Jen Henderson is a journalist breaking news in the capital region. She is a staff reporter at the St. Albert Gazette and  covers provincial and federal politics, crime and court. 

Father of drowned toddler pleads guilty to lesser charge

Father of drowned toddler pleads guilty to lesser charge

The father of a toddler who drowned in Morinville has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

On July 25, 2015 a two-and-a-half-year-old girl drowned in a storm drainage pond in Morinville.

Following the incident, the man and his wife, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, were charged under the Criminal Code with failing to provide the necessities of life to their toddler daughter.

On April 5, the man and his wife had a preliminary hearing scheduled but instead the father pleaded guilty under a provincial statute of causing a child to be in need of intervention. Charges against the child’s mother were dropped.

Judge L. Nemirsky accepted the guilty plea of the lesser charge and said that the couple had “absolutely suffered greatly” from the loss of their child.

The man will serve an 18-month probation period on a suspended sentence.

Lawyer for the couple, Dino Bottos, pushed for a different resolution than a Criminal Code charge.

“No parent is perfect and this is the worst case scenario when a child goes astray,” Bottos said.

According to the agreed statement of facts, RCMP were called before noon on July 25, 2015 after the toddler’s mother realized she had been missing for about 45 minutes.

The two-year-old had been at a playground next to the pond and was left in the care of her siblings, all under age 10. Her mother was at home caring for a one-year-old child.

While at the park, another mother noticed the toddler was missing and sent one of the children to check to see if she had returned home. The child returned home to inform his mother that the toddler was missing.

The missing toddler’s mother called the RCMP and they began searching the area. Shortly after, the toddler was located unconscious in the water. Once she was removed from the water, RCMP, off-duty Edmonton firefighters, local citizens and EMS made attempts to resuscitate her. The attempts were unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead. Her cause of death was determined to be drowning.

The Morinville man and his wife had been charged for the 14-month period before the drowning death of their daughter, from June 1, 2014 to July 25, 2015.

Leading up to the incident, there had been complaints to Child and Family Services and the family that the children were left unsupervised.

On June 6, 2012, a complaint was made to Child and Family Services to report that four children, all under age eight, were unsupervised and not dressed properly.

A second complaint was made on May 31, 2014 when it was reported to the Morinville RCMP that four children were running between their residence and the nearby park without supervision.

On June 2, 2014, a third complaint was made, this time to Child and Family Services that the children were at the nearby park unsupervised.

Two days later, a Child and Family Services caseworker went to the family’s house and spoke with the parents about the proper supervision of the children. The caseworker cautioned the parents about having their young children play at the park unsupervised.


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