Parents Who Kill: Elaine Campione Drowned Her Daughters
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
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.