Mother charged in overdose death of infant was a model tenant, says landlord
'If she has a problem with drugs then she hid it very well,' says Edmonton man who sublet to Michelle Rice
An Edmonton woman charged with murder in the death of her infant daughter was a quiet and respectful tenant, according to her landlord.
"Never anything suspicious," said Josh Gork, who sublet a basement suite in his rented home to the young mother.
"She was honestly one of the best tenants we've had."
Michelle Rice, who was arrested by Edmonton police Thursday, has been charged with second-degree murder in the drug-related death of her 11-day-old daughter.
That day, police received an emergency call for a baby who had stopped breathing at a house in Edmonton's Kenilworth neighbourhood.
Gork said he was asleep when paramedics forced open his front door.
"My dogs freaked out," he said. "I came out and they said, 'We're here for the little baby.' "
Knowing that Rice had recently given birth, Gork said he showed them to her basement suite.
"I sent them downstairs and I saw the little one come out and it was obviously unresponsive, it was very sad."
A few days later, Gork said police returned with a search warrant. They left Rice's room with two sealed cardboard boxes, he added.
"We told them we didn't know anything, we didn't hear anything," Gork said. "As far as we knew, the baby was healthy."
No signs of drug use
A heavily pregnant Rice and her two-year-old son moved into Gork's basement in early March, several weeks before she gave birth.
"Who doesn't want to help out a mom who's single and has a kid on the way and a two-year-old?" Gork said.
The 31-year-old Rice had glowing references that all checked out, he added.
"We let her in and she was awesome," he said. "Paid her bills on time, paid her rent on time, never was late, was quiet, was respectful."
Gork, who has a toddler of his own, has a strict no-drugs policy at the home he rents. He said he kicked out the man who sublet his basement before Rice for partying and smoking marijuana.
Rice gave him no reason to be suspicious, he said. While she lived in his basement, Gork said neither of his dogs reacted strangely to anything she brought into the house.
After her baby died, Rice left to stay with her boyfriend.
"She acted upset," he said. "She said she just doesn't want to be alone here, which, to a grieving mom, would make sense, right?"
Police returned Thursday morning and asked for Rice. They left when Gork told them she no longer spent nights at the house.
Gork said he didn't find out about her arrest until a news cameraman knocked on his door later that morning and started asking questions.
"It was shocking," he said.
Toxicology tests showed the baby girl could not have overdosed through Rice's breast milk, a police spokesperson said Thursday.
Investigators are asking anyone who was at the house on or after March 18 to contact police.
Rice's son is living with his biological father.
Rice will be in court Monday for a bail hearing.
Edmonton has had 17 homicides this year.