In the prisoner’s box Friday, the 25-year-old woman cried as she spoke publicly for the first time about her part in the repeated beatings and confinement of her former roommate’s two young daughters in 2017.
“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart,” she said, as she read from a paper, her hands shaking. “I failed to love them and care for them and provide security and safety for them.
“I hate myself for being part of something so ugly … I’m not able to forgive myself at this time for my part in the situation, so I won’t ask forgiveness from the kids right now.”
The woman, identified under a publication ban as A.M., was in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench for a sentencing hearing. The girls’ 26-year-old mother, J.L., was also present, but declined to address the court.
The victims were three and six years old at the time their babysitter discovered them dehydrated, malnourished and injured, locked in a basement smelling of urine and feces.
Women abused as children
The women pleaded guilty last September to two counts of aggravated assault and one count of confinement.
In court Friday, A.M.’s lawyer Danelle Boisvert said mitigating factors included A.M. admitting what she did, which eliminated the need for a difficult trial involving testimony from the children.
Boisvert said A.M. had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused as a child. As an adult, she struggled with alcohol and painkillers, she said.
While A.M. knew J.L.’s children were injured, she didn’t realize the extent of severe bruising on the older girl which required two plastic surgeries, Boisvert said.
A.M. hopes to one day reunite with her own three children, who suffered significantly less abuse, Boisvert added.
J.L’s lawyer, Ajay Juneja, said his client had been raped as a child. A presentencing report said J.L.’s family described her as a loving parent prior to the summer of 2017 when she moved in with A.M. and her three children, after fleeing domestic abuse.
Drugs and alcohol
But the situation deteriorated as the women regularly used drugs and alcohol and turned to harsher methods of disciplining and controlling J.L.’s children.
The girls were beaten with a belt and the young girl was at times put in a cardboard box with the lid taped shut. A dresser barricaded the basement door at night so the girls couldn’t get out to steal food.
Juneja said “serious intellectual deficits” and depression prevented J.L. from being able to assess the situation she was in, or take care of herself, never mind her children.
“The accused herself lived in those conditions as well,” Juneja said. “She has great feelings of sympathy for the children and the injuries they sustained.”
Juneja requested five years minus credit for pre-trial custody, followed by two years probation for J.L.
Boisvert, recommended 3½ to four years in prison minus credit and three years probation for A.M.
Need for rehabilitation
Both lawyers emphasized the need for rehabilitation. Juneja said it would help his client deal with the factors that led to the situation and to reintegrate into society.
Crown and defence have agreed to two-for-one credit for the time the women were in segregation and 1½ years credit for custody in the general population. A.M. spent six months in segregation. J.L has spent all 26 months in 23-hour lock-up. Both women have been in custody for 811 days.
The Crown has suggested the women should receive seven- to eight-year sentences, arguing the prolonged abuse and confinement was not a momentary lapse.
The judge has reserved her decision.