Kaela Mehl’s first-degree murder trial continued Wednesday as the jury heard more audio recordings, including a phone conversation with a Saanich police officer the night before she killed her 18-month-old daughter, Charlotte.
The Victoria toddler was found dead by police in the early morning of Sept. 16, 2015. Mehl has admitted to feeding Charlotte sleeping pills mixed into yogurt and smothering her, but has pleaded not guilty to the charges of first degree murder.
In the phone conversation the night before Charlotte was found, a Saanich police officer is heard giving Mehl a word of caution about the ongoing, heated custody battle over the child with her ex-husband Daniel Cunningham.
“Before you get too excited, I’m going to give you a little bit of advice,” the officer said. He advised her that if she and Cunningham continued to “push the issue,” the police would have to get involved, and “one of you is going to go to jail” or their daughter will be taken away.
“If that’s what you want, keep going,” the officer said. “I’m appealing to your common sense … I’m not taking sides, I told [Cunningham] the exact same thing.”
Another of the recordings played Wednesday was taken at the Saanich police station, where the couple met to exchange their daughter, earlier that same day: a snapshot of the tumultuous custody battle over the child.
“You have been nothing but abusive this whole time, which is why we are here,” Mehl told Cunningham. “Daniel, just blow.”
By blow, she referred to the breathalyzer test she requested Cunningham to take when he picked up and dropped off his daughter from visitation. He testified Tuesday that he was to take a breathalyzer test at each exchange when he first arrived, and a second one five minutes later to confirm the reading, which he said always showed a zero alcohol level. Mehl also required every supervisor for Cunningham’s visitation to take the test.
The court heard about the increasing restrictions on Cunningham’s visits. He said Mehl would not give him necessary information about his daughter’s basic care and well-being, including her nap times, foods she was eating, doctors visits, shots, and whether she had any bruises or injuries.
“It appears Kaela had moved her schedule around so I wouldn’t be able to feed [our] daughter or give her bottles, and Kaela could monitor all her feeding schedules and sleeping schedules,” Cunningham testified Wednesday.
Cunningham has also testified that Mehl recorded him on her cell phone when he had visitations with Charlotte in Mehl’s home, and in later meetings, recorded him picking up and dropping off the child, without his knowledge. Cunningham stated that Mehl and her mother, Leanna Comis, followed and recorded him him at times when he had the child, Comis once watching him through binoculars.
VicPD’s Const. Mark Knoop introduced the recordings in court Tuesday and Wednesday as he explained how he, as a tech crimes officer, removed audio and other digital files from confiscated phones and recording devices belonging to Mehl, Cunningham and Comis. Knoop described to the jury the methods he used to recover data and determine its accuracy, including date and time, contents, and the devices and phone numbers used to send and receive text messages and emails.
Wednesday on cross-examination, defense counsel questioned Knoop about text messages he had recovered, asking if he knew who authored them.
“If you’re asking me if there is any way of knowing who was there typing the message, I have no idea,” Knoop responded.