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This article was published 13/2/2017 (1317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg mother accused of kidnapping her children after a lengthy custody dispute is headed to trial this summer.
Sandra Giesbrecht, 44, faces multiple charges including two counts of abducting a person under the age of 14. Those charges are set to go to trial in provincial court starting July 4. In the meantime, Giesbrecht is standing trial on allegations she had cellphones snuck into her children's foster placements so she could text them covertly leading up to the alleged abduction.
A court order implemented after Giesbrecht's ex-husband gained full custody of the two children prevented her from having any unauthorized contact with them. But in a provincial court trial that began last week in front of Judge Anne Krahn, Crown lawyers Alanna Littman and Sharyl Thomas are trying to prove Giesbrecht disobeyed the court order by getting an unidentified woman to pass along a cell phone to her daughter while she was at the park. The Crown's case alleges a phone number listed in the cellphone's contact list as "Crayon" was actually Giesbrecht and that she exchanged more than 100 texts over a period of two days in early May 2016, more than a month before her children went missing for five days in June. The phone was allegedly hidden in a boxspring mattress and later discovered by CFS workers.
Giesbrecht has pleaded not guilty to the breach charge and is being represented by defence lawyer Gisele Champagne. The trial, which has so far included evidence from Winnipeg Police and CFS workers, is scheduled for two more days, spread between now and March. Much of the evidence is subject to a voir dire, meaning it's up to the judge to decide what will be admissable before a verdict is reached.
Winnipeg police arrested Giesbrecht in June 2016 on a Canada-wide warrant following a short pursuit with officers after her nine-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter had been missing for five days. Their father had been granted full custody of the children after a lengthy dispute in family court, and Giesbrecht was ordered to have no unauthorized contact with them. At the time of her arrest, police said they found evidence to suggest Giesbrecht had been wearing a disguise — a wig was found on the floor of the Ford Expedition SUV Giesbrecht was driving.
Back in April, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Cathy Everett awarded full custody of the children to their father, lawyer Jacob Giesbrecht, after a four-week trial. Sandra Giesbrecht was only allowed to have supervised visitations once a week after the judge found her to be an emotionally unstable manipulator. She was also ordered to pay monthly child support.
Child and Family Services seized the children in January 2016 because of concerns they were being "emotionally and psychologically abused" by their mother. There had been two previous criminal complaints in 2014 and 2015 made against the father for alleged sexual abuse of his daughter. A lengthy investigation by police and CFS found there was no merit to the complaints and deemed they were the mother’s attempts to manipulate custody arrangements.
-with files from Mike McIntyre
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
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