The family of a toddler who was horrifyingly assaulted earlier this week says the little boy is brain dead and is expected to be taken off life-support Saturday.
In a case that has shocked and sickened Winnipeggers, Hunter Haze Straight Smith, 3, was stabbed in the neck early Wednesday morning while he slept in his Pritchard Avenue home Wednesday.
His aunt Bianca Smith told Global News late Friday that the gravely injured child will likely be taken off life-support Saturday morning, after an MRI showed he has severe brain damage.
The boy’s family is waiting for other family members to arrive so they have a chance to say goodbye, she had said earlier in the day.
Daniel Jensen, 33, was arrested Wednesday and is facing charges of aggravated assault and attempted murder. He’s also charged with an earlier assault on the young child’s mother.
Investigators allege Jensen was with the child’s mother, Clarise Smith, at a Main Street bar early Wednesday when the two got into a fight and she was assaulted.
Police say a man then went to a home in the 300 block of Pritchard Avenue, where the toddler was stabbed multiple times.
Bianca Smith, one of Hunter’s aunts, said Thursday the family cannot understand why the child would have been targeted. Smith said she had met Jensen a few times but did not know him well.
Hunter was smart, mischievous and happy, she said. His mother is devastated, she added, and has stayed by the little boy’s side since he was brought to hospital.
“I have no words to describe it. Nothing like this has ever happened in the family,” the aunt said. “It’s hard, really hard, on everybody.”
Smith and the suspect were previously in a relationship, but the accused is not the boy’s biological father.
Jensen was under a court order not to contact the mother and court records show he was charged with assault with a weapon and uttering threats in July.
A vigil was for the youngster was held Friday afternoon outside the Children’s Hospital in the loop off Sherbrook Avenue.
The boy’s mother and other relatives hugged each other and wept during Indigenous prayers and drum songs.
“They’re very distraught,” family friend Darryl Contois said.
“I too have kids, and to see a baby laying there that did no harm to no one really broke my heart.”
Police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray said Friday if Hunter dies, charges against Jensen may be changed.
“Certainly if an individual passes away as the result of an assault, we will look at upgrading charges,” he said, noting police couldn’t talk about Hunter specifically being taken off life support due to privacy laws.
“This incident has been incredibly tough for all levels of emergency personnel,” said Murray.
“It’s one that will remain with officers for a very long time.”
–With files from The Canadian Press