Mother accused of drowning daughters weeps in court at photos of their bodies

Mary Gazze

Barrie, Ont.— The Canadian Press
An Ontario woman accused of drowning her two daughters wept repeatedly in court Friday as jurors in her murder trial were shown photos of the two girls' lifeless bodies.

Frances Elaine Campione broke down into tears at least four times throughout the proceedings. Twice, her sobs were so uncontrollable that the judge called breaks so she could regain her composure.

Throughout the second day of her trial, her gaze was fixed on a plasma television that showed dozens of photos of the girls' bodies laid side by side and tucked into their mother's bed, next to a stuffed toy rabbit and Barney dinosaur.

The two girls' pale dead bodies were covered in blankets, with their golden blond hair neatly combed.

Campione, 35, is accused of drowning her daughters Serena, 3, and Sophia, 19 months, in October 2006 so their father could not get custody.

Justice Alfred Stong warned jurors Friday that photos they would see throughout the trial would be disturbing.

Most of the jurors remained stone-faced throughout the photo display, except for one woman in her 40s who at times turned her head away and wiped tears from her face with a tissue.

Retired Barrie police Det.-Const. Daniel Moreau showed dozens of photos taken throughout Campione's Barrie, Ont., apartment.

He testified that police found several handwritten notes in Campione's home expressing hatred for her husband Leo Campione and his family.

“My husband told me if I tried to leave, this would happen and it did. I prayed to God that he'd help my family,” Moreau said one note read.

“Leo, your family is (sic) monsters. I tried to help you, but you turned against me. I had to protect our girls ... I HATE YOU.”

It wasn't clear from photos shown to the jury Friday, but Moreau said the two girls were found holding hands, with a photo album between them and a turquoise-coloured rosary “draped over their hands as their hands interlocked with each other.”

Moreau also read from a note taped to the girls' bedroom door that instructed the girls be buried in orange and white dresses.

Photos of Serena and Sophia's bed and crib showed white and orange dresses inside, along with small photo albums, stuffed animals, a tiara, a gold chain with a cross, a swimming class report card, and books entitled “Guess how much I love you,” and “I love you mommy.” “Barry (sic) me in my wedding dress,” Moreau said one of the notes read. He testified the notes in the apartment instructed money be left to a women's shelter and rape crisis centre and “not to Leo Campione.” Elaine Campione and the two girls had lived in a women's shelter for a short time, then moved into the apartment.

The jury heard Thursday that Campione and her husband were ending their rocky marriage, and that Leo Campione had once been charged with assaulting his wife and Serena.

Mr. Campione had made an application for custody of the daughters, which was to be heard the day after the girls were found dead.

His parents had custody of their granddaughters for a short time while their mother was in hospital for stress and suicide attempts.

On Friday, Moreau showed jurors photos of prescription pill receipts and bottles, and two orange pills below a dresser in the apartment.

He testified the notes also claim Campione was a good mother to the two girls. She didn't smoke or take drugs, and accused doctors of listening to her father-in-law, and not her.

“I was a good mother and you wouldn't leave me alone,” Moreau said the note read.

A different set of handwritten notes found in the kitchen had the underlined words “ampiones are not allowed in my apartment,” Moreau said. Part of the note was torn off, but Moreau said he presumed the note originally read “Campiones.”

Moreau will resume his testimony Monday morning.