Tasha Mack entered a not guilty plea Monday morning in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench at the start of her judge-alone trial.
Mack is charged with the second-degree murder in April 2017 of 19-month-old Anthony Raine.
Her former boyfriend, Joey Crier, faces the same charge, but he will be tried separately at an undetermined date. Crier was the victim’s biological father.
Crown prosecutor Mark van Manen said he plans to prove Mack and Crier had a history of abusing the toddler during the two months they cared for him.
“This abuse became more severe as the days went on,” van Manen said.
According to an agreed statement of facts, GoPro video captured the couple pushing a stroller on April 18, 2017 around the Good Sheppard Anglican church in north Edmonton.
A woman who lived across the street spotted one of the adults open a garbage bin near the church and throw a white blanket taken from inside the stroller into the bin.
The blood-soaked polar fleece blanket with a polar bear hood was retrieved later by investigators.
The same witness watched as the couple pushed the stroller forward a few more feet. One of them reached inside and “with a bit of a struggle, pull out an object she thought was plastic,” reads the agreed statement of facts.
She didn’t realize a toddler was being pulled out of the stroller, wrapped in a blue snowsuit. One of the adults carried the bundle around the corner of the church where she could no longer see.
“They left Anthony in the sitting position with the blue blanket covering him entirely,” according to the agreed statement of facts.
The toddler’s body was discovered three days later.
Blunt force trauma cause of death
A woman out for a walk made the grisly finding on April 21, 2017, when she pulled back the blanket on what she thought was a pile of garbage. She ran into the church and brought someone outside to see.
“They both observed what they thought was blood coming from his right ear and checked the deceased’s wrist and neck but found no pulse,” the court document states.
There is a fire station across the street. One of the women ran over to get help.
The fire captain rushed over. According to the agreed statement of facts, he saw the toddler slumped forward in a sitting position, leaning against a brown wooden box. He was wearing a blue snowsuit and “new-looking runners.”
Anthony was not breathing.
A paramedic took a closer look.
“Anthony’s eyes were closed, and his head was swollen and dark purple in colour,” the court document states. “He had dried blood around his face and in both of his ears. He was cold to touch with circular patterns of bruising and indentation marks on his neck.”
In his opening statement, the prosecutor told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Graesser the coroner discovered Anthony had a fractured rib and his face and body was covered with bruises.
The cause of death was blunt force trauma. The Crown said Anthony died within 18 hours of “the fatal blow.”
Van Manen said they would be unable to prove whether it was Mack or Crier who delivered the fatal blow but said the Crown believes both are equally responsible for the little boy’s death.
‘I did ask if they were feeding him’
In March 2017, a friend of Mack’s allowed Crier, Mack and Anthony to move in with her.
“They needed a place to stay,” Alexa Noseworthy testified.
She hugged Anthony the first time she saw him, describing him as, “chunky like a baby should be. Happy.”
Noseworthy said there were warning signs almost from the start.
She recalled Crier flicking the toddler on the mouth, testifying that when Anthony began to cry, his father, “told him to shut up in an aggressive manner.”
She said one day she passed by their bedroom and spotted Crier leaning over the crying toddler in his playpen. She heard him say, “Go to sleep. Shut up.”
Noseworthy testified she saw Crier raise his arm. Then she heard “a skin-on-skin smack.”
She said Crier turned around, spotted her, closed the door and she heard two more smacks.
Noseworthy testified the situation in the house deteriorated about two weeks after Mack and Crier moved in when the adults “started getting into drugs.”
She said Mack and Crier began leaving Anthony alone in an upstairs room. The few times she did see him, she was shocked by his appearance.
She said Anthony looked like he was “skin and bones.”
“I guess he looked malnourished,” Noseworthy testified. “I did ask if they were feeding him. They said they were. I didn’t see any dirty diapers.”
At various times, she spotted Anthony with a bloody nose and bruising on his face and back.
She said the bruises on the toddler’s arms and legs had a particular quality.
“It looked like bruises from someone grabbing him too tightly,” Noseworthy testified. “That’s how his legs looked too.”
One night Noseworthy asked Crier and Mack if they were planning on finding a new place. She said that led to a two to three hour “yelling match” with Crier.
“I told him you guys need to look for a place,” Noseworthy testified. “Maybe I should go talk to the cops about what’s been happening [with Anthony]. This isn’t right.”
Noseworthy said Crier threatened to kill her if she went to the police.
Crier, Mack and Anthony moved out of her house that night, on April 16, 2017.
During cross-examination, Noseworthy said she had no sense the toddler was in imminent danger and Crier’s threat stopped her from calling police.
Anthony died two days later.
Noseworthy called police after Anthony’s body was discovered and the media published a photo of the accused taken from surveillance video. She immediately identified Mack and Crier from the still.
Investigators searched her home. Before they arrived, she went into the bedroom where they had been sleeping on an air mattress.
Noseworthy said she spotted glass on the floor that looked to her like it was from a meth pipe. Then she spotted flecks of blood on the walls and a bloody handprint “right around the area where the mesh on the playpen was,” Noseworthy testified.
The trial is expected to last at least three weeks, with the Crown planning to call 15 witnesses.