Alberta mom says she has no memory of drowning sons; was abused by father as a child

An Alberta woman charged with killing her two sons says she has no memory of drowning the boys two years ago.

She remembers taking her boys swimming that Friday morning a little more than two years ago. She remembers getting them ready for bed that night.

She remembers starting to drink and take pills. She has vague memories at some point of throwing herself off a bridge onto a busy freeway.

What Allyson McConnell says she doesn’t remember is what she’s already confessed to — holding her two boys under water until they drowned.

McConnell, testifying in her own defence Monday at her second-degree murder trial, said she thought 2 1/2-year-old Connor and 10-month-old Jayden were still alive days after they were already dead. It wasn’t until her mother and sister told her as she recuperated in hospital that she realized what she’d done.

“It’s something I keep trying to figure out,” she said as her lawyer, Peter Royal, questioned her. “The more I think of it, the more confused I get.”

Court heard McConnell, who moved to Canada as an adult from her homeland of Australia, was a woman with a long history of mental problems.

In halting testimony that was at times barely audible, she said that her father abused her and got her pregnant when she was 15. She miscarried, she said, and never told on him — although he was kicked out of the family home for assaulting one of her five older sisters.

Shortly after the pregnancy came her first suicide attempt. Another came a few years later.

The suicidal feelings never really went away, she testified. By the time her marriage to Curtis McConnell was ending in the fall of 2009, those thoughts were with the young mother even when she was taking her morning shower.

“I’d be writing a list of ways I could kill myself on the shower (door). I didn’t feel my life was worth living.”

She told Royal that the end of her marriage had cut her off from her mother-in-law, to whom she’d been close. She had a few friends, but was mostly on her own far from Australia, where her own family lived.

“(I felt) pretty much just buried … pretty much overwhelmed and useless.”

A few days before the fatal weekend, she filled a prescription for sleeping pills, she testified. She also bought some liquor.

She put the oldest boy, Connor, to bed. Then she went downstairs and began drinking cooler-type drinks and Kahlua, taking the pills along with them.

From then, her memory is unclear. At some point, she remembers throwing up and having a metallic taste in her mouth, but doesn’t know if that was the Saturday or the Sunday. On Monday, she drove her car into Edmonton, parked at a Toys R Us store near a busy overpass and went to a hotel to order lunch — a Delta Hotel, because that’s where she’d met her husband.

After ordering, she left, went outside and threw herself over the nearby bridge railing. She suffered broken legs, a broken hip, a broken neck and a concussion.

She remains in a mental hospital in Edmonton, where she is on 24-hour suicide watch. Court was told she’s tried at least twice to end her life, most recently about three weeks ago.

McConnell said that at no time did she ever think about killing the boys when she thought of killing herself.

“I did not,” she said.

In his opening remarks, Royal reminded the court that the Crown has to prove McConnell meant to drown her sons.

“The issue is one of intent,” he told Justice Michelle Crighton.

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