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Episode 10: Canada – The Bathtub Girls/The Murder of Linda Andersen

  • 1:13:46
  • February 28, 2022
  • Explicit Content

This week, we dive into the case of the Bathtub Girls. Two sisters who cold-heartedly drowned their own mother in the bathtub of their Mississauga, Ontario home.

The Bathtub Girls/The Murder of Linda Andersen

Welcome back to the dark side. I’m your host Brianna, Dyson’s here this week, and this is Dark Adaptation.

Welcome to episode 10!

We’re on Twitter now @darkadaptpod!

Introduction

Are you ready to hear the story chosen by our lovely Instagram followers?

It was Saturday, January 18, 2003, when 16-year-old Sandra and 15-year-old Beth drowned their alcoholic mother, 43-year-old Linda, in the bathtub of their Williamsport Drive townhouse in Mississauga. The girls plied their mother with vodka, drugged her with Tylenol 3s (T3s), and staged the scene to appear like an accidental drowning. Initially, the staged scene fooled the police, who considered the death to be an accidental drowning. Sandra and Beth got away with the crime for over a year, until a young man went to the police with information that Linda’s death wasn’t an accident, it was a calculated, cold-blooded murder committed by her own daughters.

Sandra and Beth would go on to be known as The Bathtub Girls and they’d be the first sisters in Canada’s history to be convicted of first-degree murder.

Murder

Around lunchtime on January 18, 2003, the sisters began giving their mother vodka in order to get her drunk. They wanted to get Linda as intoxicated as possible so she couldn’t resist their attack. They also gave Linda 6 T3 tablets to slow her heart rate. T3 is a combination of acetaminophen and codeine and some side effects of combining any opioid medicine with alcohol are drowsiness and shallow, slowed or stopped breathing. While Sandra and Beth waited for the drug and alcohol cocktail to work, they communicated with their friends online, one of whom ended their conversation with the phrase “well good luck – wear gloves”.

Sandra and Beth filled the bathtub with water and took Linda to the bathroom. Linda had difficulty getting into the bathtub, because of the mixture of vodka and pills she had been given, so, after putting on latex gloves at the advice of their friend, Sandra and Beth helped their mother into the tub and gave her a massage. Sandra instructed her mother to lie on her stomach so that she could scrub her back. Sandra used her gloved hand, pushed her mother’s head under the water, and set a timer for 4 minutes. When she finally released her mother’s head, she was dead.

With their mother dead, Sandra and Beth went without with Sandra’s boyfriend and another friend to celebrate at a Jack Astor’s restaurant in Mississauga’s Square One shopping center as their alibi.

When they returned home later that night, Sandra and Beth called 9-1-1 and, in what is consistently described as an “Oscar-worthy performance”, they informed the police they had just come home and found their mother lying in the bathtub.

The 9-1-1 operator told Sandra and Beth to take their mother out of the bathtub and begin performing CPR. The sisters cried hysterically over the phone, telling the operator they were doing their best, but Linda couldn’t be resuscitated. And as previously mentioned, when police arrived and talked to the girls, they believed their story of an accidental drowning of an alcoholic.

A pathologist determined the cause of death was drowning and an analysis of Linda’s bodily fluids disclosed very high levels of alcohol and codeine and acetaminophen – the main properties of T3s. And with that, Linda was buried at Assumption Catholic Cemetery in Mississauga, Ontario, and her daughters continued on with their lives.

You probably have a million questions – how did we get here? What is wrong with these girls? What was their mother like? How can you kill your own mother?

Background

There isn’t much information available about Linda’s background. She was born on April 5, 1959, in Poland and as a young woman, she took flying lessons and seemed to enjoy it. She emigrated to Mississauga in, presumably, the 1980s.

At some point, Linda got married and had 2 daughters, Sandra and Beth, but she ended up raising the girls as a single mother after her husband left the family when the girls were young. Linda suffered from depression and self-medicated with alcohol, a situation most likely exacerbated by having to work multiple jobs to support the family. She eventually began dating or re-married later and had a third child, a son. Their relationship was troubled because her husband was also an alcoholic, except he was prone to violence, and in 2001, they split up after he was convicted of domestic violence and drunk driving offenses.

She went back to working multiple jobs to support her and her 3 children but continued to drink steadily and heavily.

