Adele Sorella pleads not guilty to murder charges as Laval trial begins

Adele Sorella pleads not guilty to murder charges as Laval trial begins
Trial begins for woman accused of killing her two young daughters
LAVAL, Que. — When her two daughters were found dead in the family playroom on March 31, 2009, dressed in their school uniforms, Adele Sorella was going through a difficult time, a jury heard Monday.

Her husband Giuseppe De Vito was "on the run" following a 2006 police operation targeting organized crime, and she had tried to end her own life more than once, Crown prosecutor Nektarios Tzortzinas said in his opening statement at Sorellas murder trial.

"Even though the exact cause of their deaths remains undetermined, the simultaneous and unexpected death of two sisters in good health rules out any evidence of a death from natural causes," Tzortzinas said.

Sorella’s mother — identified in court Monday only as Mrs. Di Cesare — moved into the family’s Laval home after the first attempt, helping her daughter but also looking after her granddaughters. She rarely left the house.

"Our theory is that the accused Adele Sorella had the exclusive opportunity to commit the murder of her daughters, Amanda and Sabrina De Vito."

“If there is one thing I ask that you retain from everything I told you,” he said to the jury, “it is that Adele Sorella had the exclusive opportunity to commit the murder of her two young daughters, Amanda and Sabrina.”

The prosecutor said Sorellas mother had moved in with her after the first suicide attempt to help care for the two girls.

She warned them the experience won’t be like the Law & Order television series; the trial could seem long at points and evidence won’t necessarily be presented in chronological order. It will require their undivided attention.

The day the girls died, Sorellas mother left the house at around 9 a.m. after looking after the dog, making breakfast and getting the girls ready for school. She was supposed to meet her daughter later in the morning, but Sorella never showed up, Tzortzinas said.

Though the two girls’ cause of death wasn’t evident when their bodies were discovered, he said, the “simultaneous and unexpected” death of two healthy sisters made it clear they hadn’t died from natural causes.

Instead, Sorellas brother got a call from his sister that made him worried enough to go to the home, where he found the lifeless bodies of his nieces. "Ms. Sorella was nowhere to be found," Tzortzinas said. She was arrested that night following a car accident.

The opening statement is not evidence at the trial but an outline of what the prosecution intends to prove during the trial, which is scheduled to last three months.

Sorella, 52, had drawn features as she sat next to her lawyers in the courtroom. In a soft voice, she pleaded not guilty as the charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Amanda, 9, and Sabrina, 8 were read out.

“Justice is anything but making up your mind quickly,” the judge added. “Always return to the presumption of innocence and wait until you’ve heard all of the evidence.”

Justice Sophie Bourque of Quebec Superior Court advised the jury of six men and six women they must consider all the evidence before reaching a verdict.

On the morning of March 31, 2009, Tzortzinas said, Di Cesare did as she usually did: she woke early, got ready, took care of the dog, cooked breakfast for everyone and prepared the girls for school.

"You have to keep an open mind and listen to the evidence without prejudice and without sympathy," she said.

It was Sorella’s brother who found the girls, Tzortzinas explained. He had rushed over to the house after receiving a worrying message from his sister, only to find his nieces on the floor.

The Crown prosecutor in the trial of Adele Sorella told the jurors that the 52-year-old Laval woman was the only one with the opportunity to murder her young daughters in 2009.  

At the time of the deaths, he explained, Sorella’s husband, Giuseppe De Vito, was on the run following Project Colisée, a lengthy police investigation targeting organized crime.

Nektarios Tzortzinas made the comment in his opening statements in Sorella's first-degree murder trial, which got underway in the Laval courthouse Monday.

Sorella is facing two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of her daughters, Amanda, 9, and Sabrina, 8.

The Crown will call several witnesses — a pathologist, biologist, and toxicologist, among others — to make its case, the prosecutor said.

Tzortzinas told the six women and six men of the jury that the girls were found side by side on the floor of the family room of their home, wearing their school uniforms, on March 31, 2009.

"Even though the exact cause of the deaths is not known, the simultaneous and unexpected deaths of two girls who were in otherwise good health cannot be taken as a natural death," said Tzortzinas.

The two girls, ages 8 and 9, were found dead in their school uniforms, side-by-side on the floor in their family’s playroom.

Tzortinas told the jury that Sorella had been married to Giuseppe di Vito, who was on the run from authorities at the time of his daughters' deaths, following a police crackdown on organized crime three years earlier dubbed Operation Colisée.

In her opening instructions, Superior Court Justice Sophie Bourque reminded the jurors of the important task ahead of them.

The prosecutor said some witnesses will testify that Sorella was living through a difficult period at the time of the girls' deaths and that she had tried to kill herself on several occasions.

Wanted by police, Sorella would be arrested roughly 13 hours later after crashing her car in the middle of the night.

He told the jury that Sorella later left a message for her brother. Upon hearing it, he rushed to the home and found the inanimate bodies of his two nieces. His sister was nowhere to be found.

Tzortzinas said the house had a hyperbaric chamber that was used to treat Sabrina's juvenile arthritis. He said it was seized by police and analyzed by experts.

Sorella, now 52, is on trial for two counts of first-degree murder for her daughters’ deaths in 2009.

"I ask you to retain from everything I told you that Adele Sorella had the exclusive opportunity to commit the murder of her two young daughters, Amanda and Sabrina."

Sorella struggled during that time, attempting to kill herself on several occasions, Tzortzinas said.

Tzortzinas then presented the first Crown witness, Gilbert Déry, a technician with the Laval Police forensics division.

Adele Sorella, 52, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. John Kenney / Montreal Gazette

Déry described how he went into the home the day after the deaths and measured the various rooms and spaces of the home.

With the aid of police photos from the crime scene, he drew two-dimensional drawings of the home using a specialized software, outlining the furniture and other items in the drawings. The girls' bodies were also mapped out in the floor plans.

Under questioning from defence lawyer Pierre Poupart, Déry said he noticed a hyperbaric chamber in one of the rooms upstairs. He said he did not know what it was used for.

The Quebec Superior Court justice presiding over the trial warned jurors this morning it risks being a long trial.

"This is not like television where everything is wrapped up in an hour," Justice Sophie Bourque told the six men and six women, as she gave the jury instructions on what to expect and how the trial will proceed.

Bourque reminded jurors of the oath they took last week when they were sworn in. She instructed them to listen attentively to the evidence and to render a verdict based solely on the evidence presented  before them and nothing else.

She told them the accused is presumed innocent throughout the trial, and right until the end of their deliberations. If they are to find Adele Sorella guilty at the end of those deliberations, it must be beyond all reasonable doubt.

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