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The Canadian Press

Guelph woman convicted of infanticide

THE CANADIAN PRESS, Tamara King, September 11, 2008

GUELPH, Ont.-A 27-year-old woman from Guelph, Ont., facing first-degree murder charges in the suffocation deaths of two of her infant sons, was instead convicted today of the rare crime of infanticide.

The woman - who cannot be identified because she was 17 at the time of her first son's death - had admitted to police that she smothered the two babies, using blankets and plastic baby carriage covers.

The boys were born four years apart to different fathers.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Casimir Herold found that the woman's mind was disturbed by the effects of childbirth, fitting the legal definition of the lesser charge of infanticide.

"I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities, at least, at the time she killed... (her) mind was disturbed as the result of her not yet having fully recovered from the biological effects of giving birth," Herold said in his lengthy written verdict.

The decision prompted an obscenity-laden outburst from the father of the woman's first child, who was killed Sept. 30, 1998, when he was seven weeks old.

"No matter what... you're an (expletive) murderer," the man shouted before supporters escorted him from the packed courtroom.

The father of the other victim, who was killed at nine-weeks-old in 2002, reacted with tears.

"This was the outcome I was praying for. This will help her get help," the 40-year-old man said outside the courtroom.

"There is no justice. It's not going to bring back anybody."

The man is separated from the mother and takes care of their surviving children, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.

In his decision, the judge cited the woman's "difficult childhood" of abuse, rejection and suicide attempts.

The woman suffered from a severe personality disorder that may have predisposed her to post-partum mental disturbance, he said.

Herold also talked of the woman's other attempts to harm the two babies.

She put Pine Sol in their bottles, "so as to give her respite from child care," said Herold.

"She told each of the infants they would be going to a better place," he said.

At trial, both the defence and the Crown relied on testimony of psychiatrists, who respectively argued she was jealous of her babies and was suffering from an emotional disorder and falsely reported extreme psychotic symptoms.

Court also heard the woman admitted to the deaths in a letter she wrote to her husband while she was staying at a Toronto addiction and mental health centre.

The woman had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Her lawyer, Craig Parry, had argued that she should be convicted of infanticide because she was "disturbed" by the effects of childbirth.

Infanticide convictions are rare. It was introduced to the Canadian Criminal Code in 1948, and amended in 1954.

Since then, only 12 other Canadian women have been convicted of the charge, according to Emma Cunliffe, an assistant law professor at the University of British Columbia who studies infanticide.

An infanticide conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, while first-degree murder carries a life sentence.

The woman is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26.