The stepmother of a seven-year-old Quebec girl who died under troubling circumstances last April was charged Friday with second-degree murder.
The charge against the woman, 36, came after a lengthy examination of the case by prosecutors.
At the same time, an additional charge of criminal negligence causing death was laid against her co-accused, the girl’s father.
The couple were arrested after police found the girl in critical condition in her family home in Granby, about 80 kilometres east of Montreal on April 29.
In the hours following their initial court appearance on April 30, the girl died in hospital.
Neither accused can be named to protect the identity of the young girl.
The two new charges — both of which carry maximum sentences of life in prison — came after the Crown received new forensic evidence.
“Since the last court date, we received reports, notably the autopsy, which allowed us to take our final decisions as to the responsibility of the two individuals,” prosecutor Laurence Belanger said outside the courtroom.
The woman had previously been charged with unlawful confinement and aggravated assault.
WATCH BELOW: Granby girl’s death prompts questions about Quebec’s youth protection system
She was impassive as she appeared briefly before Quebec court Judge Serge Champoux on Friday, her face shielded behind a thick head of hair.
The father, 30, was denied bail on June 10 by Champoux. He was already facing three charges: unlawful confinement, failing to provide the necessities of life and child abandonment.
The entrance of the courthouse was adorned with stuffed animals in memory of the young victim, whose death has sparked several probes about the state of youth protection services in the province.
The girl had been followed by youth protection services from birth, and her slaying sparked outrage across the province and raised questions about the effectiveness of the system to assist at-risk children.
The Quebec government has launched a wide-ranging independent commission to look into youth protection in the province.
Several other investigations have been ordered into the handling of the girl’s case, including a coroner’s inquest, an internal probe by the regional health authority that oversees youth protection in the Eastern Townships region, and an investigation by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Commission.
That’s in addition to the provincial police probe that led to the charges.
Belanger noted that given the severity of a second-degree murder charge, the lesser charges could eventually be abandoned.
With the murder charge, the stepmother’s detention is automatic and it would be up to her to demonstrate to Quebec Superior Court that it isn’t necessary to keep her in detention, Belanger said.
Champoux reminded those in the packed courtroom on Friday of the publication ban on the child’s identity applies to everyone in the community and not just the media.