Sentencing in disturbing Edmonton child abuse case
Watch above: The father of starved and abused twin girls says he’s sorry and asked the court for forgiveness. Kendra Slugoski was there.
EDMONTON – A man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the disturbing death of his daughter will soon learn his punishment.
The father – who can only be identified as D.L. under a publication ban protecting the identity of his children – was accused of starving and physically abusing his two-year-old twin daughters.
The toddlers were found suffering from injuries and severe malnourishment in their parents’ Edmonton home in 2012.
One of the girls, named ‘Baby M’, passed away after her father and mother fought for several months in court to keep her on life support.
The 36-year-old father also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and two counts of failing to provide the necessities of life.
Sentencing begins Thursday, and a decision is scheduled for June 11.
In court on Thursday morning, the Crown asked for a sentence of between 18 and 20 years.
Video of the other twin, ‘Baby S’ was shown to court. The footage showed her barely moving when she was admitted to hospital. Thirteen days later, the video showed her pulling herself up in her crib.
“It took his daughter going into cardiac arrest to stop this horrendous situation,” said one of the three Crown prosecutors speaking in court Thursday.
“Starvation of the twins was a choice.”
“He chose to do nothing and hide the grave state of his daughters.”
“She will eventually deal with the knowledge that her parents chose to care and feed her brother, but let her and her twin by physically assaulted and starved,” said Crown Prosecutor Shelley Bykewich.
The photos below were entered into evidence. They show a fridge full of food, and the difference between the twins’ room and the room their brother and parents slept. The twins’ bed did not have bedding, and the few clothes which hang in their closet are said to have smelled of urine.
“No such explanation is available. Nothing less than systematic violence, deprivation, and malnourishment can be used to describe what ‘M’ and ‘S’ endured every minute of every hour of every day over such a long time.”
The father’s lawyer, Peter Royal, read his letter to court. In it, the father apologized and asked for forgiveness. He wrote that he struggled to adapt to life in Canada after moving to Canada from Algeria in 2008. The father claimed life had become even harder to manage after his son’s birth.
“I will not forget what I did ever…I will live with a heart broken for the rest of my life.”
He also admitted he was not a good father, but he did not physically abuse the girls, according to his lawyer.
Once sentenced it is likely the father will be deported, but not necessarily to Algeria.
A trial date for the mother – who still faces several charges, including second-degree murder – was originally set for early May, but was postponed. She has changed lawyers several times and it’s not clear when the case may be heard.
The surviving twin, as well as a healthy older brother, have been placed in foster care.
Court documents from the civil case over M’s medical treatment show that her parents immigrated from Algeria in 2008. The man worked night shifts as a machinist and his wife stayed at home with their three children.
Emergency crews were called to a report of a possible child death at their home on May 25, 2012. Paramedics tried to resuscitate M on the kitchen floor. Police said the girls’ bedroom smelled of urine and consisted of a mattress on the floor with a sheet and two pillows.
The court documents say M was in a more emaciated state than her sister. When she got to hospital, M needed an immediate blood transfusion. She had a bed sore on her back and bruises on her head. X-rays showed she had thinning bones.
Her sister also had bruises of various colours on her head and face and no hair. Her skinny fingers and toes were almost white. Her ribs were sticking out, her belly was small and she weighed 16 pounds. She couldn’t move her legs and hands, was unable to stand and needed help to hold a bottle of milk.
On Thursday, the Crown called the case “overwhelming.”
“M and S were just infants when they should have been toddlers,” one of the prosecutors told court, adding that the twins were two years and three months, but weighed the equivalent of a six-month-old.
The documents say the mother told police that three days earlier the twins had been playing on the stairs, fell and hit their foreheads. She later noticed that something wasn’t right with M because the girl didn’t want to eat. The woman said she called her husband at work, and he called 911 before driving home.
The parents were initially charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence and failing to provide the necessities of life. Second-degree murder charges were added to the list after M died.
In September 2012, while in custody, the parents argued in court that M should be kept on life support. They cited their Islamic beliefs and love for the girl.
A lawyer appointed to represent the child asked the court to side with her doctors, who agreed she was virtually brain dead and would never wake up. She had suffered repeated bouts of pneumonia and would need many invasive, risky medical procedures just to remain on a breathing machine.
A Court of Queen’s Bench judge cast doubt on the couple’s motives for wanting to keep their daughter alive and ruled she be taken off machines. The Alberta Court of Appeal sided with the lower court, ruling it was in the child’s best interests to let her die.
Lawyers for the parents applied to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay, but a panel of justices rejected the bid. The girl died later that day.
READ MORE: High court won’t hear Baby M appeal
The parents were allowed to attend the girl’s funeral under escort and in handcuffs.
Files from Chris Purdy, The Canadian Press
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