Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'I wasn't getting any help': killer mom

-- Blames CFS workers for drug relapse, slaying -- Becomes too upset to testify at inquest

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Nicole Redhead admits she got high on crack cocaine before heading to the hospital to give birth to her daughter.

Less than two years later, the undersized child -- the recipient of weeks of physical abuse that left her tiny body broken and bruised -- had her cries forever silenced by her mother's hands.

A provincial review is underway to examine how the events leading up to the death of her 21-month-old daughter, Jaylene, went unnoticed by those within the provincial child-welfare system.

In April 2011, Redhead, 30, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing 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. Redhead was the first to testify. She tearfully described the events leading up to, and including, her daughter's slaying.

"I wasn't getting any help," said a sobbing Redhead. She claims CFS workers failed to offer her proper community support upon returning her daughter, which ultimately led to a drug relapse and the slaying.

"I knew I could do anything I want," Redhead said when asked by lawyers why she returned to using drugs. She became increasingly upset as the morning wore on, prompting the judge to adjourn her testimony.

"You send me back to that cell, I'm not coming back here," Redhead vowed before being led away. It's not clear when, or if, her evidence will continue.

Redhead pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year 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.

"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."

Jaylene suffered more than 30 separate injuries to "nearly every portion of the body" in the days before she died. 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 him.

The boyfriend urged Redhead to call 911, but she refused. He called the shelter and told them what had happened. The night supervisor found Jaylene, called 911 and began CPR. But it was too late.

Redhead was arrested and attempted suicide in an interview room by using a string from her sweatpants to try to hang herself, court was told.

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 supported Jaylene's return to her mother. A 12-month supervision order was granted but it was set to expire in December 2009. It required Redhead to live at the treatment centre under CFS supervision.

Redhead said Thursday she repeatedly asked for help to look after Jaylene so she could go grocery shopping or spend time alone. She claims several workers never responded to her requests, or told her they'd get back to her, but never did.

CFS had previously seized Redhead's two other children but did not return them to her care. She was also pregnant at the time of the killing and that child has been made a permanent CFS ward.

Redhead has led a tragic life, defence lawyer Steve Brennan told court Tuesday. Her background included seeing her mother stab her father to death at a drinking party when she was a child.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2012 A9

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