Antonia is a writer who is fascinated by mysteries and psychology. She writes many articles about criminal cases.
Frances Elaine Campione was in the middle of a vicious divorce and custody battle with her estranged husband, Leonardo Campione. The couple had separated in June 2005, after Leo was arrested. Elaine alleged that Leo had abused her throughout their relationship. He was facing four counts of assault, one count of assault causing bodily harm, and one count of uttering threats, for incidents between 2004 and 2005 involving his wife and eldest daughter Serena.
On October 4th, 2006, Elaine calmly called the police telling them her children were dead. Serena and Sophia were found dressed in their pajamas, holding hands and lying in their mother's bed with a rosary and photo album between them. It is believed she had killed them two days prior—police noted the air already smelled of decomposition. She had drowned her daughters in the bathtub to prevent her husband from getting custody. It was just days before they were to appear in family court for a custody hearing.
In a document from their divorce case, Elaine claimed that her husband had told her she would never see her children again and that he said he was going to tell everyone she was crazy and unfit to raise her children.
These weren't unfounded claims—Elaine was having some problems with her mental health. She had spent time in psychiatric wards before the murders and had attempted suicide. It is reported that she had delusions of people trying to kill her, and steal the girls—she even claimed she saw aliens. In addition, she exhibited other strange and bizarre behaviour, like not letting one of her daughters touch anything that was the colour red.
There was no question that Elaine was mentally ill, nor was there question that she was the one who murdered her daughters. The question is, was she aware of what she was doing when she held the head of first one daughter, then the other, under the water, until they stopped struggling? Was she criminally responsible for her actions?
The Trial, Verdict, and Sentencing
Elaine was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. It would be four years before she went on trial. The videotape containing the footage of Serena and Sophia, as well as Elaine, speaking as though she and her daughters were dead, was used as evidence against Elaine in the trial. The allegations of abuse against her ex-husband, Leo Campione, were also brought into evidence, as were Elaine's history of mental illness and her previous suicide attempts.
The defense alleged that Elaine was mentally ill, and the prosecution agreed—but they disagreed on her criminal responsibility. The defense claimed that her mental disorder rendered her incapable of knowing what was morally right or wrong. The prosecution argued that despite her illness, she aware of what she was doing, knew right from wrong, and deliberately killed her daughters to prevent her husband from gaining custody.
The trial lasted for seven weeks, and the jury deliberated for another week, taking a break on the third day to ask for clarification regarding the notion of "morally wrong".
Finally, on Monday, November 15th, 2010—more than four years after the death of her daughters—the jury returned with a verdict: they found Frances Elaine Campione guilty on two counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of her two young daughters. Elaine broke down crying after the verdict was read—her entire body shaking. When the judge announced that the verdict carried a sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years, Campione began sobbing loudly.
Though Leo Campione was not in court to hear his ex-wife's verdict and sentence, he did send in a victim's impact statement that was read to the court. In his emotional statement, Leo wrote about how the image of his two daughters struggling for breath as their heads were held underwater by their mother would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Leading Up to the Murder
It was autumn in Barrie, Ontario, a city north of Toronto in Canada, and 3-year-old Serena and 19-month-old Sophia were sisters who appeared to be very happy, beautiful, and normal children. In the video below—showing the two girls in the months leading up to the day their short lives would come to an end—they can be seen waking up on Serena's birthday and playing in the living room. Mixed in with the video of the girls is the sound of their mother's voice, speaking vehemently about the girl's father, her estranged husband, while the girl's continue playing in the background. There is more footage of the girls twirling and dancing together in the living room. Then, there is the last video of them ever taken, dated October 2nd, 2006, the day their mother would murder them. It shows the girls playing and colouring. The video footage is sad to watch, knowing what would happen to them—that not too long afterwards, the girls would be found dead in their mother's apartment.
Serena & Sophia Before They Were Murdered — Warning: This Video Could Be Emotionally Disturbing
God believes me, and God's taking care of them now.
— Elaine Campione
"Are You Happy Now?"
What is most disturbing, and even harder to watch, is what comes next on the same tape. The clip of the girls playing is turned off, and when the camera was turned back on, there is only Elaine. This is believed to have been taped just minutes after the two girls had been murdered. It is a long video segment of Elaine ranting to her ex-husband, Leonardo Campione. In tears, she calls him the devil, accuses him of abuse, and asks him if he's happy now that he's won. She tells him God is taking care of his daughters now. She goes on with her vitriolic rant for quite some time, saying she was forced to do this because Leo would not tell the truth. She goes on to say, "At least the girls and I will be together in heaven." (See video below in 'What Happened & Why' section; again, warning: this video is extremely hard to watch).
Elaine's Rant To Her Ex-Husband — Warning: This Video Could Be Emotional Disturbing
I want you to know how much I hate you.
Elaine Recalls the Night of the Murder
In the following videos of a police interview, Elaine recounts the events surrounding the murder of her two children—as she recalls them.
