Laura Coward, 50, pleaded guilty in a Calgary, Canada, to second degree murder charges, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison with no parole.
Coward poisoned her 9-year-old daughter, and then set her on fire. Amber, the 9-year-old girl, was the subject of a nasty and bitter custody fight between two divorcing parents.
Laura Coward was on holiday with Amber in Florida, when the mother gave Amber some non-prescription sleeping aid. While the dosage was not lethal, the little girl was unconscious. In a panic, Coward had apparently thought her daughter was already dead, and decided she would cover up the crime. She locked the little girl in the truck they were driving in, filled it with plastic and paper garbage, and set the truck on fire with a propane torch.
The Daily Mail has more:
‘Amber was completely vulnerable to and trusting of her mother,’ said Brooker. ‘It was the ultimate betrayal for Ms Coward to kill her own daughter.’
Although Coward’s life sentence was automatic, it was up to Brooker to decide how long she’d have to wait before being able to seek parole, CTV News reports.
Brooker said Coward deserved credit for pleading guilty and for her apparent remorse, but he noted that she never explained her motive for murdering Amber.
He added that the murder was vile, random and senseless and appeared to have been revenge against Coward’s former husband, Duane Lucius.
Court documents described a bitter divorce between Coward and Lucius.
A custody tug-of-war over their daughter had continued up until the girl was found dead.
Amber Lucius was reported missing in September 2014. Two days later her mother was arrested.
Police found Laura Coward near Sundre in west-central Alberta, standing beside a burned truck in which her daughter’s body was discovered.
Coward had been with Amber for the Labor Day weekend and, on a trip to a remote area, gave her daughter a non-lethal dose of a prescription sleeping aid.
She mistakenly thought Amber was dead and filled the inside of the truck – where her daughter lay unconscious – with paper and plastic totes before closing the door and setting it on fire with a propane torch, according to court testimony.
An officer who found the burned truck saw a handwritten note by Coward on its front window that reads: ‘Help me. It was an accident. Locked keys in.’
Amber died of a combination of hypothermia, smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide toxicity, an autopsy report suggests.
At Coward’s sentencing last week, she begged her friends and family for their forgiveness.
‘I want to say to the father, my family, friends that I’m responsible for my choices and I beg for their forgiveness and I plead for your mercy,’ she told Brooker.
Amber’s father Lucius told Coward that he would never forgive her for the pain she caused.
‘I feel upset (about) how someone could do something like this to a little, innocent girl with a whole life ahead of her,’ he said.
Lucius held back tears as he spoke outside the courtroom after Coward was sentenced.
‘No sentence will do justice for what has happened to Amber,’ he said. ‘As a father, I have had to bury my child and nothing will bring her back. I can only hope that other children are not being used as bargaining chips in a divorce or used to hurt the other parent.’