DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. -- A woman stared blankly from the prisoner's dock as she appeared in court to face charges Wednesday of killing her three young children.
Sonia Blanchette shuffled gingerly into the courtroom, appeared in a daze, and had to be guided away by a courthouse constable after she was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Her estranged spouse, the children's father, watched quietly from the front row of the courtroom. Surrounded by family, Patrick Desautels did not say a word while entering or leaving.
The hearing lasted just a few minutes. No plea was entered Wednesday.
A court-appointed lawyer has requested Blanchette be evaluated to determine whether she is mentally fit to respond to the criminal charges.
Quebec court Judge Gilles Lefranßois ordered her to remain in custody and return to court on Dec. 14 after an evaluation by a psychiatrist from the Université de Sherbrooke.
As the 33-year-old woman arrived at the courthouse in the back of an unmarked police cruiser, Blanchette kept her head low with the hood of her pale blue jacket pulled up to hide her face.
The Crown did not object to the request for an evaluation.
"The only thing I can say today is that she has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her three young children," prosecutor Marie-Eve Patry told reporters.
Police have not confirmed how the children died.
The bodies of AnaÆs, 2, LoÆc, 4, and Laurélie, 5, were found at Blanchette's home Sunday in Drummondville, about an hour from Montreal.
Reports said the victims' grandmother was the one who made the grisly discovery Sunday. Media reports said a custody order gave Blanchette access to the children once every two weeks, but only under supervision. Neither the police nor the Crown would confirm the custody details.
Blanchette had been hospitalized following the deaths. Police began questioning her Wednesday after her release. A few hours later, she was whisked before a judge.
It's not the first time Blanchette has recently appeared in court. Court records indicate the mother had a run-in with the law about a year ago.
She had been charged with abduction in violation of a custody order.
Quebec provincial police had been called to investigate when the mother allegedly took off with her then-14-month-old daughter after losing a custody battle with her ex. Media reports at the time said police managed to track her down a day later and arrest her without incident.
That older case is ongoing.
Blanchette is scheduled to return to court in that previous case on Jan. 11, 2013, according to legal records. However, it's unclear what will happen with those charges now.
The children's funeral will be held in Acton Vale, Que., on Saturday.
A few dozen people attended the hearing, including Jeannine Desrosiers, a friend of one of Blanchette's relatives.
"The mother appeared to me demolished, destroyed," Desrosiers said. "We weren't living what she was going through."
Earlier this week, during a brief statement to reporters, Desautels said his family was in inexplicable pain. The father said he loved his children and would miss them for the rest of his life.
-- The Canadian Press