Skip to main content

A man accused in a double murder killed a woman who was trying to protect a close friend and then silenced the woman’s five-year-old daughter who was a witness, a Crown prosecutor suggested Monday.

Edward Downey, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Sara Baillie, who was 34, and her daughter Taliyah Marsman in July, 2016.

In a quiet, hoarse voice, Mr. Downey pleaded not guilty at the start of his jury trial in a Calgary courtroom.

Prosecutor Carla MacPhail said in her opening statement that Ms. Baillie was close friends with Mr. Downey’s girlfriend, who can only be identified as A.B. because of a publication ban.

Ms. MacPhail told the jury Baillie had seen Mr. Downey strike his girlfriend in the face. He also blamed Ms. Baillie for A.B. breaking up with him and his girlfriend declining work for him as an escort, she said.

Ms. MacPhail said the girlfriend paid the bills and provided a home and a vehicle.

A co-worker testified she became concerned when Ms. Baillie didn’t show up for her shift at Chili’s Grill and Bar at the Calgary airport on the morning of July 11.

It wasn’t like her, Angela Jack said.

Ms. Jack said she sent texts to Ms. Baillie about an hour after she was due to start to ask where she was.

Jack said she got texts back about neck pain and asking “Can I be busy?”

“Is this Sara?” Ms. Jack replied in her text.

The texts she was getting didn’t match Ms. Baillie’s usual communication style, Ms. Jack told court.

“She would never speak that way to a person. She would give me an explanation.”

Ms. MacPhail told jurors in her opening statement that they will be asked to consider whether someone else was sending texts from Ms. Baillie’s phone.

Court heard another co-worker tried calling Ms. Baillie and got no response. That co-worker also called Taliyah’s daycare and was told the child never came that day, Ms.Jack said.

Ms. Baillie’s colleagues contacted her family.

Ms. Baillie’s aunt, Marilynne Hamilton, testified that concerned friends and family searched Ms. Baillie’s suburban basement suite later the same day.

She said Ms. Baillie’s purse was on the floor of her daughter’s room with her wallet still inside. Taliyah’s iPad was plugged in on the bed – unusual, as the child would rarely part with her prized device.

Ms. Baillie’s car wasn’t there. Ms. MacPhail told the trial it would be found later parked around the corner.

“Something’s not right,” Ms. Hamilton recalled thinking.

A friend who was also there called 911.

Officers arrived and spoke to Hamilton and her husband in the living room. Just as they were finishing up, an officer took a final look around.

Ms. Hamilton said she heard a gasp from the other room.

“I was pleading for him to tell me what he saw and if it was Sara and Taliyah,” she testified, weeping. “He just kept saying, ‘I don’t know.’" Ms. Hamilton said she and her husband were told to stay where they were.

“We heard him on the radio,” she said. “He said, ‘I need everybody here now.’" The jury heard Ms. Baillie’s body was found was found stuffed into a laundry hamper in her daughter’s closet, duct tape “wrapped around, around, around” her face and neck. Her wrists were also bound with tape.

Taliyah was missing and an Amber Alert was issued. The girl was discovered dead under a bush in a rural area east of Calgary three days later.

“She was almost six, old enough to identify her mother’s killer, especially if she knew him,” Ms. MacPhail said.

Mother and daughter died of asphyxiation, the jury heard.

When asked if Ms. Baillie was protective of Taliyah, Ms. Hamilton said she was. She was asked whether the same was true for her friends and family.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Hamilton replied.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe