The defence in the trial of a Victoria woman accused of murdering her 18-month-old daughter rested Thursday after the prosecutor spent the day challenging the testimony of her treating psychiatrist.
Kaela Mehl, 34, has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder in the Sept. 16, 2015 death of Charlotte Cunningham, but admitted to killing the toddler by feeding her yogurt mixed with sleeping pills and smothering her.
Dr. David Yaxley, who testified Wednesday that Mehl’s draft suicide note served as a window onto her state of mind at the time she killed her daughter, was to be the last witness to testify in what looks to be a four-week murder trial.
Crown lawyer Kimberly Henders Miller put to Yaxley that Mehl was task-oriented, her email succinct, and that she researched zopiclone doses for 12 minutes all while carrying on multiple conversations with family and friends by text and email — some of which were sexually-explicit — in the time leading up to her daughter’s death. She said the letter is indicative of a person who chooses their words carefully and deliberately.
“All of these actions are directed to the goal of ending her life and the life of Charlotte … she is aware of what she is doing, her letter explains why she is doing it,” Henders Miller said.
“Her actions were performed for the very purpose of ending two lives,” she said.
“That’s correct,” Yaxley responded.
Earlier Thursday, Henders Miller questioned Yaxley about whether his duty to his client constrained his ability to give impartial testimony, and whether his characterization of events around the time of Charlotte’s death was accurate. She asked whether his understanding of Mehl’s mental state at the time she killed her daughter was clouded by their months of sessions prior to viewing evidence.
Mehl did not completely discuss the events of the night Charlotte died with her psychiatrist until she was given legal permission.
The Crown questioned Yaxley on Mehl’s surveilling her ex-husband Daniel Cunningham, his family and those around him, and about how Mehl had put a tracking device in Charlotte’s stuffed animal. She questioned his characterization of her behaviour as concern for Charlotte’s well-being.
Henders Miller said Mehl described watching a woman leaving Cunningham’s house as “recon.”
“Were you aware that she followed a woman coming out of the house and got out and started taking pictures of her?” she asked Yaxley. “How does following a woman coming out of Dan’s house have to do with Charlotte?”
“I believe the motivation she was using, in this [custody] battle, is she was looking for evidence to discredit. She is looking for something she can use in this battle,” Yaxley responded.
The court heard Mehl’s main driving force keeping her alive now is to tell her story, that her state of mind declined, that she wanted understanding about the stresses she experienced in the time leading up to killing her daughter, and that she experienced a lack of support from police and the court system. Yaxley agreed that Mehl was angry with the Cunningham family, and that she believed the courts and police “failed her.”
The jury returns Monday for the Crown and defence’s closing arguments. The trial is expected to be completed by the end of next week.
Read Victoria News’ coverage of the Kaela Mehl murder trial