LAVAL, Que. — A Quebec woman whose two young daughters were found dead in the family home in 2009, lying side by side in their school uniforms, has been found guilty of second-degree murder.
Adele Sorella barely reacted as the guilty verdicts were read Tuesday in the deaths of Amanda, 9, and Sabrina, 8. She shed a few tears as she acknowledged loved ones leaving the courtroom in the Montreal suburb of Laval.
A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for at least 10 years. Invited by the judge to offer sentencing suggestions, two jurors suggested she should be eligible for parole in 10 years while the other 10 jurors said it should be after 20 years.
It was the second trial on the charges for the 53-year-old Sorella. In 2013, she was found guilty of first-degree murder, but the verdict was overturned in 2017 when the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled the trial judge had erred in her instructions to the jury.
The 12 jurors were sequestered last Wednesday, with the verdict coming after six days of deliberations. Their task was complicated by the fact the girls’ bodies showed no signs of violence, and the cause of death was never established.
A pathologist testified that a hyerbaric chamber in the house used to treat Sabrina’s juvenile arthritis was a possible cause of death by asphyxia. But the defence stressed that the cause of death remained unproven and that someone else could have entered the house.
The defence also argued that even if the jury concluded Sorella killed her daughters, she should be found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
Sorella told the court she had little memory of the day, March 31, 2009, when her daughters were found dead. And medical experts testified that Sorella experienced a dissociative episode the day of the killings.
Ultimately, the jury rejected that theory.
Crown prosecutor Simon Lapierre told the jury Sorella alone had the opportunity to kill her daughters. He said it was impossible that another person entered the family home and killed the girls, noting that there was no evidence of a break-in or struggle.
He said there was no reason to think the deaths were accidental. He reminded jurors of a first responder’s testimony that the girls were found side by side in their playroom, as if they had been laid there.