Sudbury’s baby drowning tragedy

Sudbury Star

‘If I could, I would go to a time machine and fix what I have done, but I can’t,’ Sudbury mother says

A Sudbury woman will learn Oct. 30 whether she will receive house arrest or go to jail for being on Facebook for 11 minutes while her infant son drowned in a bathtub two years ago.

“I have been trying to move forward since the accident and I have been trying to better myself, but honestly it’s like every day is waking up to a horrible nightmare,” the woman, 31, said in a slow, low voice to Ontario Court Justice John Keast at her sentencing hearing Thursday.

“It almost feels like I am dreaming a real, bad dream that I will never wake up from. If I could, I would go to a time machine and fix what I have done, but I can’t fix it. In a heartbeat, I would take his place so he would be continuing and I could be gone.”

Back on May 6, the woman — who cannot be named due to a far-reaching publication ban that protects her identity, the identity of her other child and the identity of the father currently involved in family court proceedings with the woman — pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life. She was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death.

The Crown is seeking a nine-month jail term, while the defence team of Stephanie Farrell and Berk Keaney has suggested four months of house arrest with strict conditions.

Late Thursday afternoon, Keast said he was reserving his decision. It will be given on Oct. 30.

The woman also told Keast the reason she keeps “pushing and pushing, trying to be a better person” through upgrading and other steps is to try and getting more focused with her life, as well as to be there for her other two children.

The woman said she absolutely dreads the idea of spending time in jail.

“Honestly, going to jail scares the hell out of me,” she said. “If I go in, (the other inmates) are going to be aware of my charge and I am really scared of what could possibly happen in there. I could get beaten up, but that is not the worst punishment. I have already got the worst punishment – losing my son. It’s the worst punishment I will receive, even if I go to jail.”

Through an agreed statement of facts, the court heard that in September 2017, the woman and the boy’s father, who had two children together but were separated, were both involved in the care of the children.

On the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2017, the woman’s toddler and sibling were in the bathtub together in the woman’s residence and she went to get a second towel from another room. The woman went into a bedroom and had a Facebook chat with a friend on her cellphone for about 11 minutes.

While she was in the bedroom, the woman heard crying and splashing coming from the bathtub and then it stopped. The woman returned to the bathroom and found her toddler lying face up and unresponsive in the bathtub.

In a panic, the woman called her estranged spouse and he told her to hang up and call 911. The woman called him because he lived nearby and she thought he could come over to try and save the toddler.

The woman then called a friend, screaming and panicking, and indicating “he was not breathing.”

The woman called 911 a minute later and said her child had fallen in the bathtub and was unresponsive.

As the woman was being given instructions on how to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, paramedics arrived. During compressions, water and vomit came from the child’s mouth.

The child was taken to hospital and pronounced dead a short time later.

Children’s Aid Society staff interviewed the woman and she indicated she had gone to get a second towel and was only away from the bathtub for a brief time.

A post-mortem conducted the next day determined drowning to be the cause of death.

In a Facebook live video the following month, the woman indicated she had left the bathroom for a minute, heard the toddler crying and splashing, and then silence. Greater Sudbury Police learned of the video and the Facebook chat with the friend the day of the drowning.

In June 2018, officers re-opened the investigation and the woman was interviewed at police headquarters. In her statement, the woman said she left the bathroom to get a second towel, did not feel she was gone for long, and she had heard splashing and crying.

When confronted with the fact that she had had a long Facebook chat at the time of the drowning, the woman broke down and told the officer “it’s a mistake I have to live with for the rest of my f…ing life.”

The woman then admitted to being in the bedroom and having the lengthy Facebook conversation. She said she did not know it had been that long.

A more than 40-minute Facebook live video the woman made Oct. 21, 2017, was played at the hearing. The intention of the video, the woman explained at the start, was to talk about the drowning incident and how her life had been since. She indicated she wanted nothing to do with people criticizing her for what happened.

“I don’t want you in my life if you’re going to say shit behind my back,” said the woman.

In the video, the woman said she left the bathroom for a “split second” to get another towel, heard her younger son crying, and when she returned, found him unconscious. She said she was in shock and that all she could think about was “what am I going to do?”

“No one should have to go through this,” said the woman. “I really regret putting him in the bathtub … I should have stayed right there … If I ever get pregnant again, I am going to be so over protective. The baby is going to sleep in a crib in my room. I would have a hard time leaving that child’s side.”

The woman also said she would trade her life for her son’s if that could bring him back.

“I wish it had been me, (I would) replace myself with (her son),” she said. “I wish he could still be here. It was an honest mistake. It doesn’t matter how much you hear you’re a good mother, it’s a brutal, honest mistake …You feel like an awful person. You feel like a f….n piece of shit.”

The father, in his victim impact statement read in by a friend, said he has been devastated by the loss of his infant son.

“I want to crawl under a rock and close my eyes,” he wrote. “It doesn’t feel real. It actually feels like I am floating in the world and watching it.”

The father, who has custody of the other son he had with the woman, said that in the months following the incident, the son would often wake up in the middle of the night, screaming his dead brother’s name.

The father added the mother can no longer visit their son during the afternoon hours as a nightmare would follow that night. He also said he will never be able to forgive her because she did not provide proper supervision.

The father also addressed his late son. He told him what happened was not his fault as he was left unattended in a bathtub.

“You brought so much joy and pride to us and all of a sudden, you were gone,” he said.

hcarmichael@postmedia.com

Twitter: @HaroldCarmichae

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