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Slain toddler at centre of parental custody war

Mother tried to deny father access to boy, court documents show

The Toronto Star, Emily Mathieu, STAFF REPORTER, April 01, 2009

In the months leading up to the death of Jayden Marc-Anthony Bernard, the toddler's parents were involved in a bitter custody dispute, according to court documents.

The documents show the father of the 18-month-old boy, who was found dead inside a parked car last week, had filed for joint custody after the child's mother attempted to deny him access to his son.

Shortly after the boy's body was discovered, police charged his mother with first-degree murder.

On Monday, Jayden's father, Richard Williams, told Global News, "This was an assault on my family. ... I made an error in judgment, but my son should not have suffered. I am unable to sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes, I see my son."

When reached yesterday, Williams was polite, but tight-lipped. "I have made my statement," he said. "I don't want to say anything else."

According to an application for joint custody submitted in Brampton court in December 2008 by Williams, he was married to another woman when the boy was conceived. His wife and children did not know about Jayden until July 2008, about 10 months after he was born.

However, the documents show that Williams, who lives with his wife and two children in Brampton, was an active part of the boy's life. He helped enrol Jayden in daycare, visited with him several times a week and took him to medical appointments.

After Williams told his family about his son, they  "accepted the child lovingly as part of their family." That is when the child's mother, Nadine Bernard, according to the documents, began increasing her efforts to deny Williams access to his son. She insisted Williams come see the boy at her home and attempted to limit his wife and children's access to Jayden.

Last week, the toddler became Peel's sixth homicide of 2009.

On March 27, police were called to an underground parking garage at Robert Speck Parkway in Mississauga shortly before 8 a.m. When they arrived they found the body of the 18-month-old inside the car. Police have said the ultimate goal of the crime was murder, then suicide. After her arrest, Bernard was taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries. An autopsy has been conducted, but the cause of death is not being released.

Bernard, 34, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The Bolton woman appeared in a Brampton court on Monday.

A woman who knew the family told a reporter with the Caledon Enterprise she was shocked to learn how a woman she described as an "attentive mom" could be charged with her infant son's murder.

"I was shaking when I was reading the paper. I couldn't even imagine her harming a hair on any of their heads," said the resident who asked her name not be used.

The woman, who had spent time vacationing with the family, said Bernard had two children, aged 11 and 14.

"A lot of people want to judge, but leave the judgment up to God. Just pray for her and pray for her family."