A toddler left with horrific burns caused by scalding water. No hard answers about how it actually happened. A judge left scratching his head.
These are three features of a mysterious Thompson criminal-negligence case that concluded this week with a Manitoba dad handed nine months in jail.
"This has not been an easy case," Crown attorney Richard Smith told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin.
"There were just a number of things that were really, really weird about it," defence lawyer Serena Puranen agreed.
The man's daughter, aged 17 months, suffered major third-degree burns to her legs and other areas of her lower body as she somehow wound up in scalding-hot water in the bathroom of her family's apartment.
"These are life-changing injuries and they will be with her for the rest of her life," said Smith.
The dad was left to care for the girl on Jan. 29, 2009 after the mother went out. He says he was preparing her bottle in the kitchen when he heard her screams.
But instead of simply crossing the hallway from the kitchen and entering the bathroom where he ultimately found the girl, he first went to a bedroom first to see if she was there, according to a statement of facts presented in court.
The girl would have had to have been in the water for about 10 seconds to sustain the burns she did, the Crown said.
The case was plagued by a number of nagging questions. These include why nobody knows if the girl was burned from water in the bathtub or the bathroom's sink or how she got into either without assistance. Medical reports suggested she had suffered "immersion" burn injuries after being placed in water.
The father, 27, has always adamantly denied submerging her, despite questions raised by photos taken of the girl's burns -- ones described in court as "horrific."
"(He) has dutifully maintained right from the start he did not put her in the bathwater," said Puranen. "(The girl) was known to climb into things, to get into trouble," she added.
After finding her on the bathroom floor, the father says he called 911 and immediately sought medical help for her. "He did not try to hide this. He did what he could, as quickly as he could," Puranen said. The Crown agreed this was true.
The man's plea to criminal negligence causing bodily harm was his acceptance of not paying enough attention to the child or responding to her screams in "a timely way," Martin was told.
"We're not able to give you much more with regard to specific details surrounding the circumstances," said Smith. "You only have what you have in front of you," he told Martin, "and that's all we agreed to."