A Winnipeg mother has admitted suffocating her severely abused two-year-old daughter while living inside a women's shelter under the supervision of Child and Family Services, which had returned the girl to her care only months earlier.
The mother pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday in the June 2009 death of her daughter. The Crown agreed to drop a more serious charge of second-degree murder in exchange for her admission of guilt. Sentencing has been adjourned until early next year. No explanation for the reduced plea was given in court.
Prosecutor Colleen McDuff revealed details of the child's death for the first time publicly, saying she suffered more than 30 separate injuries to her body in the days preceding her death. 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 behind.
"There were also bruises covering virtually every portion of the child's body," McDuff said.
The mother eventually killed her daughter by placing a hand over her mouth and holding it there for up to two minutes, court was told.
"The child had been crying as a result of the pain she was in from the injuries her mother had inflicted on her," McDuff said. After her child went limp, the mother simply "placed her in her crib, covered her with a blanket, turned off the lights and closed the door," the Crown attorney said.
The mother then sat quietly in her suite at the Native Women's Transition Centre for several hours, making no attempt to call for help. Her boyfriend called later that night from Headingley jail, where he was an inmate, and she confessed to what she'd done to their daughter.
The boyfriend urged her to call 911, but she refused.
"She said she didn't want to go to jail or have her other children taken away," said McDuff. The boyfriend then called staff at the centre and told them what happened. The night supervisor went into the suite, found the girl in her crib and began a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation attempt after calling 911.
It was too late to save the girl.
The mother was arrested by police and attempted to commit suicide in an interview room by using a string from her sweatpants to hang herself, court was told. She has been in custody ever since.
The mother has a long history with social services, including having two older children seized and made permanent CFS wards, the Free Press has learned.
According to court orders, the Awasis CFS agency seized the girl from hospital immediately after she was born in October 2007. They obtained a three-month temporary order of guardianship that was extended several times. CFS cited the need for ongoing protection as grounds for the seizure.
By December 2008, CFS was supporting the return of the child to her mother. A 12-month supervision order was granted that was set to expire in December 2009. It required the mother to live at the treatment centre and continue to be under CFS supervision.
According to documents, her history with Awasis CFS began in September 2003 when her then two-year-old son was placed in care under a temporary guardianship order. Child-custody court documents were later served on the mother, who was in jail on assault and breach-of-probation charges.
CFS obtained a permanent order of guardianship in August 2004. The woman's sister was eventually granted custody of the boy in 2005, with the blessing of CFS.
She then gave birth to her second child in July 2005. CFS immediately seized the boy under a temporary order of guardianship. For months, he didn't have a proper legal name in court documents and was simply referred to as "Baby Boy."
CFS agreed with the child being returned to the woman, but he was quickly taken back into care by November 2005 because of ongoing concerns about protection, according to court documents. A permanent order of guardianship was obtained in October 2006.
Sources say the mother has a tragic family history. Her mother stabbed her father to death at a drinking party when she was just a child. She and her siblings then spent several years in care and were exposed to frequent abuse and neglect.
She was convicted in 2007 of communicating for the purpose of prostitution but has no other criminal record.
She went through a preliminary hearing earlier this year on the original charge of second-degree murder, only to have a provincial court judge reduce it to manslaughter. The Crown appealed the decision and seemingly scored a legal victory when Court of Queen's Bench Justice Brenda Keyser ruled the lower court judge erred.