A Winnipeg woman has been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a toddler in her care.
Police say the accused — the child’s stepmother — is the one who originally called paramedics to the family’s home in the 100 block of Snowdon Avenue on March 24.
The two-and-a-half-year-old boy, identified as Brett White, was rushed to hospital in critical condition and died two days later.
His death is Winnipeg’s 10th homicide of the year.
Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver wouldn’t elaborate on how the boy died but said there was no weapon used.
He said the child suffered multiple injuries, but a head injury is his official cause of death.
“It was something akin to blunt-force trauma, but I can’t get any more detail than that,” Carver told reporters at a Monday morning press conference.
Carver said investigators from the child abuse unit were called in after explanations provided by the boy’s caregiver didn’t line up with his injuries.
He said investigators were given two explanations: first, that the child had fallen, and then that the boy’s four-year-old sibling had hit him.
“The examination concluded that neither of those explanations would have accounted for the seriousness of the injury or the mechanism of injury,” Carver said.
Following an investigation and after reviewing the results of an autopsy, police charged Victoria Reane Thiessen, 20, with manslaughter on Friday. She remains in custody.
Carver said the boy lived at the home with a number of other young children described as part of a “nuclear family.” The victim’s biological father also lives at the home, said Carver, but wasn’t home at the time of the incident.
Carver couldn’t say whether the other children have been removed from the home but said “appropriate steps” were made to ensure their safety.
He said the accused wasn’t previously known to police and there was no evidence of prolonged abuse in the home.
Carver said investigators don’t believe drugs or alcohol played a role in the boy’s death, and he wasn’t able to provide a motive in the killing.
“Most people are devastated after the fact; it doesn’t present at all like what we normally see as a homicide as an adult,” he said.
“So motive isn’t really something we can answer here.”
‘Tragic on so many levels’
The toddler’s death is the third high-profile homicide of a young child Winnipeg police have investigated in recent months.
In November 2019, the city was shocked when three-year-old Hunter Haze Straight Smith died after he was stabbed while he slept in his Pritchard Avenue home.
Daniel Jensen, 33, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder and was also charged with an earlier assault on the young child’s mother in that case.
Then, in January, a 29-year-old Winnipeg man was charged in connection with the death of a three-month-old boy.
The baby was found unconscious at a Lord Roberts home Jan 11. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition with what police said were internal injuries and died a few days later.
Mathieu Moreau was charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault in connection with his death.
Carver said another case involving the death of a young child is taking its toll on investigators.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to is shocked about this,” he said.
“It’s tragic on so many levels — it’s hard on investigators for sure — but it touches all sorts of people: it touches the family, it touches the community.
“These types of investigations … it’s really tough on our people.”