As Mounties ramped up the investigation into Roxanne Louie’s disappearance, her killer was feigning ignorance about her whereabouts and diverting attention to other matters.
Around five days after she bludgeoned the 26-year-old to death with a 10-inch pry bar, Grace Robotti went to the RCMP station for an interview with lead investigator Const. Kelly Grant which, on Tuesday, was shown to the jury in Robotti’s trial, being held in Kelowna.
In the Jan. 9 2015 footage, Grant seemed focused on Robotti’s grandson Dylan Spence, who had a child with Louie.
He and Louie had become estranged after a violent incident two years earlier. That led to an acrimonious custody battle where a visitation agreement had them periodically crossing paths. The child was staying with Robotti at the time of the killing.
The officer asked Robotti if there was any way that Spence had been in Penticton and talked to Louie.
“No — he blocks her on the phone sometimes,” said Robotti, explaining he’d been working out of town when Louie was staying at her home.
As she put an end to that line of conversation, Robotti started talking about how Louie’s family had started trying to take her three-year-old great grandchild away from her home.
“They had no car seat, no clothes … it felt like an apprehension,” Robotti told Grant.
She continued to express confusion and frustration over the child who had been in her care even as the interview ended and she was ushered out of the room.
While little came from that interview, Grant told Crown counsel John Swanson it was useful in introducing him to some new names. After it was over, he said, RCMP threw their full weight into the investigation going forward, checking Louie’s phone, Facebook and cellphone records to piece together her activities.
On cross examination, defence lawyer James Pennington—who had previously told the jury to keep the concepts of self-defence and provocation in mind as they heard evidence—asked Grant about what he knew about Louie going into that interview.
Grant had said to Robotti that Louie wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle, and Pennington asked about how that related to the profile RCMP had built of the then-missing woman.
Grant said Louie had been flagged for “mental instability” and for being violent.
She had two charges of assault with a weapon in her criminal history. One for the 2012 incident with Dylan Spence. In that case Louie had smashed Spence over the head with a beer bottle while he was drunkenly passing out. The other charge was from 2008, where Louie broke a coffee pot over her mother’s head.
Pennington told the court that since that time Louie had other dealings with police as well. They had records of her in Penticton, Oliver, Kelowna, Vancouver, Coquitlam and Burnaby.
During opening statements crown lawyer John Swanson said Robotti had made a number of complaints about how Louie was raising her child, and the two often clashed over it.
The next witness to take the stand was Amanda Daniel.
She met Louie on New Year’s Eve at the Blue Mule bar in Penticton.
They talked on and off for a couple hours then Daniel called Louie the next day at Robotti’s house and made plans to go to the Casino for chicken wings.
They hung out a couple more times, then on Jan. 3, 2015 she and Louie spent time at Robotti’s talking about how she should move into Louie’s Vancouver basement suite with her.
Louie was killed the next day.
Grace and Pier Robotti were arrested Jan. 11. They were in the RCMP detachment lobby when they were taken into custody based on information received from Tanya and Zach Steele, who said they had “information about the Louie disappearance.”
Robotti said she killed Louie unintentionally and has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. She pleaded guilty to interfering with a body.
Pier Robotti has already had a trial and the results will be made public at the end of Grace’s trial.