LAVAL, Que. — People who saw a Quebec woman on the day she is alleged to have killed her two daughters testified that she acted “as if she was in a coma” and was “disconnected from reality,” her lawyer reminded jurors Tuesday.

On the second day of final arguments at Adele Sorella’s trial for first-degree murder, her defence lawyer said she had reached a breaking point on March 31, 2009.

Testimony about her behaviour on the day of the crime will likely serve to support defence arguments about Sorella’s mental state the day her daughters Amanda, 9, and Sabrina, 8, died. The girls were found dead in the family’s playroom, and the cause of death was never established.

Gilles Chamberland, a psychiatrist who testified as an expert for the defence, said Sorella appears to have had a dissociative episode that day. He said such episodes are protective mechanisms.

Sorella testified that she has almost no memory of the day her daughters died. But that night she crashed into a pole with her car and was discovered in a roadside ditch.

The first police officer on the scene said Sorella “seemed to be on another planet,” defence lawyer Pierre Poupart told the jury. A detective who arrested her for the murder of her daughters said she seemed out of touch with reality. She insisted to him that her daughters were alive at home, and suggested he call to verify.

When she was taken to hospital, she was considered a priority case for a psychiatric evaluation, Poupart said.

“We all have a breaking point,” he said. “This woman had reached her breaking point, whether she killed her children or not.”

Evidence at the trial revealed that Sorella had attempted suicide three times between 2006 and 2008. In her testimony, she described the psychological distress that followed her surgery for a brain tumour and the disappearance of her husband, Giuseppe De Vito, in 2006 as he was sought by organized crime investigators.

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press