The Winnipeg Police Service released information yesterday regarding “suspicious circumstances” in connection with the discovery of the remains of a number of infants found at a storage facility unit.
In the spring of 2003 a Winnipeg man made an equally disturbing discovery after emptying the contents of a freezer he retained after breaking up with his common-law wife.
The man emptied the freezer after a power outage spoiled the majority of the contents, save for what he believed to be a roast located on the very bottom of the unit. Hours later he unwrapped the package only to be shocked when he discovered a tiny hand protruding from the wrapping.
Police were immediately notified and the case was subsequently assigned to the Homicide Unit where I was working as a Detective.
I would take a lead role in the investigation with my partner Detective Thane Chartrand.
A post-mortem examination determined the child had been born alive. That meant the mother, or someone present, had to have intentionally killed the child or willfully neglected to provide the child with the necessities of life.
(It was believed the body of the child had been in the freezer between 1 – 3 years.)
After conducting several interviews the case ultimately boiled down to an interrogation with the woman suspected of having birthed the child.
The interrogation proved to be a gut wrenching affair.
The woman was grief-stricken and completely overwhelmed with guilt. She ultimately provided a troubling confession admitting she gave birth to the child, wrapped it in a blanket and, at some point, put in the freezer.
As fate would have it, Senior Crown Attorneys with the Department of Justice happened to be in the Public Safety Building attending a weekly meeting with Police Executives.
As a result, we interrupted the meeting and provided those present with a detailed account of the investigation. It was the opinion of the Senior Crowns the public interest would not be served by laying charges against the woman. The Crowns were clearly influenced by the degree of remorse and guilt expressed by the woman during her interrogation and took a decidedly sympathetic approach.
The decision was theirs to make and I shall reserve judgement.
The woman was released with no charges.
A few weeks later I received a card from the woman’s brother expressing his gratitude for the compassionate approach that was taken regarding the matter.
The story didn’t end there.
The decision of the Senior Crown Attorneys didn’t sit well with members of the Child Abuse Unit who continued the investigation.
The woman was subsequently charged with failing to provide the necessities of life, neglecting to obtain assistance during childbirth and concealing the dead body of a child.
She committed suicide a few days before she was supposed to make her first appearance in court.
I still find the case disturbing on many levels.
POLICE INSIDER FEEDBACK:
Do you agree with the Crown’s position to release the woman with no charges after her initial confession?
Do you think police did the right thing in pursuing criminal charges after she was released?
Failing to Provide Necessities of Life
215. (1) Every one is under a legal duty
(a) as a parent, foster parent, guardian or head of a family, to provide necessaries of life for a child under the age of sixteen years;
(b) to provide necessaries of life to their spouse or common-law partner; and
(c) to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person
(i) is unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and
(ii) is unable to provide himself with necessaries of life.
(2) Every one commits an offence who, being under a legal duty within the meaning of subsection (1), fails without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him, to perform that duty, if
(a) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(a) or (b),
(i) the person to whom the duty is owed is in destitute or necessitous circumstances, or
(ii) the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed, or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be endangered permanently; or
(b) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(c), the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (2)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
Neglect to obtain assistance in child-birth
242. A female person who, being pregnant and about to be delivered, with intent that the child shall not live or with intent to conceal the birth of the child, fails to make provision for reasonable assistance in respect of her delivery is, if the child is permanently injured as a result thereof or dies immediately before, during or in a short time after birth, as a result thereof, guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
Concealing body of child
243. Every one who in any manner disposes of the dead body of a child, with intent to conceal the fact that its mother has been delivered of it, whether the child died before, during or after birth, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
SOURCE: Government of Canada Justice Laws Website