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Father gets 9-months in jail for child abandonment

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A Winnipeg dad who inexplicably abandoned four of his six kids — including a five-month-old baby — and left them to fend for themselves in a decrepit West End apartment overnight will serve nine months in jail.

The man, 33, elected to plead guilty to child abandonment today in front of provincial court Associate Chief Judge John Guy.

"I don't know what you were thinking, you obviously weren't thinking," Guy told the man, who can't be identified to protect the identities of his kids. "You should be completely ashamed of yourself," Guy said.

The man's common-law wife left him in charge of four of their six kids, aged between seven years and five months, at their Maryland Street apartment so she could have a night out on May 31, Guy was told.

The man elected to simply leave them inside the apartment and vanished into the night, court heard.

The abandonment was uncovered at 9 a.m. June 1 when a Child and Family Services worker saw a seven-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister wandering along Maryland Street looking disheveled and not dressed for the 8 C weather, Crown prosecutor Sharil Thomas said.

"(The boy) also said his little sister almost got hit by a car," said Thomas.

Police went to the family's suite and found it to be in extreme squalor with feces and "other rotting organic materials" on the floors and walls, a broken toilet and burn marks on the carpet. There was little suitable food and the back door was barricaded by a couch.

The kids slept on dirty, bare mattresses with no sheets, court heard.

Police waited at the suite for two hours and no one showed up, but the mother was arrested that same day and released.

The dad wasn't arrested until being picked up in a traffic stop on July 16. Guy was told he has two prior convictions for sexual assaults not relating to kids.

The last, in 2007, netted him a five-month jail term and an order to register yearly with the government as a sexual offender for 10 years.

No explanation was offered regarding where he went or why he abandoned his kids, but defence lawyer Barry Sinder suggested the man's actions related to his on-again-off-again drinking problem.

Thomas told court her research into punishments meted out by courts in Canada for child-abandonment show a "really low" range of jail terms handed out. The maximum she came across was a nine-month term in Alberta for a mom who tethered her kids to a couch when she went to work.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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