WARNING: This story contains details that may be disturbing
A Langley woman has been found not guilty in the death of her daughter after a lengthy murder trial.
Justice Martha Devlin found KerryAnn Lewis not guilty of first degree murder in a ruling made on Friday, Sept. 3, in New Westminster Supreme Court.
Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa, Lewis’s daughter, was found dead next to the tub in Lewis’s Langley apartment on July 22, 2018. A month after that, Lewis was charged with murder.
“Only Ms. Lewis knows what happened to Aaliyah on the day in question,” Devlin said.
“This was a tragic incident resulting in the death of Aaliyah,” she said.
Devlin said the Crown prosecutors had not sufficiently proved its case, and that alternative theories for how Aaliyah might have died, including as the result of a pre-existing medical condition exacerbated by a minor injury, were also plausible.
Lewis had been in custody since 2018.
“This case involves a terrible tragedy, the death of a young child,” Devlin said, as she began reading her decision. “The many who love Aaliyah will undoubtedly suffer her loss for the rest of their lives.”
After the hearing concluded, someone in the courtroom yelled angrily that the verdict was “bulls**t.”
The Crown prosecution’s theory throughout the trial has been that Lewis, distraught over lack of access to her daughter, financial problems, and a recent breakup with her boyfriend, gave Aaliyah a mixture of prescription and over-the-counter sedatives, and then drowned the girl in the tub.
Devlin did find that the drugs in Aaliyah’s system had been given to her by her mother, and that Aaliyah had been, at some point, submerged in the tub.
However, she said it was plausible that a combination of the drugs and a head injury could have caused the child to fall into a tub drawn for a bath, resulting in the signs of possible drowning seen in the autopsy.
She found the Crown had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Lewis had forcibly submerged her daughter, and she also did not agree with the Crown’s theory that the murder was pre-planned.
Two expert witnesses, one for the defence, found that Aaliyah suffered from some degree of hydrocephalus, a condition that causes the brain to swell.
It was possible, the defence argued, that Aaliyah died or was incapacitated by severe brain swelling brought on by a head injury that, to a normal peson, would not have been lethal.
During the trial, the Crown had laid out a chain of events that included Lewis picking up Aaliyah from her father the morning of the girl’s death, followed by a stop at a local drug store where Lewis bought Sleep-Eze and filled an emergency prescription for Ativan – both drugs would later be found in Aaliyah’s system by toxicology tests.
Aaliyah’s father, Stephen Rosa, contacted the police when Lewis did not return Aaliyah later that night after the end of her visitation time. Police had difficulty finding Lewis, who had just moved that month to a new apartment.
When Lewis’s ex-boyfriend and two friends of his arrived that evening to take some of his belongings, they discovered Aaliyah, cold and damp with no pulse on the bathroom floor. Emergency Health Services paramedics would testify that rigor mortis was already developing in the child’s body by the time they arrived.
Lewis’s defence lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, tried to raise doubts about the Crown’s scenario, bringing in medical experts who pointed to a pre-existing medical condition that Aaliyah might have suffered from, and arguing that an accidental death was a plausible scenario.