03/03/2015 06:24 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT

Baby M Trial: Lawyer Urges 'Merciful Sentence' For Edmonton Mom

"I loved my children. I always wanted them to be the best they would be."

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Black woman in handcuffs

EDMONTON - A mother who starved and abused her twin girls before one of them died in hospital has told an Edmonton court that she is truly sorry.

The woman, who cannot be named under a publication ban, told a sentencing judge Tuesday that she never expected her family would face problems when they moved to Canada from Algeria in 2008.

Court heard how the woman felt isolated caring for three preschool children at home while her husband worked.

"It's easy for anybody to say I'm sorry but today I'm stating my sorrow is a very truthful statement. I am sorry," the 37-year-old said with the help of an Arabic interpreter.

"I loved my children. I always wanted them to be the best they would be."

The mother pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter, aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life. She has admitted in court documents that she didn't provide the girls with adequate food and assaulted them over a prolonged period of time.

Paramedics found the emaciated two-year-olds sitting in infant car seats at their home in May 2012. Skin was hanging on their bodies, their ribs were sticking out of their chests and they were covered in scabs and bruises.

They weighed 13 and 16 pounds — the size of six-month-old babies.

Court heard the house was stocked with food and the twins' four-year-old brother was healthy.

A judge is to sentence the woman on Friday.

The Crown has argued she should be sentenced to between 23 to 25 years.

But defence lawyer Daryl Royer pleaded for a "merciful sentence," saying the crime does not call for a prison term at the high range of the scale. He did not give a sentence recommendation, but said similar cases show a range of 7 1/2 to 16 years.

The twins' father pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to 15 years. Court heard he did not physically harm the twins but did nothing as they suffered. He also blamed a difficult adjustment to life in Canada.

Royer said that although a psychiatric report found no evidence that the mother had a mental illness, an earlier exam may have had a different result.

He noted that although the mother may be an educated woman, "a third-world education is little education at all."

"She does love her children and she does miss them," he said as the woman wiped away tears.

The surviving twin and her brother were taken into foster case after their parents were arrested. They are now being raised by guardians.

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