A judge has dismissed a Manitoba woman’s claim RCMP and child welfare authorities wrongly accused her in the death of her toddler sister.
Jasmine Bushie was arrested and charged with manslaughter and failing to provide the necessaries of life in the July 2014 death of Kierra Elektra Star Williams.
The charges against Bushie were stayed in December 2016, just as a preliminary hearing was set to begin for Kierra’s parents, Vanessa Bushie and Daniel Williams. Both parents were ultimately sentenced to prison terms.
"I have concluded that (Jasmine Bushie’s) arrest was based upon reasonable and probable grounds," said Queen’s Bench Justice Jeffrey Harris in a decision released last week.
"The fact that the charges were subsequently stayed does not detract from the authority of the RCMP to arrest and detain her in accordance with the law. The plaintiff’s detention, until released by a judge, was authorized by law."
Jasmine Bushie alleged the RCMP didn’t have grounds to charge her. She claimed she wasn’t considered a suspect until after employees from Intertribal Child and Family Services spoke to police.
Kierra had suffered months of abuse and neglect after she was returned to her parents by CFS. When she died on July 17, 2014, the 21-month-old child had internal bleeding, several broken ribs, a skull fracture, a dislocated shoulder, missing teeth and serious bruising. She was malnourished, emaciated and suffering from dehydration — signs of abuse and neglect that may have been happening as early as six months before she died.
Although the case against her wasn’t considered strong enough to go to trial, Jasmine Bushie alleged she had suffered because she had been accused in the homicide. Her lawyer, Ted Mariash, argued that, in addition to spending 16 days in jail before she was granted bail, Jasmine Bushie had been subjected to vigilante justice and had to move away from her home in Peguis First Nation. A bail condition that Jasmine Bushie, then 20, have no contact with children under the age of 14 meant she had to discontinue attending high school.
Mariash argued his client wouldn’t have been charged if CFS employees hadn’t "misrepresented" a respite-care agreement that required Jasmine Bushie to cook, clean and care for her siblings on behalf of CFS while her mother, Vanessa Bushie, recovered from a heart attack.
"(Intertribal Child and Family Services) knew that they had the next Phoenix Sinclair case on their hands," and they wanted to blame Jasmine Bushie, Mariash argued at a hearing earlier this year.
Jasmine Bushie argued her respite-care agreement expired in February 2014, freeing her from any legal duty to Kierra, and that there was no evidence she had ever assaulted the child. Jasmine Bushie continued to live in the home and provide care for Kierra until days before her death.
Court was told RCMP investigators believed Jasmine Bushie misled them during an interview, blaming Kierra for her injuries and malnourishment, even though the evidence was consistent with her being abused over a long period of time.
"Based on the information about (Jasmine Bushie’s) relationship with Kierra and role in her care… (police) subjectively concluded that Kierra was under (Jasmine Bushie’s) charge and that due to her age, was unable to withdraw herself from that charge," Harris said.
"(Jasmine Bushie), being aware of Kierra’s physical condition, failed in her duty to provide her with the necessaries of life, which, in this case may have been as simple as taking her to a doctor," Harris said. "Having formed the subjective belief that (Jasmine Bushie) committed the offence of failing to provide the necessaries of life to Kierra, this would be sufficient to charge her with manslaughter."
Vanessa Bushie, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced in August 2017 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years. Williams, was sentenced to eight years in prison after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter.
Kierra was apprehended by CFS at birth because the couple’s older children had been removed from the home following a domestic-violence allegation. The children were returned to their parents in July 2013. When CFS workers visited the home about seven months before Kierra’s death, they found nothing of concern.