WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.
As he sentenced Teenie Rose Steer, a Saskatoon judge said the tragic death of an infant was compounded by the fact that the woman who gave her life was also the one to take it away.
The 30-year-old mother from Kindersley, Sask., received a six-year sentence for manslaughter Friday for the death of her 28-day-old daughter. With credit for time spent on remand, she has about three years and four months left to serve.
“This very young child had a right to live a life unmarked by violence. She lost that right and that loss must never be forgotten,” Justice Gerald Allbright read from his written decision.
Steer was initially charged with second-degree murder for the killing of her daughter on Sept. 27, 2018. Steer pleaded guilty to the lesser included offence of manslaughter on May 26, 2021.
In her initial statements to police, Steer claimed no one in her family had a reason to harm the infant, who was a twin and born prematurely. She did say one of her other children was rough with the twins and the family dog may have jumped on her.
Seventeen months went by before Steer confessed to the killing by telling RCMP that after four days of little sleep, she lost control and threw her newborn daughter against a wall when she wouldn’t settle.
An autopsy revealed a nine-centimetre skull fracture and brain hemorrhage resulting from blunt-force trauma.
Crown prosecutor Janyne Laing described the attempt to mislead as “significantly aggravating.” Allbright determined it was aggravating, but not significantly.
“Clearly it is fair to conclude that there was an element of shock that surrounded her at the outset,” Allbright said. “Ultimately, she did acknowledge her culpability in what she had done.”
The Crown sought a sentence of eight years in prison, while defence lawyer Barb Degenstein recommended a term between four and four-and-a-half years.
Prior to the killing, Steer had no criminal record.
In a pre-sentence report, the woman’s case manager at Saskatchewan Hospital described her as a “model patient who follows the rules and respects everyone in the facility.”
Court heard Steer has lived with mental health issues including negative self-image and childhood depression, in addition to suicidal ideation that followed her daughter’s death.
The pre-sentence report noted Steer may have experienced symptoms of postpartum depression, but there was no formal diagnosis of the condition.
— with files from Kyle Benning.