Grace Robotti admitted she took steps to cover up the killing of Roxanne Louie hours after her death.
It was around 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2015 — hours after she inflicted about 26 wounds to Louie’s head and body with a 10-inch pry bar — when Robotti sent two text messages to Louie’s phone and left a one voicemail telling her she was about to miss her flight and asking where she was.
Messages she knew Louie would never receive.
“This was a cover-up. I’m not denying that. I’m just saying I — for some crazy reason that’s what I thought I had to do. I would do it differently now, but I started on that and that’s what I thought. I didn’t think about it,” the soft-spoken Robotti told the Supreme Court jury, wearing a green blazer and a white shirt with blue polka dots. “It didn’t make any sense now looking back and probably doesn’t make any sense at all, ever, but sure I would have done it differently. I wouldn’t have done any of that.”
Robotti faces one count of second-degree murder.
Louie was supposed to catch a flight back to Vancouver the day after her and Robotti got into a physical fight which stemmed from arguments over how to properly care for (specifically, hold) Louie’s son, Robotti’s great-grandson.
The morning after the killing, Robotti cleaned the room where she bludgeoned Louie to death, covered Louie in two garbage bags and asked her brother to get rid of the body. She gathered up Louie’s clothing and personal items putting them in garbage bags.
She then told the jury she disposed of the items in Penticton dumpsters. Robotti said she disposed of the items in multiple containers, one on South Main Street. Later, she said she found more of Louie’s possessions, which she disposed of in another dumpster.
Her reasons for covering up the killing differed from those Crown counsel John Swanson suggested during the cross-examination of Louie on March 31 at the Kelowna Law Courts.
Robotti said the steps she took to cover up the killing were to buy time to find arrangements for Louie’s son, assuming he would land in the custody of Louie’s mother, whom she did not want to take care of the child. The distrust, Robotti said, was due to things Louie had said about her own upbringing in the past.
“I just wanted a little bit of time, a few days, that’s all I wanted,” Robotti said. “By the end of the week or so, we were going to (turn ourselves in) there was no question.”
Robotti would get emotional at times during the testimony, wiping away tears when talking about the relationship between her and Louie.
“What I’m suggesting to you Mrs. Robotti, is that the reason you did all this is because you were hoping to be able to carry the lie that you had created on the morning of Jan. 4 indefinitely,” Swanson said. “You were hoping that if you could get rid of all traces of Roxanne, nobody would be able to tie her death to you.”
“No. If it had been that I would have done so much more to clean my house and do different things. I just knew that … it’s not something you can hide, it’s not something you want to try and get away with,” Robotti said. “It’s going to be haunting your mind, it haunts your mind. It haunts me today. No. I couldn’t. It was something too horrible. You can’t bury something like that.”
She told the jury she did lie to police when stating Louie never showed up prior to her scheduled flight to Vancouver, and she was taking steps to buy time to find a safe place for her great grandchild — eventually planning to turn herself in.
“I’m not suggesting the killing of Roxanne was planned, but I’m suggesting to you that it was intentional,” Swanson said.
“No, it never was,” Robotti replied.
“You wanted Roxanne dead on that morning,” Swanson said.
“If I wanted Roxanne dead we didn’t have to go through all that horrible nightmare that night. I could have just taken some swings at her really hard when I did have the crowbar. We didn’t have to go through all that,” Robotti said. “I didn’t want her dead. I wanted to confine her or constrain her, but I didn’t mean to — no, to hurt her that bad. I could have hit her so much harder and it wouldn’t have gone on the way it did. I was afraid to hit her too hard. I still did … I still did.”
Father of child takes the stand
The father of Roxanne Louie’s now five-year-old child and Robotti’s grandson, Dylan Spence, took the stand Friday.
Spence, 27, works in the oilfield in Fort McMurray and his relationship with Louie began in a Penticton nightclub in 2011.
The on-and-off relationship of two to three years had multiple instances of discord, Spence told the jury.
The relationship ended, resulting in multiple contacts with the RCMP and eventually a no-contact order between the two.
“There was a lot of violence. There was a lot of possession and controlling,” Spence testified. “But more often than not it was the violence.”
Spence outlined three instances, one in particular where he testified Louie had attacked him with multiple bottles, stabbing him in both legs with a broken bottle before he struck her with an open hand to her mouth, ending the dispute. The incident resulted in at least seven stitches to Spence’s face.
All of which occurred with their son on the floor. Spence said in that incident, a neighbour had called the police, picking up his son and removing him from the residence where he was crawling amongst the glass of the broken bottles.
There were two more major incidents, Spence said, of a similar nature, but less severe.
Spence told the jury he was convicted for an unrelated 2014 assault in Whitecourt, AB.
Crown counsel during cross examination of Spence noted he was in the courtroom during Robotti’s testimony briefly.
“There was a brief moment where I was before it was known that I was not to be present,” Spence said.
Spence said the violence was always caused by Louie.
“Never did I start any sort of physical altercation,” Spence said.
The trial continues Monday at the Kelowna Law Courts, with one more defence witness planned to go before the jury.