Daughter’s arrest a shocking twist in murder case
Police say physical altercation may have occurred over financial dispute
It was a confounding crime that seemed on its way to becoming yet another cold case.
Then, on April 7, things began to heat up.
“This is the first time I don’t get to send my mom flowers or give her a card on Mother’s Day,” said Lisa Freihaut as she wiped away tears, “and see her beautiful garden ... Mom, we love you and we miss you.”
On April 20, nearly two weeks after the Calgary mother of three made that emotional public plea for information in the mysterious Jan. 17 killing of her mother, Irene Carter, came another surprising news conference.
Lethbridge police put on display a large, pink winter jacket. They were looking for a person of interest, a 20-something woman who would definitely stick out in a crowd: 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-5, about 250 pounds, her hair dirty blond with brown streaks, a tattoo on one of her wrists. She was thought to be from Airdrie, said Sgt. Ryan Steff, and had attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Calgary.
If all that weren’t enough in Lethbridge’s first homicide of the year, the biggest twist — OK, a bombshell — came Friday evening, when Lethbridge police held yet another news conference about the case of the 78-year-old grandmother who was stabbed to death in her home.
Lisa Freihaut had been arrested and charged with the seconddegree murder of her mother, said Staff Sgt. Scott Woods.
Woods, who said police believed a physical altercation between mother and daughter occurred over a financial dispute, also said Freihaut was already a person of interest on April 7, the day she made that tearful public plea.
It was a shocking development, the sensational story of a grieving daughter now accused of murder splashed on the front pages of newspapers across the country by Saturday morning, including the local paper of record, the Lethbridge Herald.
Yet it was news that didn’t quite rattle the citizens of this southern Alberta city of nearly 90,000 souls, at least not to the degree this outsider might have expected.
Over at Park Place Shopping Centre, Harry Wright has settled in for his regular Saturday morning coffee session with friends and fellow retirees. “I was born in Picture Butte, lived here all my life,” the octogenarian says.
“Lethbridge is a big city now, with big-city problems just like Calgary.”
As we chat, Wright and his friends describe Mayor Magrath Drive, which runs through the busiest part of town, as a “mini Deerfoot Trail,” and say that bigcity crime problems showed up years ago. “We never used to lock our doors,” says his wife, Ellen. “But now we do.”
Unlike the beleaguered oil city a couple of hours’ drive north, Lethbridge is a booming place these days, thanks partly to high beef prices and a healthy agrifood manufacturing industry, which brings in more than $1 billion to the area annually.
With the good, though, has come the bad: The six homicides in 2015 here were double the average from 2010 to 2014. While that pales in comparison to Calgary’s 33 confirmed homicides last year, it’s still a big change.
Another reason the arrest of Freihaut may not be so jarring to locals can be found in speaking with Carter’s neighbours on the tree-lined street where she and her husband, Jack, lived together for decades before he went to live this past December in a local nursing home.
“When it first happened, I told my girls not to answer the door to anyone,” says Jackie Webster, who lives with her husband and three daughters across the street from Carter. “It was really unsettling.”
Quickly, though, Webster’s fears were allayed when victimservices personnel from the Lethbridge police service went door knocking just a couple of days after the murder.
“They told us we were safe here, there was nothing to be concerned about,” says Webster, who adds that rumours had been running rampant through the community that Freihaut, who with her husband had found her mother on Jan. 17 — four days after police say she was murdered — was a person of interest long before her tearful news conference.
“It’s made neighbours want to get to know one another better,” she says of the effect of the tragedy on the quiet street lined with pretty lawns and well-kept homes.
“I knew Irene just to say hello to,” says Webster. “But she and her husband seemed really nice and she took such pride in her garden.
“Finding out your neighbour was murdered is shocking. But, mostly, it’s just very sad.”