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Teen sons, ex-husband testify at trial of Alberta soldier accused of trying to kill kids in house fire

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A Canadian soldier accused of trying to kill her children by setting fire to her CFB Edmonton home in 2015 was back in court Wednesday.

The woman - who cannot be identified under a publication ban to protect the kids - is being tried on two counts of arson and three counts of attempted murder. She pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of the trial on Monday.

Wednesday morning, the woman’s ex-husband testified their relationship was very difficult.

“My kids were scared of me because they had been told I would hurt them,” the father of the couple's three children recalled.

He told court he was helping with the north Saskatchewan wildfires on July 20, 2015, testifying he was nowhere near the children or his estranged ex-wife when the blaze broke out at CFB Edmonton.

At the time of the fire, the kids were living with their mother. They now live with their father in Edmonton.

Right before the blaze, the woman and her three children went to the West Edmonton Mall on July 17, 2015. On Wednesday, the eldest son - now 17 years old - said his mom took the three kids to Galaxyland amusement park and the Build-A-Bear store. They stayed at the Fantasyland hotel.

He testified his mother had a thick envelope filled with what he believes was $10,000 in cash, and after their trip to the mall, she asked him to put it in a post office box at a gas station.

The eldest son said after they returned home, his mom gave each child NyQuil.

According to the teenager, they played video games and watched movies in his mother's room before going to bed.

Before going to sleep in the accused's room, the 17-year-old said his mother “told us she loved us and that we’ll never have to see him again.”

He told court he believed his mom was referring to his father.

After going to sleep, the eldest son said he woke up to smoke in the house. He testified his mom told them the smoke was from the wildfires, so he and his younger brother closed the windows.

“It kept on getting smokier, and she just said, 'Put a pillow or a blanket over your mouth,'” the 17-year-old told court.

He said he went downstairs and found smoke coming out of the basement door. When he opened it, he said he saw a red glow. He alleges his mother told him to go back upstairs.

After finding his brother in his room, the now 17-year-old said he and his brother were able to poke a hole in the window screen and go out onto the roof. Neighbours helped the family escape.

NEW DETAILS NOT GIVEN TO MILITARY POLICE

During cross-examination, defence counsel Curtis Steeves brought up the eldest's past statements, saying Wednesday's details had never been brought up before.

When defence counsel asked him about lying when speaking to military police, the teen said he didn't "prepare to lie but just didn't tell the truth."

Steeves argued at the time of making those statements, the eldest son believed his father was the one responsible for the fire.

The 17-year-old agreed, telling the court, "When you've been told that your whole life, you start to believe it," — referring to his mother's thoughts on his father.

Court heard from the middle child, now 16 years old, in the afternoon. He similarly recounted the stay at the Fantasyland hotel but testified they went straight home afterwards.

In his recollection, the teen said his mother gave each sibling NyQuil as a precaution since the youngest had food poisoning.

When asked if his mother said anything before heading to bed, he told the court, "The only conversation I remember is her telling me, 'We would never have to see our dad again.'

The teen, who was eight years old at the time of the fire, told the court he doesn't recall much of what happened that night.

He remembered waking up to smoke and his mother telling them to go back to bed.

Later he woke up a second time and went to his room, opened a window and climbed to the home's roof, where he started screaming for help, the teen said.

During cross-examination, Steeves argued that the now teen was not feeling well and was given the medication by his mother to help.

The defence also brought up how during past interviews, the teen said he was awoken by stomping, not smoke.

Steeves asked if it was possible that he woke up and tried to find his brother in the basement, to which the teen replied, "maybe."

The trial continues Thursday, with the youngest child set to take the stand. It is expected to last 10 days. 

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