Sandra and Beth claim when their stepfather/mother’s boyfriend left the picture, they believed Linda would quit drinking since her abusive ex was gone and hoped their home life would improve, but it didn’t. Apparently, the drinking got worse, and at first, it was devastating to them, but it quickly grew to be irritating because they thought their mother was wasting the family’s money on alcohol.

Money was important to the sisters, and they were jealous of their friends’ lifestyles and unhappy they didn’t have the things they did, like swimming pools and nicer clothes.

Sandra claimed she was physically and sexually abused as a child and when she was 12 years old, she confided in a priest at a summer bible camp about it, but he never reported it or expressed much concern for her safety, and instead suggested she confront her abuser. She claims she also confided in this priest about her mother’s alcoholism and the problems it was causing. She said she and Beth were responsible for watching their younger brother, their mother would often drive drunk with her and her siblings in the car, and she had lost one of her jobs, so their house lacked basic necessities due to the lost income. Sandra also claims she went to different family members looking for help, but no one intervened. She even tried to report the abuse to the Children’s Aid Society, but allegedly nothing came of that either.

Sandra said at this point, she and Beth felt helpless and were becoming very upset with their lives, so they began researching ways to kill their mother. They thought by killing her, they would be entitled to a $133,000 life insurance payout. They decided they would collect the money and spend it on a trip to Europe with their friends. The sisters continued their research and decided drowning their mother was the best option because it was “fast and unspectacular”. After formulating a murder plan, Sandra and Beth told some of their friends about it, all of which encouraged the sisters and laughed at the idea of murdering Linda.

The sisters settled on a day to commit the murder: Saturday, January 11, 2003. But they didn’t follow through because they realized it didn’t work for them. That weekend, a group of their friends had planned to go out and they didn’t want to disrupt these plans by having to cry, go to a funeral, and act devastated that their mother was dead. So, they moved the plans to the following weekend instead.

The following weekend – Saturday, January 18, Sandra and Beth murdered their mother by giving her vodka and T3s, so she was unable to fight back, then drowned her in the tub.

Over the next year, Sandra spoke freely about the crime to her friends online, writing in one conversation: “Obviously it can be debated whether I did it right or wrong, but I did it anyway.” Sandra wasn’t limited to speaking about the crime online, though. She drank heavily during this time, and she’d get loaded at parties and talk about the crime to anyone who would listen – even random people.

Sandra ended up talking about the crime to a guy at a party who later went to the Peel Regional Police with the details of how Linda’s murder wasn’t an accidental drowning, but a premeditated murder carried out by her own daughters. Following his report, the police provided him with a car that was wired, and the sisters were recorded describing their respective roles in Linda’s murder.

Arrest & Trial

Just over a year after the murder, Sandra and Beth were arrested on January 21, 2004.

The sisters acted as though they couldn’t care less about any of it and appeared unwilling or unable to grasp the severity of their crime. They basked in the media limelight – to the point Sandra posted nude photos of herself online just for a little added sensationalism. When the trial was underway and autopsy testimony was being given in the courtroom, the sisters giggled together throughout it.

Their trial took place in the fall of 2005 over an 8-week period, and it was at this point the sisters were dubbed the “Bathtub Girls” by the media. This is also when the pseudonyms Linda, Beth, and Sandra were first used. Since they were under the age of 18, their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The whole rationale of the Act is to help ensure the possibility of their rehabilitation and reintegration into society as adults and not compromise the public safety of them or anyone associated with them. Their real names are available if you go looking for them, but I’ve decided to continue using the pseudonyms as much as I’d love to put them on blast.

Since their real names weren’t allowed to be published, Journalist Bob Mitchell, who closely followed the case and trial, created the aliases in an effort to protect their identities when writing a book about the murder titled The Class Project: How to Kill a Mother – the True Story of Canada’s Infamous Bathtub Girls.

The Class Project was chosen as part of the title because during the trial is when it was revealed how many of the sisters’ friends and peers knew about the murder, encouraged it, and participated in varying ways.

One of the murderers’ friends explained to the judge that: “we knew what was happening. We were not helpless teenagers. We all could have taken a phone and reported the murder. But we didn’t.”

