An Alberta Children and Youth Services social worker said she and her colleagues “could never have prepared for such a horrendous case” of child abuse as that of child “M” and her twin sister, a sentencing hearing was told Monday morning.
Sheli Steil described the case as the “worst case of neglect and mistreatment any of us had witnessed in our careers.”
The two-year-old girl died after being removed from life support following a lengthy court battle between the parents and doctors.
The twins had been beaten and starved.
The mother, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of her surviving children, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
The sentencing hearing opened with victim impact statements from case workers who dealt with the child, who can only be identified as “M” under Alberta child welfare legislation, once she was removed from the home.
Crown prosecutor Shelley Bykewich asked for a sentence of 23 to 25 years, saying the only mitigating factor is the guilty plea, which came late and only after the the woman’s husband pleaded guilty and accused her of inflicting all of the children’s physical injuries.
The woman admitted earlier she regularly physically abused her twin girls and that she starved them over a long period.
Her husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison last spring after pleading guilty to manslaughter. The Crown concluding he “chose to do nothing” to protect his daughters from the abuse.
The woman and her husband also had a son who, unlike his sisters, was well-fed, well-clothed and healthy.
The woman’s sentencing hearing was postponed last October, when the woman’s lawyer announced he had to withdraw from the case after new information created an “ethical conflict.”
The hearing is expected to last through the week, as all testimony must translated into Arabic.