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Toddler died after being left alone in car seat for 5 hours by dayhome operator, court hears

A Calgary toddler died after being in a car seat in a closet for five hours while a dayhome operator left to run errands, court heard Monday. Elmarie Simons pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death.

18-month-old Ceira McGrath was found dead in car seat in November 2015

Ceira Lynn McGrath died after being left in a car seat in a closet in 2015. Elmarie Simons, who was caring for the child, pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. (McGrath family)

A Calgary toddler died after being in a car seat in a closet for five hours while a dayhome operator left to run errands, court heard Monday when Elmarie Simons pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. 

Ceira Lynn McGrath, 18-months-old, was was not properly clipped in because the seat was too small — she slid down and choked herself in November 2015.

Ceira's twin brother was also left in Simons' care. It's unclear where he was when his sister was in the closet for five hours. Learning some of the details for the first time, the twins' father, Ryan McGrath, called Simons a "monster" outside the courtroom. 

"It's absolutely horrific, it's disgusting. I don't know who could do this, especially a person we trusted," said McGrath. "I don't even have words for … it's such a horrific awful thing."

Elmarie Simons is expected to be sentenced next week in the toddler's death. (CTV Calgary)

The former dayhome worker's trial was supposed to begin Monday morning but defence lawyer Alain Hepner and prosecutor Pam McCluskey arranged a plea arrangement Monday afternoon.

As part of that hearing, some of the facts of the case were read aloud. 

Court heard that on the day the girl died, Simons put Ceira in a car seat that was too small for the toddler to be buckled in properly. Only the chest strap fit across the girl, so nothing prevented her from sliding down in the bucket seat. 

Simons then placed the car seat in a walk-in closet for more than five hours while she ran errands at Walmart and McDonald's, according to the facts read aloud in court. Even after Simons arrived back home, she did not check on the girl. 

Ceira died of asphyxiation caused by the car seat strap.

When police began investigating, Simons lied about the circumstances of the girl's death, court heard.  

A sentencing hearing will take place next week. Victim impact statements will be read at that time. 

Ceira's parents aren't yet sure how they'll put their loss into words. 

"Every birthday, every Christmas, everything her twin brother does is a reminder of her not being there, and when he has nobody to play with it's sad.

"We miss her terribly and she should be here."

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.