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Crown and defence want 14-year parole ineligibility for mother who killed baby

Sentencing delayed until report prepared

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More than three years after the tragic death of a Peguis toddler, Crown and defence lawyers are expected to ask for a life sentence without parole for at least 14 years for the mother who admitted to killing her 21-month-old daughter.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/07/2017 (2016 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

More than three years after the tragic death of a Peguis toddler, Crown and defence lawyers are expected to ask for a life sentence without parole for at least 14 years for the mother who admitted to killing her 21-month-old daughter.

Vanessa Bushie pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder, admitting to the abuse and neglect that led to the death of her daughter Kierra Williams after the child was returned to her biological family by Child and Family Services. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

A publication ban on the case imposed in error earlier this year was lifted Wednesday. After both the Crown and defence agreed the court didn’t have jurisdiction to impose such a ban in the first place, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin cancelled the court order that previously prevented Bushie from being identified.

Kierra Elektra Star Williams died on July 17, 2014. She had severe internal injuries, broken bones and bruises, and she was malnourished and dehydrated. (Handout)

Crown attorney Daniel Chaput told the judge he and Bushie’s defence lawyer, Mike Cook, had planned to ask the court to impose a parole ineligibility of 14 years along with the life sentence.

Bushie was to be sentenced Wednesday, but the sentencing hearing was delayed so a private report could be prepared detailing her history. Under the law, before imposing a sentence, a judge must consider the background of an Indigenous offender and any trauma they experienced as a result of Canada’s history of colonization and residential schools. Court heard the report was meant to be ready for the sentencing hearing, which was scheduled for more than three months after Bushie pleaded guilty, but it wasn’t ordered in time.

A new sentencing date was arranged for early December, but Martin was not prepared to wait that long.

“I think it’s not appropriate, frankly,” the judge said. “There’s no way it’s going to happen that late.”

Martin ordered that Bushie be required to appear in court Thursday so lawyers can discuss how to move the case along more quickly. She is being held in custody awaiting sentencing.

Kierra died on July 17, 2014 after being rushed to hospital in Hodgson in an unresponsive state. She had severe internal injuries, broken bones and bruises. She was malnourished and dehydrated, and her tiny body looked more like that of a nine-month-old infant than a nearly-two-year-old girl when paramedics brought her in, medical professionals previously told court.

Kierra suffered months of abuse and neglect leading up to her death, including being force-fed, pushed, slapped, kept in a locked room and forced to sleep on the floor. With her guilty plea, her mother has admitted to causing fatal damage to the toddler’s internal organs, including her liver and pancreas, on the day she died.

Kierra had been taken into foster care at birth in October 2012. Domestic-violence allegations had been made against another family member, and as a result, Kierra’s older siblings were already in the care of Child and Family Services. Her parents worked to regain custody, and after they completed all required programs, Kierra and her siblings were returned to their family in July 2013. CFS officials visited the family occasionally until January 2014, found nothing of concern, and decided to close Kierra’s file. Six months after the CFS visits stopped, Kierra was dead.

RCMP began a lengthy investigation that culminated in January 2015 with charges against Bushie, Kierra’s father, Daniel Williams, and her adult sister, Jasmine Bushie. All charges against Jasmine were dropped late last year and she has since sued the RCMP for its handling of the case. The lawsuit is still before the court and the Attorney General of Canada is defending itself against the allegations.

Williams is charged with manslaughter and failing to provide the necessaries of life. He is set to go to trial in February. After Bushie’s guilty plea to second-degree murder, the Crown is expected to drop her charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 12:10 PM CDT: Turns off comments

Updated on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 4:09 PM CDT: Corrects sentence recommendation to 14 years parole ineligibility

Updated on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 4:39 PM CDT: Changes image.

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