Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Secret death, public debate

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Does she deserve to be hugged or hung? There are no doubt some very strong mixed opinions these days about what should happen to a young Winnipeg mother at the centre of a truly tragic case that ended with her newborn baby dead.In case you missed it, the 22-year-old woman secretly gave birth alone last December in the bathtub of her downtown apartment - then took shocking steps to conceal her child's death.I uncovered the case through court documents this week - and one of my biggest questions is why Winnipeg police apparently didn't see fit to let the public know about any of this.Anyways, I dug up some shocking new details of the case through court documents Wednesday, which you can read about in Thursday's Free Press.They include:-the woman says she became pregnant as a result of being raped-the woman falsely told loved ones she'd gotten an abortion-the woman never sought out any medical care during her pregnancy-the woman claims to have passed out during labour and says she awoke to find her baby daughter dead-the woman never removed the umbilical cord from around the child's neck-the woman gave her deceased daughter a name - Annabelle - then placed her body in a garbage bag-the woman ordered a pizza and watched television immediately after-over the next four days, the woman says she removed the baby several times, cradling her tiny body in her bed at night-the woman finally went to hospital on day five, presenting the child wrapped in a blanket with a teddy bearNo matter how you look at this case, it is a tragedy of unspeakable levels.Annabelle - who from all accounts could have lived a normal, healthy life - was snuffed out in a bathtub before she could take a single breath.What did she do to deserve such a cruel fate?The biggest debate certainly surrounds the young mother, who has been charged with criminal negligence causing death, failure to obtain help during child birth and concealing a child's body.Even in our newsroom, I've heard suggestions this week that the woman never should have been charged, that she should have been given help instead of handcuffs.No doubt it was a difficult decision for police and justice officials. But I believe it was the right one.No matter how troubled this mother is/was, the fact is a child is dead and it happened on her watch.She had plenty of options to seek help - both before, during and immediately after the pregnancy - but for reasons we may never understand decided to suffer in silence.And her little girl paid the ultimate price.I'm not saying the mother needs to be thrown in the slammer. But I believe there has to be consequences for such actions.I also hope this disturbing case sparks some local debate about what kind of services are being offered to young mothers and how we can prevent people like this from falling through the obvious cracks in the system.What do you think? Should she have been charged? And, if so, what should happen to her in the courts?Post your thoughts below or email me at mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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