LETHBRIDGE – “The level of violence was remarkable.”
That was one of the takeaways from Crown prosecutor Brad Stephenson, following a guilty plea from Lisa Freihaut, who admitted to killing her 78-year-old mother in early 2016.
Freihaut pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder Monday afternoon, June 11, for the death of Irene Carter. As part of a joint submission presented by the Crown and defence, she received a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 11 years. It comes just a few months before a four-week jury trial was scheduled to begin on the matter.
In an agreed statement of facts that was prepared for the court, it was revealed that Freihaut had been adopted by Jack and Irene Carter and was their only child. It was also noted that the relationship between Freihaut and her mother was generally strained and had gotten worse leading up to the murder.
In 2015, Freihaut was granted Power of Attorney over both her parents, as her father was suffering from dementia and living in a care facility in Lethbridge, while her mother had an episode related to schizophrenia.
With that power, Freihaut applied for and received a mortgage of more than $101,000 on her parent’s home without their knowledge. She also took away her mother’s access to her money, took her mother’s driver’s licence and money; and sold their vehicles. In addition, a police investigation found that Freihaut had attempted to take a significant amount of money from her parent’s investments and had called an insurance company to see if her mother had a life-insurance policy.
Health care workers who assisted Irene took note of some of what was going on and were aware that Freihaut had a history of gambling issues and had been unemployed for some time. An Elder Abuse Contact form was filed, however Irene didn’t want to discuss the problem as she feared it would cause a rift with her daughter.
When Irene learned of the mortgage through a call from an insurance company on Jan. 13, 2016, she called Freihaut to confront her. After an argument over the phone, Freihaut decided to drive from Calgary to her mother’s Lethbridge home.
Irene’s murder – WARNING: Contains details some may find disturbing
Upon arriving, Freihaut parked down the street from her mother’s home – it was pointed out that she usually parked in the driveway – and entered through the back door. She said they started arguing and that Irene told her she wished they had never adopted Freihaut, adding, “I wish you were dead and I could just kill you right now.”
Freihaut said Irene then grabbed a knife, told her to get out of her home and said she would call Freihaut’s husband. That’s when she admitted that she took the knife from her mother, stabbed her multiple times, and pushed her down the stairs. She reported that she considered calling police but instead decided to go downstairs and bash Irene’s head on the floor repeatedly until she stopped breathing.
An autopsy revealed that Irene was stabbed 12 times in the chest, twice in the right shoulder, and suffered three wounds to her left hand. She also sustained skull fractures and multiple blunt force injuries.
Freihaut then started throwing items around the house to make it look like a robbery and even cut the cord on the phone so Irene wouldn’t be able to call for help if she was still alive. She took the knife and cord with her as she left and failed to notice that she had left bloody finger-prints at the scene.
On her way back to Calgary, Freihaut ditched the knife and cord in a bin at a Claresholm restaurant that was being renovated, then texted her son to ask him to tell her husband that she had been at the gym.
After asking her son to check on Irene a few days later, she then asked her husband to come with her and they travelled to Lethbridge on Jan. 17, at which time her husband found the body.
Freihaut would go on to tell police that she didn’t know what happened, she asked friends and family members to provide alibies to police, and even made a plea to the media in which she asked for help in finding the killer.
Following her arrest, she would ultimately admit everything to police.
Defence says Freihaut had a difficult childhood
Defence lawyer Andre Ouellet told the court that it was “a very passive-aggressive relationship between mother and daughter,” which started as far back as Freihaut could remember.
“Certain days it was wonderful – her mother would buy her everything, would give her all sorts of money and love and things... and then on other days she called her extremely derogatory names, treated her like anything but a daughter, and in fact, she kept telling her, 'We should never have adopted you,'” said Ouellet outside the courthouse. “You can imagine how you would respond as a child, as an adult, when you've been brought up in that kind of context.
“The fury which my client dealt with her mother, it's almost like a child expressing the anger and the frustration,” he continued. “I mean, she was extremely, extremely violent – and in my mind, it demonstrates the triggers that had been going on for years.”
Ouellet also discussed their original intent to take the matter to trial.
“To an extent, you get the justice you can afford. Here, my view all along was that there may have been a potential defence, what's called 'battered-wife syndrome,' that requires very expensive psychiatric evidence. And my client was perhaps not in a position to afford that at this stage.”
In delivering the sentence, Justice Dallas Miller said that if Freihaut’s accounts of her upbringing were true, then it would explain but not excuse her “mindless and evil behaviour.”
“No person deserves to leave this earth like your mother did,” he then told her.
Freihaut addresses the court, along with Irene’s family and friends
“There’s nothing that I can say or do that will change the events… I know forgiveness is no option,” Freihaut stated to the court when given a chance to speak.
“I am so sorry for everything that I have done to everyone,” she added. “For the rest of my life I will regret this.”
It was noted that she is currently going through a divorce with her husband, and that neither he or their children attended court to support her.
Several family and friends also delivered victim impact statements.
“Truly an academy winning deceitful performance,” said Irene’s niece, Renee Barton, who went on to call Freihaut a “narcissistic individual who is truly a demon.” She told the court that she had been a part of a gambling intervention for Freihaut.
Tammy Winder, who had been one of Irene’s health care workers, lamented not having done more to protect her.
“You showed me all that is evil in this world,” said Winder. “I have no forgiveness in my heart for you.”
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