B.C. mother found not guilty of 1st-degree murder of 7-year-old girl

A judge has found a Metro Vancouver mother not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her seven-year-old child.

The body of Aaliyah Rosa was found in her mother's Langley, B.C., apartment in July 2018. Her mother, Kerry Ann Lewis, was charged with first-degree murder in the case.

The Crown's theory, the court heard, was that Lewis sedated her daughter then drowned the girl in the bathtub of her suite.

The defence argued there was a "huge lack of evidence" in the case, including proof of how the drugs found in the girl's system got there.

Justice Martha Devlin agreed with the Crown, saying that on a balance of probabilities, it was likely Lewis gave the girl sedatives.

But she took issue with the work done by pathologist Dr. Lisa Steele, who conducted the autopsy.

“I have some concerns regarding the reliability of Dr. Steele’s evidence,” she said, noting the pathologist had apparently failed to notice evidence of a pre-existing brain condition.

A pair of neuropathologists who testified as expert witnesses for the defence said Aaliyah lived with hydrocephalus, which is an abnormal buildup of fluid deep within the brain.

The judge accepted their evidence that the condition could have been a contributing factor in Aaliyah’s death.

In delivering her decision, Justice Devlin said the Crown had not proved its theory beyond a reasonable doubt and found Lewis not guilty.

About eight friends and family of Aaliyah were in the gallery, with many more watching on a monitor in an adjacent room.

When the verdict was read, many became very emotional, with some crying and others needing to be restrained by sheriffs as they attempted to move towards Lewis, who was being led out of the courtroom by other sheriffs.

Outside the courthouse, a visibly distraught Stephen Rosa, Aaliyah’s father, declined to speak to the media as friends and family huddled with him in support.

Crown lawyers also declined to address the media so it is not clear yet if they plan to appeal the decision.