A South Surrey mother charged with the December 2014 death of her eight-year-old daughter cried in court Wednesday as her lawyer questioned the officer who had arrested her that fateful afternoon.
“After you took (Lisa) Batstone away from her vehicle, are you aware if she ever saw her child again?” defence counsel Tony Paisana asked Const. Elizabeth Cucheran.
Batstone – who appeared in court in ankle shackles – is charged with second-degree murder after the body of her daughter, Teagan, was found in the trunk of a car in a cul-de-sac just south of Crescent Road shortly after noon on Dec. 10, 2014.
Teagan had been a student at Rosemary Heights Elementary.
The month after her death – after a court-ordered “fitness assessment” – her mother was deemed fit to stand trial on the murder charge, however, the proceedings were delayed multiple times over the years.
Judge-alone proceedings underway in BC Supreme Court in New Westminster this month are to determine if statements Batstone made to various witnesses prior to being advised of her right to counsel are admissible in trial, defence co-counsel Eric Gottardi told Peace Arch News.
Wednesday, the court heard that Batstone told Cucheran at the cul-de-sac scene – in the 13900-block of 35A Avenue – that she had killed her daughter. The statement came after Cucheran told Batstone she was “under arrest for impaired driving,” Cucheran said, in response to questions from Paisana regarding the officer’s interactions with Batstone.
“…then she said, ‘I murdered her,’ and I said, ‘and murder?’ – in that tone,” Cucheran said, referring to an intonation of surprise and questioning she put into her voice in repeating the statement in court.
Asked why she remembered the tone of her voice, Cucheran said she was “so shocked,” as she wondered whether it was a case of manslaughter over an intentional death.
Throughout questioning, Cucheran maintained she read Batstone her rights, did not try to elicit information from Batstone about what had happened, and that the accused understood she was not obligated to speak to the officer.
The court also heard recordings made at Peace Arch Hospital of a sobbing Batstone repeatedly telling police, “I just want to die.”
“Please. There’s nothing to live for.”
The recording also included statements by Batstone that her church had “let us down, too.”
“I begged them for help – for weeks, months,” she can be heard telling Cucheran, after Cucheran advised Batstone that a friend had called police earlier out of concern for her.
Batstone also said she had called her family doctor asking to see a psychiatrist “weeks and weeks and weeks ago.”
Cucheran, reading from notes she made that afternoon, said a psychiatrist who spoke to Batstone at PAH told the officer Batstone was “not psychotic, but highly suicidal.”
Justice Catherine Murray heard that on the day in question, police were first asked to do a “well-being check” on Batstone around noon as a result of a 911 call, after the mother reportedly sent “concerning emails.” A second 911 call about 20 minutes later reported a dead child, Cucheran confirmed to Paisana.
Cucheran agreed that when she arrived at the scene, firefighters were standing at the back hatch of a vehicle in a ditch.
“You heard someone say that the child was deceased?” Paisana said.
“Yes,” Cucheran said.
Cucheran confirmed that Batstone was lying down in the back of the vehicle, holding her child.
The officer said she initially detained Batstone “for investigation.”
“My initial thought was something was awry,” she told the court.
After noticing an odour of liquor, she arrested Batstone for impaired driving.
Asked if she recalled Batstone repeating the words, “I killed her, I killed her,” on the way to the police vehicle, Cucheran said she couldn’t recall.
A member of Teagan’s family who was in court for Wednesday’s proceedings told PAN he did not want to make a public statement at this time.
The proceedings were expected to continue throughout this week and for “a couple days” next week. It is to “move directly into trial at the conclusion of those hearings,” BC Prosecution Service spokesman Dan McLaughlin told PAN.