Edmonton judge Wayne Renke ruled Wednesday a mentally ill mother who admitted to killing her daughter was not criminally responsible for the death by reason of mental defect.
There was an emotional reaction in court when the decision was announced. Family members cried, “Thank you, Lord” when it was read.
“There’s still a lifetime of grieving and loss and torment,” defence lawyer Dino Bottos said. “We’re not expecting much relief any time soon. This was just simply the best result of a terrible tragedy.”
“It was probably one of the most difficult cases I’ve ever dealt with,” Crown prosecutor Sony Ahluwalia said.
“The circumstances of it are horrible. It’s such a tragedy. Really, it’s hard to make sense of circumstances like this.”
Christine Longridge was charged with second-degree murder in her daughter Rachael Longridge’s December 2016 death.
The recently graduated nursing student was found dead on Dec. 23, 2016 inside the family home in the north-central Edmonton Sherbrooke neighbourhood, and her mother admitted to killing her.
On the first day of her trial last week, Christine pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. Bottos argued she was not criminally responsible for Rachael’s death by way of mental disorder.
The court heard Christine has a long, documented history of mental illness. She believed her son was the messiah and so she and daughter Rachael needed to die in order to save him.
Longridge had been hospitalized several times, with the most recent being Nov. 7, 2016. Forensic psychologist Dr. Andrew Haag testified Longridge’s condition had deteriorated following the death of her husband in 2015.
Haag believed Longridge was suffering from a bipolar illness with psychotic features at the time of the death and said a verdict of not criminally responsible (NCR) was appropriate in this matter.
In their closing arguments last week, both Crown Prosecutor Sony Ahluwalia and the defence also agreed an NCR verdict would be appropriate.
The decision means Longridge will not spend time in prison. She will remain at Alberta Hospital. A review board will decide when, if ever, she will see any kind of release.
Rachael, 21, had graduated nursing school at the University of Alberta just before her death and was supposed to start a new job at Edmonton’s Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in January 2017. Her death was Edmonton’s 41st homicide in 2016.
— With files from Julia Wong and Emily Mertz, Global News