More evidence was provided to the court that came from a computer the investigators had seized from the Andersen home. The computer contained chats between Sandra and Beth and their friends that detailed criminal planning. The conversations were lightheartedly and full of emojis, smiles, and jokes, yet all conversations revolved around how to kill Linda. One of these chats took place a week before the murder. It was between Sandra and her boyfriend, and it served as evidence to accuse the boyfriend of conspiracy. He said, “Your mom has Tylenol 3, right?… you should include them in the game plan”. He then suggested ways they could mislead police, suggesting they buy movie tickets for an hour before the murder took place to create a paper trail followed by, “I’m involved this much, I’m willing to help you out with any of it.”

In the court’s eyes, this showed his level of participation, and he stood trial as well. Sandra testified that he is the one who supplied the T3s used to drug Linda. Another witness testified that the boyfriend was part of the alibi that allowed the girls to evade arrest for more than a year.

Ultimately, by the end of the trial, Justice Bruce Duncan was convinced Sandra and Beth were guilty of killing their mother and convicted them of first-degree murder. He said, “They carried out the plan with chilling detachment… The two set out to commit the perfect crime, but instead, they created the perfect prosecution… The case against them is overwhelming. It is probably the strongest case I have ever seen in over 30 years of prosecuting, defending, and judging criminal cases.”

The boyfriend was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and received an 18-month sentence, which he later appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal and upheld the conspiracy conviction, but the court did reduce the sentence to 8 months confinement and 4 months under supervision.

Conspiracy charges are often difficult to prove and how the court approaches them actually varies from province to province. For example, Alberta and Quebec typically take a narrower approach, limiting conspiracy charges to people who aid or abet in the commission of the agreed-upon crime. Whereas British Columbia and Ontario typically take a broader approach, expanding the charges to people who knowingly do something to make it easier for the conspirators to commit a crime.

In the case of the boyfriend, the Supreme Court justices opted for a narrower approach, which is why his sentence was reduced.

Sentencing Phase

So, the sisters have been found guilty, and now we enter the sentencing phase of the trial.

Although the sisters were 15 and 16 when they committed the murder, their age didn’t automatically mean they would be sentenced as youth under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. If the crime merits a harsher punishment, young offenders can be sentenced as adults.

So, the Crown attempted to have the sisters given an adult sentence – life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years for Sandra, and 5 to 7 years for Beth.

But after a lengthy sentencing phase, Justice Bruce Duncan wasn’t convinced the girls deserved an adult sentence. Though he agreed the sisters had “carried out the plan with chilling detachment,” he felt a youth sentence of 10 years, with a 6-year incarceration maximum, was sufficient to hold them accountable for murder.

With that, in June 2006, Justice Duncan imposed a youth sentence against the sisters of 6 years in custody and 4 years under community supervision, instead of a youth-as-adult sentence which would have come with a life prison sentence. About his decision, he said: “They suffered a level of poverty that was not in keeping with their mom’s relatively good income. The home atmosphere was depressing and degrading.” The sisters were separated and forbidden to communicate with each other while in jail. Beth was sent to a medium-security unit called the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.

Parole Eligibility & Release

Sandra and Beth were eligible to apply for parole on October 29, 2009, with their mandatory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence on March 11, 2013.

Under the terms of their sentencing, the sisters can only spend a maximum of 6 years behind bars with the remainder of their sentence under a form of community supervision such as a halfway house. Their father attempted to have Beth released into his custody so she could complete her sentence under house arrest in their hometown, but this was unsuccessful.

In March of 2009, Beth sought release from prison so she could live in an Ottawa halfway house and go to university, but Peel Deputy Crown attorney Mike Cantlon opposed it. He cited Dr. Janine Cutler’s assessment: “she needs major psychological counseling because she’s “stuck” in the same emotional and psychological state, she is still in the offense cycle and exhibiting the same pattern of behavior she did prior to the murder, she lies and manipulates until she gets what she wants, she’s yet to deal with many childhood and family issues or the “triggers” that led to her role in her mother’s murder. She has little empathy for others, sees herself above others, gets annoyed and irritated easily, needs to always be in control, has distorted thinking, is very demanding, and refuses to see things from other’s points of view.”

Crown Attorney Mike Cantlon and Brian McGuire successfully prosecuted Sandra and Beth and during their hearing, they revealed to the court that a recent risk assessment indicated Beth insisted she didn’t play an active role in her mother’s mother. She only admits to being in the house but says Sandra is the one who committed the actual murder. He added she still has the opinion that her former boyfriend also didn’t play any role in the murder, despite the fact he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.

