WETASKIWIN, Alta. — Curtis McConnell shook his head as a judge declared his estranged wife Allyson McConnell guilty of manslaughter, not second-degree murder, in the deaths of their two young boys.
Allyson McConnell -- who admitted to killing 10-month-old Jayden and 2-1/2-year-old Connor -- attempted to kill herself on several occasions in the weeks before drowning the boys, discovered dead by their father in their Millet, Alta., home on Feb. 1, 2010.
Court heard that after killing the boys, McConnell, 33, drove to Edmonton, had lunch and then jumped off an overpass.
She was hospitalized and after recovering from her injuries was transported to Alberta Hospital in Edmonton where she continues to receive psychiatric treatment.
Justice Michelle Crighton ruled Friday McConnell did not have the amount of intent required for murder. There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter.
Court has also heard McConnell suffers from depression and wanted to return to her native Australia after divorcing the boys' father.
Crown prosecutor Gordon Hatch said the McConnell family is disappointed by the decision.
A three-day period where it is unknown when Allyson McConnell killed her children left a hole in the Crown's argument for intent.
In her decision, Crighton wrote she was satisfied McConnell's memory impairment was genuine.
She wrote of McConnell: "I would describe her as being tormented by the death of her boys, but at the same time confused about her role in that.
"Due to the black hole in the evidence, the court is left not knowing what happened in the McConnell home during those final few days of the McConnell children's lives, including what Allyson's mental state was when she drowned them," Crighton wrote.
"It is left with a reasonable doubt that she had the specific intent to kill her children," continued Crighton. "The accused is entitled to the benefit of that doubt and, accordingly, she cannot be convicted of second-degree murder."
The Crown will consider an appeal of the decision. But Hatch said he hopes the McConnell family can find some closure.
"I think the Crown proved murder so I'm disappointed in that regard," said Hatch, "But a verdict for murder would not have been any more satisfying in the sense that these boys are dead and we can't do anything about it.
"It's a matter of what exactly was going through her mind at the time and ultimately, whenever we're trying to prove murder we have to prove the person's intention to commit that act. The court found we did not," said Hatch.
Over the course of the two-week trial in March, court heard from defence attorney Peter Royal that Allyson McConnell was severely depressed and turned to alcohol and sleeping pills while going through the bitter divorce with her husband Curtis.
Hatch told court McConnell killed her two sons as revenge against her husband for ending their marriage. They had both argued for custody of the children, whom McConnell wanted to take back to Australia with her.
On February 1, 2010, Curtis McConnell received a phone call from police explaining that his ex-wife Allyson had attempted suicide by jumping off an overpass.
Fearing for the safety of their two children, Jayden and Connor, Curtis McConnell rushed to the family home in Millet to find his boys dead in the bathtub next to a plugged in hair dryer and hair iron. His wife had left her wedding ring behind in the bathroom.
Curtis McConnell testified he had a neighbour look in the bathroom to verify he wasn't imagining things.
Investigators found evidence that Allyson McConnell attempted to kill herself numerous times over the weekend, after researching methods on the internet. Officers found a noose hanging over a chair in the basement.
Allyson McConnell awoke in hospital, claiming she had no memory of what she had done. She testified in court she couldn't remember any of the events over the three day weekend when she drowned Jayden and Connor.
Allyson McConnell has remained in custody while getting psychiatric treatment at Alberta Hospital. She passed a 60-day psychiatric evaluation and was deemed fit to stand trial.
Sentencing for Allyson McConnell has been pushed back to early May.