"BLOOD SPLATTERED AROUND THE BEDROOM."
KELOWNA – On opening day of the second degree murder trial of Penticton grandmother Grace Robotti, accused of deliberately killing her granddaughter-in-law Roxanne Louie in 2015, lawyers told jurors the evidence they will hear will be not be easy.
Roxanne Louie, 26, and her three-year-old son were staying at Grace Robotti’s mobile home in Penticton the night of Jan. 3, 2015, jurors in Robotti's B.C. Supreme Court trial heard today. The two had a contentious relationship with Grace taking issue with how Louie was raising her son. Grace had called the Ministry of Child and Famiy Development citing concerns with the child’s care.
The Crown's theory is around 2 a.m. Jan. 4 Grace and Louie were having a “heated argument” when Grace’s brother, co-accused Pier Louis Robotti, arrived at the home. He took the young child to another room while the women argued.
“The argument escalated and became increasingly heated,” Crown lawyer John Swanson said. “It spilled into a physical fight.”
The fight moved from the den to one of the two bedrooms in the mobile home and Grace found herself underneath the much younger Louie, who was now armed with a small, iron pry bar.
When Pier came into the room, he saw Louie allegedly trying to strike Grace with the bar. He grabbed her, restrained her and held her on the ground.
“Roxanne Louie lost control of the bar and it fell to the floor,” Swanson said. “When it fell to the floor, Grace Robotti picked it up and started hitting her in the head with it. Pier is still restraining her, consequently she is not in a position to defend herself.”
Forensic investigators say Louie was hit in the head at least 26 times and died within hours of the final blow.
“Some of the pictures you will look at will be difficult to see,” Swanson told the jury of 7 men and 5 women.
The exact number of blows, Swanson said, was impossible to determine because of the extent of the damage.
“Blood was splattered around the bedroom,” Swanson said.
Her cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma to the head.
Grace and Pier then decided to remove the body from their home and Pier took it to a wooded area
“Grace Robotti gave the keys to her vehicle to (Pier) and helped him moved the body to the back of the car.”
He drove to an isolated, wooded area near Naramata, one kilometre from the intersection of Naramata Road and Arawana Road. There he pushed the body down a steep embankment.
As the snow started to fall he placed her body beside a tree, face down, and left.
Back at the trailer, Grace was trying to erase all signs of the fight.
“It was a frenzied, frantic cleaning effort,” Swanson said.
Grace took the pry bar and all of Louie’s personal effects and put them into garbage bins and dumpsters around Penticton.”
When Louie did not show up for a flight the next day, Grace told police she had gone to a friend's house the night before.
“That was a lie. She knew (Roxanne) was already dead.”
Police launched a missing person investigation but on Jan. 11, Grace and Pier arrived at Penticton RCMP detachment and told police they knew the location of the body.
Once the body was recovered both Pier and Grace Robotti were arrested and charged with murder.
Before opening submissions began, Grace, dressed in a blue sweater over a collared shirt, entered a guilty plea to one of the two charges.
Robotti’s lawyer, James Pennington, says Grace admits she killed Louie that morning, but denies it was deliberate. She pleaded guilty to interfering with a dead body but not guilty to second degree murder.
Over the coming weeks Crown plans to call 17 witnesses in the case, including family, friends and government employees, to prove Grace knew the blows she was inflicting would kill her granddaughter-in-law.
— This story was corrected at 3:38 p.m. March 21. An earlier version said Louie had a daughter. In fact, it was a son.
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