02/22/2016 15:11 EST | Updated 02/22/2017 00:12 EST

Defence to present case for Toronto mom accused of murdering disabled daughter

TORONTO — Defence lawyers for an Ontario woman accused of killing her severely disabled daughter will lay out their case for a Toronto jury this week.

Over much of the past month, jurors have heard evidence called by Crown prosecutors who argue Cindy Ali murdered her 16-year-old daughter Cynara and then spun an elaborate web of lies to cover the crime.

Ali has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Cynara — who had cerebral palsy and couldn't walk, talk or feed herself.

The teen died in a Toronto hospital in February 2011, two days after emergency personnel responding to a 911 call about a home invasion found her without vital signs in her east-end Toronto home.

"Cindy Ali laid her daughter down on the couch, put a pillow over her daughter's face and held it over her face until she stopped breathing," Crown prosecutor Rosemarie Juginovic told jurors earlier this month.

"Before Cindy Ali did this, she staged her house to support the lie that she ultimately told police, which is that two black men barged into her home, one of whom killed her daughter."

Ali, however, told police she tried her best to help her daughter after the purported home invasion.

"Why would I want to hurt my own child," Ali said in a lengthy police interview that was played in court. "If I wanted to do it why wait so long, so many years."

The jury has heard that Ali was the primary caregiver for Cynara, who was "like an infant." The mother was alone with her daughter on the morning she called 911.

Ali claimed two masked men dressed in black suits rang her door bell and pushed their way into her home when she answered.

She told police one of them had a gun and demanded to know where "the package" was, and then made her go from room to room while her daughter was on the living room couch with the second man, court heard.

The jury heard that although drawers in various rooms were found pulled open, items did not appear to have been rummaged through.

Ali told police she heard her daughter laugh and then go silent at one point and ran towards her, grabbing a glass candle holder and throwing it at one of the intruders on her way. She then told police she tripped on the living room carpet and was hit by the intruder with the gun, court heard.

Ali claimed she saw the intruder who had been with her daughter hold a pillow over the girl's face, but later told police she only saw him with a pillow in his hands standing over Cynara, the Crown said.

The intruders eventually left, Ali claimed, at which point she approached her daughter, who looked "blue," and called 911.

The tape of that call, which was played in court, featured a hysterical Ali asking for help.

"My baby's not breathing," she said. "Please could you hurry. Somebody just broke in."

Firefighters were the first to arrive and found Ali on the floor, court heard.

No injuries were observed on Ali, although she said she was hurt, and a firefighter then saw Cynara on a couch with a pillow just above her forehead and a towel lain across her neck, court heard.

The teen was found with no pulse and wasn't breathing, so the firefighter picked her up and asked Ali to move because he needed a flat surface for CPR, but the mother did not get up, court heard.

At that point, the firefighter can be heard on the still-running 911 call.

"Get off the floor! There's no footprints in the front, don't bullshit me," he is heard saying on the tape.

Court heard that there was a light dusting of snow on the ground that day, but firefighters did not see wet footprints in the hallway of the home either.

The jury also heard that Ali was not answering questions about her daughter and wasn't looking directly at the crews trying to save the child.

A pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Cynara found her immediate cause of death was a brain injury arising from deprivation of oxygen, which was caused by cardiac arrest.

That cardiac arrest, court heard, could have been caused by suffocation.

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press