Warning: These videos could be emotionally disturbing.
Dominique Cantin-Meaney from Montreal, Canada on January 27, 2020:
Those poor kids. I do feel bad for those involved in this.
SClemmons from the Carolina Coast on April 03, 2018:
Janice, the only judgement/conclusion that I've made is that this woman needed to be incarcerated. Whether she knew the difference between right and wrong will be judged by a higher authority when she passes, not by me. But she does not need to be set free among society.
Janice on April 03, 2018:
I do not in any way condone the actions of Elaine, that being said however, I have personally met Elaine while she was incarcerated. When I first met her I had no idea what she was sentenced for or what crime she had committed. I was told (as it being my first and hopefully last time in Federal prison) not to ask why or what anyone had done to land themselves there. So as far as I was concerned, Elaine was just another person that was incarcerated for breaking the law in some way. We were cell mates at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener Ontario. She talked to me about her previous marriage and her children while she spoke about cooking and decorating her beautiful home. She spoke well of her upbringing,her parents and her sister, who she was in contact with from time to time on the phone. She cooked myself dinner a couple of times, and we studied the bible together. Not long after this , I was informed about Elaine ‘s story. You are told that while you are serving your sentence,not to be judgmental about other people’s crimes,every one has been sent there for a reason and that’s that. Before I knew Elaine’s story, I didn’t treat her any differently than I would treat anyone else that I became acquainted with, under any circumstances, but I have to admit, once I was told, I began to treat her differently. For that , I am sorry, it is human nature when there is a crime with children involved, that you just feel that you have the right, to condemn the person that is responsible for the outcome of their fate. However I did not live “Elaine’s life “ nor do I understand the choices she made. It is very easy for us too say how terrible or horrific what she did was, but not one of us can truly ever understand why she did what she did. It doesn’t in any way,makes it right or condonable, but we all make decisions, when we are backed into a corner, that we would not normally make. The one thing that I can say on Elaine’s behalf is whenever she spoke about her children, it was with unconditional love, proudness and the backbone of a protective parent. I met a lot of different ladies while I was incarcerated, for many different crimes, some that shocked me,some that made my question our judicial system.The one thing I did learn in there was that we have every right to our opinions, but we have absolutely no right to judge,or decide what should be the fate of others. I will never understand how anyone could do what Elaine has done, but I also will never understand what her life was like before anything happened. So I guess what I am trying to say is I don’t like the person that I became after I was told what had happened, I tried hard to ignore it,but every once in a while it was a factor that caused my behaviour to be bias and not fair. I would always apologize to Elaine if we had “a problem “ but I’m sure that didn’t take away, the feelings that came with some of the comments that I made. For that I am sorry. I am sure that I will also be judged after posting this, so be it, but I just felt that Elaine probably is the hardest on herself when she wakes up every morning, and really she will live the rest of her life with that sentence, so she doesn’t need anyone else to be the judge and jury on her case. I hope that you are doing ok Elaine. J
SClemmons from the Carolina Coast on January 28, 2018:
She's definitely mentally ill and is where she needs to be. Her being eligible for parole is an absurd idea.
Joseph Brigade on January 27, 2018:
Hi hope she rots in hell and never has any peace in her pathetic life
SClemmons from the Carolina Coast on June 04, 2017:
Interesting and well written article.
Jill on March 09, 2016:
Thank you to all the above women and their comments because we all know each one of you are without any sins so you all should be the ones to cast stones and judge because your names are God. Firstly yes it is sad and we all have remorse for those all involved, and unless you have a loved one fighting depression or mental illness or are walking in this women's shoes or others like her do not dare judge because you never know when you or a sister or mother or daughter may be in the same circumstance and how quickly you would be there to defend them. I'm sure then your compassion and empathy would perhaps appear. I have no relation to any one in this article however I have a daughter fighting depression and mental illness and it's a up hill battle daily for her even with daily support. This world would be a better place for all if we remembered this one saying WWJD you will be judged the way you judge others just saying....
Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on July 06, 2011:
Heartbreaking--why does society allow mentally ill people to raise their children?Excellent Hub.
Aneesabirmingham on May 29, 2011:
It was really hard 2 watch it knowing half of it was saten aswell .
Antonia Monacelli (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 06, 2010:
Thanks for your comment electricsky. She definitely should never be paroled. If she could do that to her own daughters, then she is definitely a risk to society in general!
electricsky from North Georgia on December 06, 2010:
She deserves a life sentence all right but I disagree she deserves the chance of parole. She is cold blooded.
Antonia Monacelli (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 25, 2010:
Thank you Karen. It is indeed a disturbing subject, it's so hard to understand and imagine how a parent could kill their own child. This one in particular is rather disturbing, with the video and all. It is a really sad story, my heart breaks for those poor sweet little girls.
Karen Wodke from Midwest on November 25, 2010:
Very well written article on a very disturbing subject. Those little girls and their sweet faces are just heartbreaking.