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This article was published 20/12/2016 (1762 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A judge has determined there is sufficient evidence for the parents of a Peguis First Nation toddler who died of trauma-related injuries to go to trial.
Vanessa Bushie is charged with second-degree murder, and her former partner, Daniel Williams, is charged with manslaughter in the July 2014 death of their 21-month-old daughter Kierra Elektra Star Williams. Both parents are charged with failing to provide necessities of life to Kierra, who was also malnourished.
After hearing seven days of testimony from medical professionals, police, social workers and relatives of the parents at a preliminary hearing, provincial court Judge Kael McKenzie ruled Tuesday there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to a jury trial. No date has been set.
Kierra had spent time in foster care, but was returned to her parents before her death.
Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing can’t be published under a publication ban meant to protect her parents’ right to a fair trial.
The case has often been compared to that of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl from Fisher River Cree Nation who was murdered by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend in 2005 after being returned to their care by social workers. Her death prompted a public inquiry and led to several recommendations to reform the child-welfare system, some of which have yet to be implemented.
Kierra died on July 17, 2014, but few details about her death have been publicly released.
Her mother was arrested and charged with second-degree murder on Jan. 20, 2015, after the girl’s death was ruled a homicide.
Details released in court Tuesday indicate Bushie grew up in a loving home with both of her parents. She wasn’t exposed to alcoholism and had a "very good upbringing," her lawyer Mike Cook said.
Her father, Alfred Bushie, was killed in a homicide on Bloodvein First Nation in 1994, and no one was ever convicted in his death. His death greatly affected Bushie, Cook said.
Bushie, 38, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a criminal charge of breaching a recognizance and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for breaking the rules at the Elizabeth Fry Society, where she was required to live after her release on bail in April 2016.
She was sent back to pre-trial custody in October after society staff considered her behaviour "manipulative and dishonest," Crown attorney Kyle Parker told court.
On one occasion, in violation of the organization’s rules and despite warnings from staff, Bushie refused to lock the facility’s door. Another time, she "cried wolf" over a lack of food and got her bail worker to take her to the store, where she bought Pepsi and cigarettes. When staff was gathering her belongings in preparation for her to be sent back to jail, they found marijuana, court heard.
Bushie was prohibited from using alcohol and drugs after she was convicted in 2005 on two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. She’d been subsequently convicted of breaking that court order, and was also convicted of assault in 2008. A second breach charge relating to the seized marijuana was stayed by the Crown Tuesday.
Cook said Bushie was taking responsibility for breaking the rules, but said she felt "a bit let down" by the society, which runs a bail program for women, because she said she wasn’t always given her heart medication.
Williams has no criminal record.
They are both presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
Charges against Kierra’s sister, Jasmine Bushie, 23, were dropped earlier this month.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.