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Woman who murdered grandmother by switching pills jailed for at least 20 years

A woman who murdered her grandmother by swapping out heart medication for morphine was motivated by animosity and believed the victim did not deserve to live, a judge has found.

Alaine Dawn Sturniolo, 39, was found guilty by a jury of murdering 91-year-old Dawn Baldwin, who collapsed in her Wembley Downs home in January 2012 then died in hospital days later.

The mother-of-two was sentenced in the West Australian Supreme Court on Wednesday to life in prison, with a minimum of 20 years.

Justice Bruno Fiannaca noted that in a Facebook post from 2011, Sturniolo wrote that if she could change something about her life it would be her debt and her grandmother’s “life status”.

In another post, she referred to her grandma as something she hated.

“I accept that both posts were intended to be humorous,” Justice Fiannaca said.

But eventually, Sturniolo really wished she was dead and put a plan into action, which the judge said was “morally inexcusable”.

“You were motivated by animosity towards your grandmother because of the way she treated you, your sister and your mother,” he said.

“You wanted her out of your lives. But there was also an element of believing that she did not deserve to continue to live because of the way she treated all of you.

“She still had a life to live … you deprived her of that life.”

The court heard the morphine sulfate pills had been prescribed for Sturniolo’s uncle before he died of cancer.

Days before Ms Baldwin collapsed, she called a pharmacy to ask about her medication and complained to visitors that she was drowsy.

She also repeatedly said: “They changed my tablets.”

Justice Fiannaca said the murder was a tragic conclusion to a dysfunctional family relationship.

Outside court, Sturniolo’s mother Anne Baldwin said her daughter was innocent and would lodge an appeal.

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