Advertisement

‘The hate did blind me’: A ‘Bathtub Girl’ explains why she took her mother’s life

Click to play video 'Infamous ‘Bathtub Girl’ describes shame of living with her crime: ‘I still feel trapped’' Infamous ‘Bathtub Girl’ describes shame of living with her crime: ‘I still feel trapped’
It has been 17 years since two teenage sisters murdered their mother by drowning her in a bathtub in Mississauga, Ont. The case made national headlines and was the plot behind a Hollywood film. Global's Caryn Lieberman sat down with the older sister, now 34, as she shared her story — for the first time. In the second part of their interview, the woman describes the 'living nightmare' her life has become since the killing, and why she's speaking out after all this time – Dec 1, 2020

Warning: This story contains details that might be disturbing to some. Discretion is advised.

A woman known as one of the “Bathtub Girls,” who drowned their mother and almost got away with murder, has revealed her tragic history and the disturbing motivation behind the crime in an exclusive interview with Global News.

With their convictions for first-degree murder, the now 34-year-old woman, “Sandra,” and her sister, “Beth,” are believed to be the first sisters convicted of matricide, the killing of their own mother, in Canada. They were sentenced as young offenders in June 2006.

Global News is using pseudonyms because they cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Sandra tells Global News about a horrific childhood of physical and sexual abuse, and a painfully sad life in the home of her alcoholic mother. It all led to the shocking night in January 2003 when her mother was murdered.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'One of Canada’s infamous ‘Bathtub Girls’ explains why she took her mother’s life' One of Canada’s infamous ‘Bathtub Girls’ explains why she took her mother’s life
One of Canada’s infamous ‘Bathtub Girls’ explains why she took her mother’s life – Nov 30, 2020

 

Sandra says her story begins with horrific details of physical abuse in the home with her Mom’s live-in boyfriend, “Doug,” physically abusing Sandra’s mom, exacerbating her alcoholism.

Sandra says that she lived in a home where she thought “dinner was for special occasions” and that she and her sister were left alone to tend to their younger brother.

“I wanted to do this interview to say those words that happened to me, after I got arrested, like for the first time ever publicly, I said I was sexually abused,” Sandra says.

Read more: Tale of Ontario teens who drowned mom turned into a movie (April 9, 2014)

She wants to expose “her truth” of her unimaginably bad childhood and her prolonged sexual abuse at the hands of a person close to the family.

Story continues below advertisement

She says she confided in a priest at a summer Bible camp about her molestation when she was 12 years old. The priest instructed her to confront her alleged abuser and tell him to stop or else she’d tell his mother. When Sandra did, the alleged tormentor was unafraid.

“He said, ‘Go right ahead.’ And he just came and he hurt me. He called my bluff,” says Sandra, adding she was disappointed that the priest did not report the abuse to the authorities.

Sandra says her mom often drove while intoxicated, even though she and her sister would be in the car. And she recalls how she and her siblings went without necessities so her mother could feed her addiction.

Crime Beat: Karissa Boudreau — up with the angels

Sandra and Beth would come to be known as the “Bathtub Girls” as the details of their case captured the attention of the Toronto media. Their sensational story was featured in a 2014 movie titled Perfect Sisters and in a 2008 book, The Class Project: How to Kill a Mother, written by the late Toronto Star reporter Bob Mitchell.

“She’s never going to stop drinking,” Sandra recalls. “She’s going to die from this. I should just kill her because it was like torture being trapped there.”

Story continues below advertisement

“It was my tragic, mistaken belief that I had that my mom was going to die from this.”

After her death, an autopsy would reveal that Sandra’s mother had only mild cirrhosis of the liver.

Sandra now appreciates that her mother was a hard-working single parent who juggled two jobs to support her three children and her own studies.

“She was a beautiful person, … very smart and loving,” she says. She was seriously traumatized. She was overwhelmed with addiction, with different kinds of abuse.

“And I didn’t recognize that for what that was,” she adds. “The hate did blind me. I’m so sorry (for my crime). I regret what happened … with every shred of my being, my soul.

“I’ve been through so much trauma and what I did is by far the most painful thing I have had to live with ever.”

Click to play video 'How do most addictions start?' How do most addictions start?
How do most addictions start? – Oct 16, 2017

Sandra says she did try to reach out for help. She recalls exhausting “all avenues,” reaching out to relatives and the Children’s Aid Society to report the neglect and abuse that she and her siblings endured at home.

Story continues below advertisement

Yet she says she sabotaged the CAS investigators by clamming up because she was too overcome with “humiliation and embarrassment” to reveal the depths of the deprivation she and her siblings were going through.

“I just hoped that if a little bit was revealed, they’d continue their investigation and rescue us, but it just ended,” Sandra recalls. “I talked about the drinking but I should have talked more about the violence. They would have cared more about the violence.”

