Published On Wed Nov 17 2010
Video: Elaine Campione Video
Barrie Police Det. Mike Winn interrogates Elaine Campione, who was sentenced to life for killing her two daughters
“I’m asking the Crown to ask for parenting classes, no alcohol, personal counselling for two years. I believe it’s up to the judge if there is to be jail time. I ask the judge to help my daughters’ father become a good man again. Because of him, I trust in no one, isolate myself even more from when I was with him, scared of falling down the same path. Please do what’s best for these two girls. They are going to grow up to be women and I want the cycle broken. Please God help us.’’
— Elaine Campione, from a victim impact statement filed with family law court in July, 2006
“Serena saw Mr. Campione walking from the waiting room into the visitation area and she ran towards him with her arms in the air saying, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ Mr. Campione picked up Serena, hugged her tightly and said, ‘I’ve missed you so much. You’re getting so big.’ Mr. Campione wiped tears from his eyes. Mr. Campione put Serena down, looked at her and said, ‘You’re so beautiful,’ then asked his daughter, ‘Is mommy taking good care of you sweetie?’ He wiped away tears again. He looked at his daughter, Sophia, sleeping in her stroller.’’
—Observation report from the Simcoe/Muskoka Access Centre, to Leo Campione’s lawyer, Sept. 22, 2006
There are always two narratives when a marriage falls apart and, far too often, uncomprehending children as chattel amidst the ruins.
But this much is sadly beyond dispute: Serena and Sophia will never grow up. Their mother drowned them in the bathtub on Oct. 2, 2006, found guilty this week on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
Leo Campione’s grief will last a lifetime too, just as his estranged spouse had intended: “Some people may see this verdict as a victory for justice and maybe others will not,’’ he wrote in a victim impact statement read aloud in court on Wednesday by Crown Attorney Enno Meijers. “But either way, my family and I will still live our loss every day. The images of their last moments, innocent and helpless as they were, will haunt me forever, in ways I can’t begin to describe.’’
Elaine Campione said a lot of things in her various statements to police, counsellors, psychiatrists, sister-residents at a Barrie women’s shelter and put more to paper in the diary she was keeping so “Serena and Sophia can understand me some day.’’ The veracity of her allegations — that she was an abused wife, that Leo had once slapped Serena — has never been tested in court. Assault charges she had laid against Leo were stayed after the murder of the children.
What seems quite clear, however, is that both parents were trying to salvage their lives as individuals from the wreckage of a misbegotten union.
In the weeks before she committed filicide — murder of children by a parent — Elaine was in almost daily contact with a counsellor, took the kids for picnic excursions to the beach, for afternoon ice cream, for swimming lessons, enjoyed the adult company of girlfriends, had at least peripherally friendly contact with neighbours, spoke frequently to her mother and sister on the phone.
Her defence lawyer, in closing arguments, conceded there were “glimmers of improvement’’ in Elaine’s longstanding depression over the summer of ’06, until previous symptoms of delusional paranoia suddenly began bubbling to the surface again. Distraught over the prospect of losing custody at an upcoming hearing, the 35-year-old mother decided, with planning and malice aforethought, to kill those youngsters.
Some doctors and counsellors who’d dealt with her over preceding months had warned that Campione was not capable of caring for herself or the children. Her own parents contacted the Children’s Aid Society with the same concerns.
But, because of the prosecutorial tactics undertaken by the Crown — to make this trial entirely about Elaine Campione — the CAS was never called to account for its own mishandling of the case, most critically why the children were returned to their mother following her final psychiatric hospitalization, despite entreaties by their father that they remain with his parents until the custody dispute was settled.
Elaine wrote to her daughters in her diary: “The police put mommy in the hospital for 72 hours and you were in foster care. Mommy kept getting headaches so I took 8-9 pills, called Daddy and he called the ambulance.’’ Later: “Mommy had to stay in (hospital) for two weeks. You stayed with nonna and nonno.’’
From another diary entry: “In my teens, I was a slut because I just wanted love. My innocents (sic) back. Your daddy gave that back to me when I met him. . . . As bad as all this is, it was done by God to help daddy and I be better people. Daddy hit me. Daddy drank a lot, pot, but he was in a lot of heart pain because I closed my heart from him. But he used to give me lots lots of love, so much mommy can’t handle it. It scared me. I felt like I knew Daddy was going to go away from me so I tried to protect myself from the pain.’’
On July 7, the girls returned to her care, Elaine wrote: “GOT US BACK. Your Aunt Mary gave me a real hard time, but I got them back.’’
The CAS had investigated the parents but it appears the focus was entirely on Leo as source of potential harm to the children.
In mid-2005, shortly after Elaine left her husband and moved into a women’s shelter, a CAS intake worker wrote to Elaine: “Please be advised that the Society has completed its Protection Investigation, which commenced June 6, 2005. The society has verified that Serena and Sophia did experience harm in regards to the adult conflict in the home as well as excessive physical discipline. Please be further advised that the Society’s investigation assessment does indicate the presence of risk such that Serena and Sophia are considered likely to suffer further harm. (At) this time the Society believes that Elaine is providing a safe and protected environment for the children.’’
It was nearly a year before Elaine Campione allowed Leo to see the children at all, twice a month, and only under supervision. When Leo asked for the visits to be permitted every week — the access centre said it could accommodate this — Elaine refused. When Leo, during one of those visits, took photographs of the girls, Elaine phoned the access staff and complained about it.
From an access centre file note, Aug. 15, 2006: “After some discussion she agreed to photos being taken at the Centre but did not want them sent home with the children.’’
Leo Campione visited with the girls on Saturday, Aug. 19: “He picked up the children, hugged and kissed them as he told them he loved them. Serena opened her birthday presents. Shortly after the visit began, Mr. Campione changed Sophia’s diaper remaining attentive to her hygiene and safety needs. Mr. Campione prepared his children for lunch, which consisted of homemade soup and birthday cake. . . . Mr. Campione prepared the birthday cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ as he assisted his daughters. Serena said she did not like the cake and her father told her, ‘That’s okay honey; you don’t need to eat it if you don’t like it.’ ’’
Sept. 9, 2006: “Mr. Campione prepared his children for the end of the visit and thanked Serena for looking after her sister, which he said he knew she does. The children and their father engaged in hugs, kisses and ‘I love you’s.’ ’’
This was the “monster,’’ the “psychotic devil,’’ that Elaine Campione flayed in her confession tape on the night she murdered her kids.
The children dead by her hand, Elaine spat bile and sipped tea:
“You deal with this for the rest of your life. I hope this makes you happy. You’ve wiped out your entire family. Now you can look at their caskets and talk to them that way.’’