Despite the Crown’s opposition, Sandra was released to a halfway house in 2009, and Beth was released in 2010 with court-ordered restrictions on their activities, including dating, and they are banned from using alcohol and drugs.

Release/Aftermath

In the years following her release, Sandra graduated from the University of Waterloo where she studied geophysics at even received a $2,000 scholarship donated by a businessman named Andreas Cordsen. She has at least 1 child. She’s undergone years of therapy and says she still has nightmares from her troubled childhood.

In the years following Beth’s release, she’s reportedly a married mother with at least 1 child who studied law at the University of Ottawa, worked as an articling student for a Toronto criminal defense lawyer in 2015, and is now a lawyer herself. (assist counsel in all aspects of the work of the legal services team).

Sandra did an interview with Global News in November 2020 to expose “her truth of her unimaginably bad childhood and her prolonged sexual abuse at the hands of a person close to the family”. Beth declined to be interviewed.

Sandra said: “I wanted to do this interview to say those words that happened to me after I got arrested, like for the first time ever publicly, I said I was sexually abused.” She says her story begins with horrific details of physical abuse in the home with her mom’s live-in boyfriend, “Doug,” physically abusing Sandra’s mom, exacerbating her alcoholism.

She says that she lived in a home where she thought “dinner was for special occasions” and that she and her sister were left alone to tend to their younger brother.

She talks about how she confided in that priest at summer camp, and he instructed her to tell the abuser to stop or else she’d tell his mother. When Sandra did this, the alleged abuser was unafraid and according to Sandra, “He said, ’Go right ahead.’ And he just came, and he hurt me. He called my bluff.” She also mentions reaching out to her grandparents about her mother’s drinking and they told her “if you excelled in school, the problem would be solved.” She states she reported the neglect and abuse to the Children’s Aid Society but she inadvertently “sabotaged the investigators because she was overcome with ‘humiliation and embarrassment’ and couldn’t reveal the depths of what she and her siblings were going through. She said, “I just hoped that if a little bit was revealed, they’d continue their investigation and rescue us, but it just ended… I talked about the drinking, but I should have talked more about the violence. They would have cared more about the violence.”

About murdering her mother, she said: “I thought, ‘She’s never going to stop drinking… She’s going to die from this. I should just kill her because it was like torture being trapped there’… It was my tragic, mistaken belief that I had that my mom was going to die from this.” After her death, an autopsy would reveal that Linda had only mild cirrhosis of the liver and wasn’t fatally ill. She explained there were many murder plans, but she claimed the initial plan was to collect her mom’s insurance money at 18, go to Amsterdam, buy some drugs and a gun, and kill herself.

Sandra claims she now appreciates that her mother was a hard-working single parent who juggled 2 jobs to support her 3 children and was dealing with her own trauma and addiction. She says she regrets the murder with “every shred of her being” and wishes her mother was still alive.

Discussion

Sandra and Beth were released after serving 3 and 4 of the maximum 6 years of their sentencing which, let’s not forget, they were serving for the first-degree murder of their own mother. They attended university and have great jobs and children – Does this stand as a rehabilitation and reintegration victory or is it a sign the justice system is too lenient?

Sign Off

And that is the crazy case of the Bathtub Girls / the murder of Linda Andersen, whatever you call it, it’s a crazy story and those girls are lucky to lead relatively free and normal lives. It’s wild you can plan on murdering your own mother, tell your friends about it, actually commit the murder, get caught, go to prison, and then be released into society again only 3 years later.

Thank you everyone for tuning in this week. Make sure you rate and subscribe to Dark Adaptation Podcast. Follow us on Instagram @darkadaptationpodcast and be sure to share the show so we can shout you out – like I’m going to do right now. Thank you, Mia, one of the many dear Gemini sisters in my life, for listening and sharing our little passion project on Instagram. Her Instagram handle is @shadowwolf_readings! Check out her page for tarot wisdom and amazing insight on following your guides. She does Tarot readings as well, so DM her and book a session.

Share our show and tag us so we know you did, and we’ll shout a homie out! Thank you for tuning in. We’ll catch you on the dark side.

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