She says she did reveal her mom’s drinking problems to her grandparents, who advised her that if she “excelled in school, the problem would be solved.”

“Of course, that’s ridiculous. My academic performance wasn’t going to help my mom’s addictions,” Sandra says now.

Read more: Domestic disturbance calls jump amid coronavirus, as many advocates feared

Sandra and Beth were 16 and 15 years old, respectively, when they drowned their alcoholic mom in their Mississauga townhouse bathtub on Jan. 18, 2003. They drugged her with Tylenol 3s and staged the crime to look like accidental death — and it worked, at first. Police initially considered the death to be an accidental drowning.

“They carried out the plan with chilling detachment,” said Justice Bruce Duncan in convicting them of first-degree murder in 2005. “The two set out to commit the perfect crime, but instead they created the perfect prosecution.

Story continues below advertisement

“The case against them is overwhelming. It is probably the strongest case I have ever seen in over 30 years of prosecuting, defending and judging criminal cases.”

Sandra says the “awful” movie Perfect Sisters, which depicts their story, “got one part right” — she did use a timer while she held her mom’s head under the water for four minutes.

“I’m kind of happy that it’s a crappy movie. I hope people forget about it.”

Click to play video '2020 report of child wellness' 2020 report of child wellness
2020 report of child wellness – Sep 1, 2020

The judge imposed a youth sentence of six years in custody and four years under community supervision — instead of a youth-as-adult sentence that would have come with a life prison sentence — against both siblings.

“They suffered a level of poverty that was not in keeping with their mom’s relatively good income. The home atmosphere was depressing and degrading,” Justice Duncan wrote in his decision.

Story continues below advertisement

Remorse, Duncan remarked, was a “slow train coming,” for the killers.

The sisters were able to see their mom wasn’t there for them — “not that she was working double shifts to provide for them,” Duncan said.

“They saw her as a passed out drunk — not an exhausted mother trying to cope and taking comfort in alcohol.”

Sandra agrees with that assessment today, saying “it was complicated because for many years I did feel so much hate and I’m so sad about that … though it is a normal part of life, though, that teenagers hate their parents.”

After the murder, Sandra drank heavily and freely spoke about the crime to friends and random people, “telling people, practically strangers, kids I met at a party.

“And I hated myself for drinking, too, because I killed my mother for her drinking. So I was doing that because I felt I deserved to die for what I did.”

She ultimately confessed the crime to a friend, who, it turned out, was acting as a police agent. Sandra and her sister’s incriminating statements were recorded in a vehicle that the police had wired.

Sandra admits in an interview that she had “thought about” killing her abusive stepfather and her alleged molester because “I thought I was a psychopath. I’m not.

Story continues below advertisement

“I didn’t know if I was a serial killer or not. And I can say I’m not,” she says. “I did think about it because that’s just the life I had known. Like when you are abused and tortured, like those thoughts come up.”

“I don’t want to cause more harm. I’m not plotting revenge like my power. My truth is just me being able to say it. I don’t want to define myself by the single worst thing I have ever done,” Sandra says.

Looking back, she explains that the initial plan – and there were many later – was to collect her mom’s insurance money at age 18, go to Amsterdam, buy some drugs and a gun, and kill herself.

Her mom’s troubled relationship with her stepfather ended when he was convicted of domestic violence in 2001 and he was also convicted of drunk driving offences as well.

When the abusive partner left, Sandra says she thought her single mom would stop drinking and their home life would improve.

“What absolutely destroyed me was my mom’s drinking,” she says now. “It just got so much worse after he was gone. I didn’t understand that. How could this monster leaving … make you drink more?” she recalls wondering. “But I understand now. I didn’t understand then.”

READ MORE: Struggling with an addiction in Canada? These resources can help

Beth, now 33, has completed law school and has a young child as well. She declined to be interviewed for this article.

Story continues below advertisement

Sandra has undergone years of therapy and says she still has nightmares from her troubled childhood. She is a university graduate, a scientist and a single mom with a huge regret.

“I wished my mother were alive today. She was my best friend and I would have loved to have her see my young child,” Sandra says.

“I want to share my whole life with my mom. I am so viscerally ashamed of what I’ve done.

“My life feels like a living nightmare. Like I really wish I could wake up out of this life.”

If you or someone you know has experienced abuse, support is available:

Family abuse resources and crisis services in your area can be found here.

Help for young Canadians aged 5 to 29 years old in need of 24-hour confidential and anonymous care is available via Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

If someone you know has been abused, here is some information on how to support them.

Sam.pazzano@hotmail.com

Click to play video '‘Internal bruises’ : The far-reaching effects of domestic violence' ‘Internal bruises’ : The far-reaching effects of domestic violence
‘Internal bruises’ : The far-reaching effects of domestic violence – Apr 26, 2019