Edmonton mother, aunt accused of attempted murder of little girl
Sisters also accused of abusing all five of their children
The mother and aunt of a little Edmonton girl have been charged with her attempted murder and numerous child-abuse offences involving all five children in their care.
The two sisters appeared briefly by closed-circuit television Monday morning in an Edmonton provincial court. Dressed in bright yellow sweatshirts and sweatpants issued by the Edmonton Remand Centre, the pair showed little expression. One woman yawned when the prosecutor called the case a "serious and complex matter."
A court-ordered publication ban protects the names of the children, so their mothers' names cannot be released. CBC News will identify them by their initials, JL, age 24, and AM, age 23.
JL's daughter remains in hospital in serious but stable condition. Her mother and aunt are accused of committing the following crimes against her between July 1 and Dec. 16, 2017:
- Attempted murder
- Unlawful confinement
- Criminal negligence by not providing medical attention
- Failure to provide the necessaries of life
JL and AM are also accused of abusing JL's younger daughter over the same period of time. They are charged with her aggravated assault, abandonment, unlawful confinement, criminal negligence by not providing medical attention and failure to provide the necessaries of life.
AM's three young children were also allegedly unlawfully confined by their mother and aunt during the same time period. AM is also accused of assaulting two of her children with a belt.
No adult criminal records
Criminal lawyer Paul Moreau is representing AM. She is scheduled to be back in court Thursday for a bail hearing. A court check revealed the 23-year-old has no adult criminal record.
JL has not yet retained a lawyer, and the judge gave her a couple of days to find counsel. She is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday to set a date for a bail hearing. A court records search revealed she has no adult criminal record.
Sources told CBC News the families have been investigated five times over the last two years for alleged maltreatment, and said a new case file was opened in October. The reason for that file not known.
Department officials refused to provide more information.
Edmonton police were called Saturday night to the townhouse in northeast Edmonton where the two sisters lived with their children.
"Police responded to a 'check on welfare' call after receiving some information about a residence," said police spokesperson Patrycia Thenu.
She declined to provide more details, including the ages of the children, because interviews with witnesses and the children were still underway.
"Releasing any details could potentially taint those interviews, and impact the investigation," Thenu wrote in an email.
'I didn't sleep well last night'
A neighbour who lives next door to the sisters said she saw all the police activity at the complex on Saturday night, and was concerned when she spotted an ambulance at the scene.
The neighbour said she was only aware of four children living in the house. She said one little girl was in the same class as her six-year-old son.
On Sunday evening, the neighbour was asked by police if she had seen any signs the children had been hurt. Officers told her they were conducting a child-abuse investigation.
"They asked me if I had noticed any injuries on the kids during the times I used to see them," she said. "But I said I have never noticed any injury.
"I didn't sleep well last night," the neighbour said, "because I was feeling sort of guilty that I hadn't noticed something that would help make this not happen."
The woman said she was horrified when told by CBC News the two sisters next door had been charged with attempted murder. She remembered seeing the injured little girl a few times in the summer, and described her as quiet, with long braids and likely around six years old.
The neighbour said she is now trying to figure out how to tell her own children about what happened.
"How do I explain to them that the person who's supposed to be caring for them is the one who's hurting them?" she asked.
"It scares me."