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New Brunswick woman ruled responsible in burning of baby's body

The Canadian Press, various newspapers and media throughout Canada, February 8, 2008

ST. STEPHEN, N.B. - A New Brunswick judge says a woman who burned and dismembered her newborn son is criminally responsible for her actions.

Becky Sue Morrow earlier pleaded guilty to offering an indignity to a dead body and disposing of a newborn with the intent of concealing a delivery.

Judge David Walker ruled Friday that the 27-year-old woman may have been suffering from a mental disorder when she delivered the baby but that that was not the case when the baby's body was burned and its remains hidden.

It is not known if the baby was alive at the time of birth.

At a hearing last month, the court heard contrasting reports from the two psychiatrists. One said Ms. Morrow was in a “disassociated” mental state when the crime occurred. The other said she clearly planned her actions and understood the consequences.

Court was told Ms. Morrow tried to conceal her pregnancy from her family before giving birth in a toilet at her home on the morning of March 12, 2007.

Dr. Patricia Pearce, who was called to testify by the defence, suggested that the birth would have created a disassociated mental state in Ms. Morrow's mind, a condition that would have made her actions seem as if she were watching them on television.

Defence lawyer Brian Ferguson argued that his client was mentally ill when the crimes occurred.

Crown prosecutor Randy DiPaolo, however, said the testimony of a second psychiatrist and the results of police interrogations show that Ms. Morrow clearly planned to dispose of the baby in a fire pit.

Dr. Mubeen Jahangir, who examined Ms. Morrow during a court-ordered 60-day review, said the young woman did not suffer from amnesia, which he said is a symptom of disassociation.

“She had clear insight,” he said. “She knew exactly what she was doing.”

While Mr. DiPaolo conceded that Ms. Morrow may have suffered from some form of mental illness at the time of the birth, he said the condition could not have persisted through the grisly events that followed later in the day.

Ms. Morrow is expected to be sentenced later Friday.