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Closing arguments in trial of Edmonton mother accused of killing her daughter

Closing arguments in Christine Longridge murder trial
WATCH ABOVE: Christine Longridge is charged with second-degree murder for her daughter's death. The trial has been emotional for friends, family and lawyers. Julia Wong explains.

In their closing arguments Friday, both the Crown and defence in the Christine Longridge case agreed a verdict of Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) would be appropriate.

The court has heard Christine Longridge has a long, documented history of mental illness, and she believed her son was the messiah and that she and daughter Rachael needed to die in order to save him.

Rachael died Dec. 23, 2016 inside the family home in the Sherbrooke neighbourhood, and Longridge has admitted to killing her.

Longridge has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, though defence lawyer Dino Bottos is arguing she is not criminally responsible for Rachael’s death by way of mental disorder.

READ MORE: Edmonton woman accused of killing daughter ‘showed severe signs of mental instability’

“It was a calling from a higher power of voice from God that commanded her to do this, to save the messiah. When she was under that delusion of course, she couldn’t tell right from wrong in terms of what she was to do,” Bottos said.

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“The evidence showed quite clearly she was suffering from a form of bipolar disorder that was so severe as to have psychotic features.”

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On Friday morning, the defence called forensic psychologist Dr. Andrew Haag to the stand. Haag conducted a forensic assessment on Longridge on whether she is NCR. He testified Longridge was suffering from a major mental disorder at the time of the alleged offence and that NCR was appropriate in this matter.

READ MORE: Defence argues Edmonton mother not criminally responsible in daughter’s death

The court heard Longridge had been hospitalized several times, with the most recent being Nov. 7, 2016. Haag testified that Longridge’s condition had deteriorated following the death of her husband in 2015.

On the stand, Haag said it was his opinion Longridge was suffering from a bipolar illness with psychotic features at the time of the alleged offence. He called her belief that her son was the messiah a “delusional thought of grandiose nature.”

Haag also said Longridge’s belief that she and Rachael had to die in order to save him was a “plan being enacted as direct consequence of her psychotic thought.”

Haag testified that Longridge knew that she was killing Rachael but her mental illness impacted her ability to know her actions were morally wrong, saying “she saw her actions were necessary to what [she] considered to be a higher moral role.”

During his closing argument, Bottos told the court Longridge had told him Rachael’s last words were “don’t do it, mom.”

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He said she felt like a robot and someone had control over her, adding, “God made me kill.”

READ MORE: Vigil held for slain nursing student Rachael Longridge

Friends and family have sat through the graphic evidence during the three-day trial; Rachael’s friend Danielle Bourque said that has been difficult.

“It’s hard. No one wants to hear that. No one wants to hear that about their best friend,” she said.

She said it has also been tough to see her friend’s mother on trial for her death.

“It is difficult. It would be difficult for anyone to be in this situation. As you can see, it’s very emotional for us,” she said.

During the trial, Longridge has sat in the prisoner’s box, sometimes leaning her head against the wall or crossing her arms. At one point Friday afternoon, as Bottos was detailing the evidence again, Longridge started to cry. She used a tissue to wipe away her tears and remained composed.

READ MORE: Police reveal ‘sharp forced injuries’ caused Edmonton nursing student’s death

Bottos said it has not been easy to work on this case.

“I’ve participated in a lot of murder trials, a lot of homicides over the years, some very tragic ones. This one has been the most difficult for me personally,” he said. Bottos said his client is “making it through.”

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“She knows that she has to go through this part. She has been on medication that has assisted her in getting through this,” he said.

“You think of the torment that Christine Longridge must feel, which was, she is the author of this killing. That in her delusional thinking, she killed her own daughter and she will never recover from that.”

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During the Crown’s closing arguments, Sony Ahluwalia said the verdict of not criminally responsible appears appropriate. He said there is no doubt Longridge committed the murder but he agrees she suffered from psychosis and that she did not realize what she was doing was morally wrong.

“[The Crown] has to make sure that verdict is not too easily brought to the court or decided by the court. You can’t just mail it in or send it in through an agreed statement of facts and make the judge rule that way. You actually have to convince the judge, who is an independent official, that the NCR verdict is appropriate,” Bottos said.

The judge will deliver his verdict Wednesday, Feb. 28.