The grieving father of two young girls who were drowned to death will forever be haunted by the images of their last moments, videotaped by his ex-wife before she killed them.
“The images of their last moments, innocent and helpless as they were, will haunt me forever, in ways I can’t begin to describe,” Leo Campione wrote in a victim’s impact statement read in a Barrie, Ont., courtroom on Wednesday.
Elaine Campione, 35, of Barrie, Ont., was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years on Wednesday for drowning three-year-old Serena and 19-month-old Sophia in a bathtub four years ago.
Campione will also be required to provide a DNA sample to the courts, and has been banned from carrying firearms for the rest of her life.
She did not address the court before sentence was passed.
Leo Campione did not appear in court on Wednesday, but words read on his behalf described the shattered existence of a father who had lost everything.
“I see Serena and Sophia in my mind every day and I carry them in my heart until we reunite again. I live my life and gain my strength in knowing with each passing day, I am one day closer to being with them.”
Elaine Campione was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder earlier this week after drowning her two daughters to death in October 2006, amid a bitter custody dispute.
The Crown had argued Campione killed the girls out of spite so her abusive ex-husband couldn’t get custody.
Campione and her husband were going through an emotional divorce at the time of the girls’ deaths. Leo, 35, had moved out of the family’s home in Bradford, Ont.
Defence lawyers argued that Campione suffered from severe mental illness and should not be held criminally responsible for the deaths.
Over the course of her seven-week trial, jurors heard that Campione had been admitted to psychiatric wards and had attempted suicide.
A police officer testified that the girls were laid out on their mother’s bed holding hands, wearing pyjamas and jewelry.
The trial heard that she had left her husband because he was abusive. He had been charged with assaulting her and their eldest daughter, but those charges were stayed after the murders.
The court also heard that police discovered a videotape in the bedroom.
Chilling images show the two children smiling and talking to Campione. The video then shows the mother recording a message for her husband, apparently after she had killed their daughters.
“There, are you happy?” Campione says. “God’s taking care of them now.”
She also says she only wanted to go back to her home in New Brunswick.
In his statement, Leo Campione said he has missed coming home to his daughters, who would run to him as he entered the door.
“I found my place in life and my peace was with them,” he wrote. “Above all else in life nothing brought peace to me like they did from their loving embrace.”
Leo Campione’s parents also submitted a victim’s impact statement on Wednesday, describing the “emptiness of losing Serena and Sophia is something we live with every day.”
“We miss their laughter, their smiles and their love for life. Their mere presence lit up a room, their joyous attitude lit up our hearts. Our time with them was cut short, our hearts broken, our lives shattered,” it read.
The statement concluded by saying, “Serena and Sophia, we will love you forever.”
Campione will stay at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ont., until she is processed into the penitentiary system.
The court has allowed the news media to show some of the video presented in evidence. Mary Cramer, Elaine Campione’s lawyer, told reporters outside court that she was worried some of the material could hit the Internet and be misused.
“Those restrictions really spoke to everyone’s concern about the children involved in this case,” she said.
Cramer said a final decision on an appeal will come in the next few weeks.