A mother who drowned her newborn son in a sink before leaving her home to write a university exam has avoided time behind bars, though a judge described her actions as “abhorrent.”
Courtney Saul, 19, was sentenced to two years’ probation in provincial court in Kamloops, B.C.
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Saul was a student at Thompson Rivers University when her baby, George Carlos, was born on Dec. 15, 2011.
Court heard Saul gave birth alone in the bathroom of a basement suite where she was living.
“She held the baby for some time, but she had an exam that day,” Crown lawyer Will Burrows said. “Because she had the exam, she didn’t know what to do. She finally decided she should drown the baby. She did that in the sink and then she went to her exam.”
Afterwards, Saul wrapped the baby’s body in a T-shirt and a shower curtain and placed it in an empty computer box. She put the box inside a backpack, which she placed in the trunk of her car.
Saul would later tell investigators she hoped to bury the baby in her hometown of Lillooet.
The body was discovered three weeks later, when she loaned her car to an acquaintance, who was involved in a collision.
Firefighters opened the trunk to cut power as a safety precaution. A police officer noticed a backpack in the trunk and opened it, revealing a computer box with an odd bulge. He opened the box and found the baby’s body.
Saul was later arrested. While in custody, police recorded a conversation she had with her mother.
“During her meeting with her mom, Ms. Saul admits she’d had the baby,” Burrows said. “She said she didn’t know she was pregnant until very late in the pregnancy.”
Saul confessed to police and was charged with infanticide. Court heard the charge was stayed a short time later and, in 2015, Saul was charged with second-degree murder.
In August, following a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year, Saul’s charges were downgraded back to infanticide.
She told police the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault. She said she’d passed out at a party and woke up without her clothes on.
“She believed someone had sexual intercourse with her while she was unconscious,” Burrows said.
Saul and her mother cried in court as the offence was detailed.
Defence lawyer Murray Armstrong noted the circumstances.
“This is certainly a tragedy in all senses of the word,” he said, adding Saul remains troubled by the events but is moving forward.
“Nothing is going to change what happened, but certainly now Ms. Saul is not a risk to anybody,” he said. “In terms of punishment, there’s no punishment greater than the guilt and remorse she feels.”
When asked by Judge Len Marchand whether she had anything to say, Saul, who has since moved back to Lillooet, managed six words before crying.
“I know I made a mistake,” she said.
Marchand noted Saul’s remorse, but also the seriousness of her offence.
“It is an abhorrent act and it was inflicted on a vulnerable and completely helpless person,” he said.
But Marchand said mitigating factors — including Saul’s lack of a criminal history and the circumstances of how she became pregnant — were powerful.
In addition to her two-year probation term, Saul was ordered to surrender a sample of her DNA to a national criminal database.