A Calgary woman has admitted to drugging her nine-year-old daughter, then setting fire to the vehicle her child was in.
Laura Coward, who is 50, pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the death of Amber Lucius.
Coward was originally charged with first-degree murder and was to go to trial next week.
She is to return to court for sentencing March 3.
Amber was reported missing Aug. 31, 2014 and her mother was arrested two days later near Sundre standing outside a burned vehicle where her daughter's body was discovered.
In an agreed statement of facts, Crown prosecutor Mac Vomberg told court that Amber was visiting Coward for the weekend. Her mother told her they were going to Tim Hortons and then to "look at the stars."
Coward gave Amber a toxic but non-lethal dose of a prescription sleeping medication.
"The accused admits that sometime later she woke up," Vomberg said.
"She checked Amber and mistakenly thought she had died. The accused panicked."
Vomberg said Coward filled the vehicle — with Amber unconscious in it — with paper and plastic totes and set it on fire with a propane torch before closing the door.
"She then left the vehicle scene until an undetermined time after the fire had self extinguished and Amber had died," said Vomberg.
"The accused admits that she intentionally caused the death of Amber but not in the manner that she expected."
Vomberg said an autopsy suggested the girl died of a combination of hypothermia, smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide toxicity.
A police officer who came upon the burned vehicle saw a handwritten note on the outside of the driver's door that read: "Help me. It was an accident. Locked keys in."
Vomberg assured Justice Scott Brooker that the plea to the lesser charge had been discussed with the little girl's family.
"It would be fair to say sir that it's a difficult period and it's a very difficult situation for them. They do understand the reasons for the Crown resolving the case in this manner."