MONTREAL — A Quebec judge convicted the stepmother of second-degree murder on Tuesday in the death of a seven-year-old girl and sentenced her to a 20-year prison term.
The verdict by Quebec Court Judge Rita Landry sent a message to society “that a parent is responsible for the actions of their children,” she said.
Marie-Claire Léger-Habru said nothing as she left the courthouse.
“What is there to say? If you don’t say anything, then people don’t believe you,” her defence lawyer, Martin-André Perron, said after the trial.
Landry rejected prosecutors’ argument that Léger-Habru helped the little girl hide her injuries while the abuse continued, abusing her until she died in January.
“An injured child is not an insignificant act,” Landry said.
“The cause of the death of Lucia Troisgros was a physical injury caused during the course of injuries inflicted over a long period of time.”
When she was given the case in February, Landry said she “was concerned about the direction the case was taking,” given it seemed the defendants were defending the girls’ welfare.
“The law permits me to find guilt,” she said Tuesday.
Léger-Habru was also convicted of forcible confinement and abuse against the first-degree murder victim, her daughter from a previous relationship. Her husband, Marcel Troisgros, was found guilty of second-degree murder and faces at least 18 years in prison.
“It was a terrible case,” Landry said.
“It seemed the parents isolated the children. (Léger-Habru) told the children she couldn’t come home because there was a snowstorm.”
The parents rejected allegations that they only wanted a stable financial situation for the children.
That means they worked part-time and had steady jobs when they returned from the hospital after Lucia was hospitalized, Landry said.
The girls also had access to a library. They did not have access to a television, computer or electronic device.
Instead, they had small toys, read stories and drew pictures. In their spare time, they also played games and played sports.
Landry also accepted the defendants’ statements that Lucia suffered some injuries in a game of chase, except for the fact the ball hit her in the stomach.
Landry made the decision even though the Crown accepted expert opinion that Lucia suffered a broken collarbone but was forced to lie down for several days, resulting in it being dislocated. Landry also accepted that the young girl was not able to walk properly for many days.
Forensic pathologist Ali Karimi testified Lucia died of chest trauma and that she had her rib removed.
Pathologist Nathalie Mackenzie also testified that Lucia suffered a “twisted fist.”
But Landry rejected the experts’ testimony and accepted a police expert’s opinion that Lucia could have suffered a fractured jaw.
Landry said when she ruled that Léger-Habru used ice to crush the girl’s kidneys, the Crown’s position was not credible.
On Jan. 5, 2014, Troisgros put his wife and two daughters in his car. The children started crying and told him Lucia was dying. He realized Lucia had a severe health problem, an underdeveloped immune system and difficulty breathing.
He left his wife and children at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. He returned that night to find the young girl was unconscious.
Troisgros called 911 and he and Lucia were rushed to Ottawa Hospital in serious condition. The girl died from severe lung damage as a result of bruised lungs and a collapsed lung. She suffered from a fractured spine.