IT is a tragic example of an attempt at family reconciliation gone horribly wrong.
Now a rural Manitoba mother has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her four-year-old daughter less than a year after the girl was returned to her care by Child and Family Services.
The 34-year-old -- who can't be named under a court order meant to protect the identities of two other children now in the custody of CFS -- appeared in court Wednesday after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the October 2010 incident.
The Crown was seeking a 12-year prison term, while the woman has asked for eight years behind bars. Provincial court Judge Sid Lerner split the difference in handing down his decision. He cited the mother's own troubled upbringing coupled with the "extraordinarily aggravating circumstances" in this case, which occurred in the hamlet of Stuartburn, about 90 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, just east of Highway 59.
The little girl died in hospital of major injuries suffered from repeated assaults. Two other children, a 13-year-old girl and an 18-month-old boy who resided in the household at the time, were apprehended by CFS.
Crown attorney Breta Passler said the woman initially claimed innocence, suggesting her daughter had fallen and injured herself. She later admitted the truth, saying she had beaten her on multiple occasions. She admitted to carefully striking the girl in places where bruises and marks wouldn't be readily detected, saying she deliberately avoided hitting her in the face.
Defence lawyer Lisa Labossiere told court her client was in desperate need of help after having her three children returned to her care about a year before the killing. The mother suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and has a history of drug abuse and working in the sex trade. A court-ordered report shows her FAS leaves her "more vulnerable... to making indiscriminate choices."
"In terms of the (support) CFS gave, I'd suggest it was lacking," said Labossiere. She suggested the child-welfare agency failed to follow through on suggested therapy and home respite her client needed to properly care for her children.
"She was feeling extremely overwhelmed. (The accused) doesn't have all the tools in the toolbox that you or I may have in terms of parenting," said Labossiere. "Child and Family Services does have a degree of responsibility."
The woman, her children and a boyfriend had just moved into the community about three weeks before the killing.
Lerner said Wednesday the mother must also accept blame for "failing to seek help as she began to lose control."