A provincial review is underway to examine how the events leading up to the killing of a 21-month-old Winnipeg girl went unnoticed by those within the child welfare system.
Nicole Redhead, 30, was sentenced in April 2011 to 12 years in prison for killing her daughter, Jaylene, inside a Child and Family Services-approved shelter meant to supervise her and protect the child.
With the criminal case concluded, an inquest began Tuesday into the circumstances of the June 2009 tragedy.
"This was the manifestation of unspeakable brutality and torture," Manitoba Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal said in handing down his sentence last year. He said Redhead’s actions went well beyond her ability to cope and were "closer to anger and rage than frustration and stress."
Redhead pleaded guilty to manslaughter after admitting to suffocating Jaylene while living inside a women's shelter under the supervision of CFS, which had returned the girl to her care months earlier. Redhead claims she was trying to stop her from crying and never meant to kill her.
The child suffered more than 30 separate injuries to "nearly every portion of the body" in the days before dying. They include several bite marks to her legs and severe bruising on her vagina as a result of being kicked so hard it left a footprint impression.
Redhead killed her daughter by placing a hand over her mouth and holding it there for up to two minutes, court was told. After her child went limp, the mother placed her in a crib and left the room. She sat in her suite at the Native Women's Transition Centre for several hours. Her boyfriend called later that night from the Headingley Correctional Centre, where he was an inmate, and she confessed to what she'd done to their daughter.
The boyfriend urged Redhead to call 911, but she refused. He called the shelter and told them what happened. The night supervisor found Jaylene, called 911 and began CPR. But it was too late.
In October 2007, the Awasis CFS agency seized Jaylene after she was born. It obtained a three-month order of guardianship that was extended several times. By December 2008, CFS was supporting the return of the child to Redhead. A 12-month supervision order was granted that was set to expire in December 2009. It required Redhead to live at the treatment centre under CFS supervision.
CFS had also seized Redhead’s two other children at the time but did not return them to her care. She was also pregnant at the time of the killing, and that child has also been made a permanent CFS ward.
Redhead has led a tragic life, defence lawyer Steve Brennan told court. Her background included seeing her mother stab her father to death at a drinking party when she was a child.