Two young mothers awaiting sentencing for repeatedly beating and confining one woman’s two daughters in a basement without food, water or a toilet were both raised in abusive families, court ordered psychological assessments show.
J.L., 26, and her former best friend A.M., 25, are in jail awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in September to two counts of aggravated assault and one count of confinement.
The victims were J.L.’s daughters, who were three and six years old at the time of the assaults over a six-week period in late 2017.
In agreed statements of fact, the women admitted the girls were beaten with a belt and locked in the basement with only a mattress on the floor, no food, water or toilet. The eldest girl was sometimes confined in a cardboard box, with the lid taped shut and a rug placed on top.
The beatings were so severe the children will be permanently scarred.
When a babysitter rescued the children from the basement in December 2017, it reeked of urine and the floor was covered with feces.
The children were dehydrated, malnourished, injured and both had lice. The eldest required plastic surgery to repair a rotting flesh wound.
The psychological assessment of J.L. reveals she was sexually abused by a neighbour when she was a toddler, was exposed to domestic violence at home and was placed in foster care for a year when she was eight years old due to her father’s drinking.
By junior high, she was drinking heavily, doing drugs, getting into fights, shoplifting and running away from home for up to a week at a time. By age 14 or 15, she was placed in a detoxification centre for youths.
She finished Grade 9 and at age 17, she was pregnant. She had another child at age 21 with a drug-addicted man who physically and emotionally abused her.
“She reported that she suffered black eyes, welts and marks from the abuse,” the report said. She fled the abusive relationship and moved with her two daughters from Calgary to Edmonton to live with her best friend from junior high, A.M., and her three children.
Like her friend, A.M. was also raised in a home with a violent alcoholic father.
“He would spank us and punch the wall beside our heads, pick us up by the throat [and push us up] against the wall,” the report states.
The parents separated and the children stayed with the mother, who “would often leave her and her brother alone with no food, and so when she was approximately eight years old [she] would ‘steal from the convenience store, so my brother would have food.”
A.M. also reported that she would awaken to her mother’s “random boyfriends in bed with me.”
Her father later remarried and she and her brother went to live with him and a stepmother that she described as “evil.”
“‘My stepmother beat the shit of us whenever she could; broke my wrist, broke my thumb, she would put us in a cold shower and whip us with wooden spoons,'” the report quotes A.M as stating.
“Overall, [A.M] described an upbringing that involved persistent neglect along with multiple serious incidents of abuse and serious physical harm, occurring within an overall backdrop of nearly constant uncertainty and fear,” the report states.
By age 12, A.M. was drinking, doing drugs and shoplifting.
“[A.M.] reported having been taken into treatment for her addictions issues ‘eleven times’ as a teenager, including stints of up to a month of mandatory treatment ordered under provincial legislation.”
By 14, she had taken up with a 25-year-old man who physically and emotionally abused her. She fled the abusive relationship by moving to Edmonton at 15 and by age 16 she was pregnant with the first of her three children.
Drinking, drugs led to abuse
In their teens as friends, J.L. and A.M. were bad influences on each other — and that carried on when the two young mothers moved in together.
J.L. said the move to Edmonton started out well but the two started partying, drinking and doing cocaine. At one point, J.L. said she was spending $900 a week on cocaine and would drink five beer and seven shots in a single night.
The assessments describe escalating abuse of J.L’s two daughters as she struggled with addiction and depression. J.L said she essentially gave up and left the care of her children to her friend.
She often couldn’t get out of bed to feed them in the morning and they were left for long periods in dirty diapers and pull ups.
“‘I fell apart relying on someone else to do everything, getting high, paying little attention my kids,'” J.L. said.
J.L.’s eldest daughter also had begun inappropriately touching A.M.’s children, and stealing snack food, which further overwhelmed J.L.
“[J.L.] clarified that her children were initially kept downstairs in order to separate them from her co-accused’s children due to her older daughter’s behaviour,” the report states.
“[A.M.] stated that from time to time she would ‘hear these little knocks on the [basement] door, asking for food, to use the washroom.'” Sometimes she would accede to the requests, “but not always.
“‘I was really fed up by this time, whatever you need, ask your mom. I honestly turned a blind eye to her and her kids.” She focused instead on caring properly for her three children.
But A.M. also admitted during the assessment that she also beat J.L’s children with a leather belt and also put the eldest girl in the cardboard box in the basement.
The assessments found both women would like to be reunited with their children when they get out of jail. Both psychologists however, recommended neither be left unsupervised with children.
The Crown in the case is asking for a seven-to-eight year sentence because the prolonged abuse was not a momentary lapse in judgment.