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19 Sep 2021 17:13
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  •   Home > News > International

    Alaine Sturniolo gets life jail term for murdering grandmother Dawn Baldwin by swapping pills

    Alaine Dawn Sturniolo is handed a life prison sentence with a 20-year minimum after being found guilty of murdering her grandmother by swapping her pills with morphine tablets.

    A Perth woman who posted on social media she hated her grandmother and months later fatally tampered with her medication has been sentenced to life with a 20-year minimum for her murder.

    Alaine Dawn Sturniolo was found guilty by a Supreme Court jury of the deliberate poisoning of 91-year-old Dawn Baldwin, who died in hospital seven days after she collapsed at her Wembley Downs home in January 2012.

    In handing down his judgement, Justice Fiannaca described Sturniolo's crime as "morally inexcusable" and motivated by animosity towards her grandmother.

    "You wanted her out of your lives," he said.

    "You took it upon yourself to decide when your grandmother's life should end when she still had life to live and was valued by her friends."

    Her cause of death was reported as "morphine toxicity" and while there was a coronial investigation at the time, no charges were initially laid.

    But in 2018 Sturniolo, a mother of two, was arrested by police after they received reports she had confessed to relatives that she had tampered with the elderly woman's medication.

    She denied having anything to do with her grandmother's death, but at her trial earlier this year it was alleged she had swapped some of Mrs Baldwin's tablets with morphine medication that had been taken by her uncle before his death from cancer in 2011.

    Revealing Facebook posts 

    The jury was also shown two Facebook posts before her grandmother's death, in which Sturniolo said she hated the elderly woman and would like to change her "life status."

    The three people Sturniolo confessed to gave evidence at the trial, including her sister Sarah, who testified Sturniolo had boasted at a family function that "it was easy enough to bump Dawn off."

    Sarah's then-partner Brent Mynard also told the trial Sturniolo had once said to him before Mrs Baldwin's death that "it wouldn't take much for Dawn to drop off the perch."

    Mr Mynard said after her death, Sturniolo admitted to him that she had switched her grandmother's medication although she maintained she had only wanted to cause her discomfort and had not wanted her to die.

    Justice Bruno Fiannaca said he was satisfied Sturniolo had intended to cause the death of her grandmother.

    “You acted out of feelings of animosity towards her, based on a perception she was intolerably cruel to you and other members of your family," he told her.

    “It was a tragic conclusion to a dysfunctional family.“

    He accepted Sturniolo's social media posts were meant to be humorous, saying he did not consider they indicated an intention to kill Ms Baldwin.

    But he said the use of humour was not inconsistent with Sturniolo's true feelings towards the elderly woman.

    The court heard Sturniolo had sent a letter to the judge in which she maintained her innocence and claimed she had not hated her grandmother because she did not know her well enough to feel that way.

    She also claimed she had been "bullied" by the detectives and the prosecutor into saying she did hate Ms Baldwin.

    Her comments were not accepted by Justice Fiannaca, who said they were inconsistent with the evidence that was presented at her trial.

    Sturniolo was arrested in and taken into custody in November 2018 so with time already served, she will first be eligible for release on parole in 2038.

    'They got the wrong person': mother

    Outside the court, Sturniolo's mother Anne Baldwin maintained her daughter's innocence and said she would be lodging an appeal against her conviction and sentence.

    Ms Baldwin said her daughter's imprisonment would have a devastating effect on Sturniolo's two children — a daughter aged 14 and a son aged 11.

    "We visit fortunately, lots of times, but it's different to being able to hug your kids anytime they come home from school," she said.

    "They got the wrong person … but we will work through it … we've got work to do."

    Ms Baldwin said she hated her mother.

    "Dawn was lovely in public but [in private] abusive, mentally, physically and emotionally," she said.

    "I do feel some sympathy for her … but given that she did so much to me and my brother, I feel it's really hard."

    Ms Baldwin described her daughter as caring, saying she was not capable of killing any living thing.

    "She is gentle … and she does get on with animals. It takes a special kind of person to relate to creatures that can't verbalise," she said.

    Dawn Baldwin's friends unhappy at portrayal

    Outside the court some of Dawn Baldwin's friends said they were upset at the way she was portrayed during the trial.

    One of them, Dina Dellit, described her as a caring, generous and lovely person.

    "She was a retired music teacher, she was highly intelligent, she had wonderful conversations," she said.

    "I think it's a real tragedy that it has ended like this. It's not fair that this is how her life ended, she did not want it like that.

    "Dawn has not been portrayed as the person who her friends believed her to be and I don't think we were fooled … by what's been portrayed in the courthouse and I think that is a real tragedy.

    "There are enough people out there who knew the Dawn that we know and they know it's not true.

    "It is a very tragic family … and now I just think that poor young girl, those children, but that's justice. The friends now, we've got closure."

    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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