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Prince Edward Island woman facing third charge of infanticide: police

Shannon Dawn Rayner of Charlottetown pleaded guilty last month to two counts of infanticide related to incidents in February 2014 and November 2016. File Photo

A Prince Edward Island woman who admitted to causing the deaths of two infants is now facing a third charge of infanticide.

Shannon Dawn Rayner of Charlottetown pleaded guilty last month to two counts of infanticide related to incidents in February 2014 and November 2016.

On Monday, the Charlottetown Police Service confirmed she was facing a third charge following the discovery Friday of an infant’s skeletal remains in a shed near a home in the city’s Sherwood subdivision.

READ MORE: Woman pleads guilty to causing the deaths of two infants in P.E.I.

Court documents say the first two babies both died “a short time” after they were born, and their bodies were dumped in a garbage bin.

A psychiatric assessment determined the 40-year-old woman was fit to stand trial and did not suffer from a mental disorder that could have caused her to be found not criminally responsible for the crimes.

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Rayner remains in custody and is expected to appear in court at a later date.

In the earlier case, the Crown directed a stay of proceedings on two counts of failing to seek assistance in child birth and two counts of disposing of a child’s body with intent to conceal the fact it had been delivered.

The provincial court judge hearing the case set June 5 for a sentencing hearing.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2016 on the infanticide provision of the Criminal Code, which turns on the definition of what constitutes a disturbed mind for a new mother.

READ MORE: Assessment complete of Charlottetown woman charged in deaths of two infants

Justice Thomas Cromwell, writing for the top court, said the legal test for a disturbed mind is lower than the legal test for insanity.

“The word ‘disturbed’ is not a legal or medical term of art, but should be applied in its grammatical and ordinary sense,” Cromwell ruled.

“The disturbance must be ‘by reason of’ the fact that the accused was not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth or from the effect of lactation consequent on the birth of a child.”

Cromwell’s 19-page ruling traced the origins of the infanticide law to 1920s Britain, when “it was thought to be a crime mostly committed by ‘illegitimate mothers’ trying to hide their shame, a motive which the general opinion thought lessened the heinousness of the crime.”

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