responders.
Jurors also heard that firefighters didn’t see wet footprints in the hallway of the home despite a light dusting of snow on the ground that day, and that drawers in several rooms were pulled open but their contents did not appear to have been rifled through.
An autopsy found Cynara’s immediate cause of death was a brain injury from deprivation of oxygen, which was caused by cardiac arrest.
That cardiac arrest, court heard, could have been caused by suffocation.
A pathologist called by Ali’s defence lawyer testified he found “no physical evidence” of smothering in the case, but noted he also could not entirely rule it out as a possibility.
He had suggested Cynara could have stopped breathing and suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of seizures. He also said a lung infection that was recorded in her autopsy could have been a factor in her death.