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Mother of slain child avoids jail

The Toronto Star, Precious Yutangco, Staff Reporter, January 09, 2009

The mother of a 7-year-old girl who was allegedly beaten to death by two guardians last year walked out of court a free woman yesterday.

After considering the fact that the drug charge Bernice Sampson was facing was what had prompted her to give custody of her daughter, Katelynn Sampson, to the girl's alleged killers, the judge handed down a four-month conditional discharge rather than jail time.

Following the girl's death, it was revealed Donna Irving, then Bernice's friend, had applied for "full and final custody" of Katelynn last January. Irving had convictions for prostitution, drugs and violence.

More details about why Sampsongave up custody emerged following yesterday's ruling. Sampson was charged with trafficking after she tried to facilitate a sale of $40 worth of drugs between a dealer and an undercover officer, defence lawyer Corbin Cawkell said. A conviction on that charge could have sent Katelynn into the care of the Children's Aid Society.

That is when Sampson decided to give Irving guardianship of the girl, hoping she could regain custody after getting her life back on track.

But on Aug. 3., emergency officials found Katelynn dead in a Parkdale apartment, obvious signs of trauma on her body. Homicide Det. Sgt. Steve Ryan said it was "probably the worst thing I've seen in 20 years of policing - the worst."

Irving and her partner Warren Johnson are facing first-degree murder charges in the girl's death.

Sampson must do four months of community work under the terms of her conditional sentence.