'I miss Ryker': scalded baby's sister says at mom's sentencing

The caregivers of baby Ryker Daponte-Michaud heard victim impact statements in court Wednesday after being found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

2 days have been set aside for the sentencing of the toddler's mother and her ex-boyfriend

Ryker Daponte-Michaud died May 21, 2014 at the age of 20 months, three days after being scalded by a hot cup of instant coffee.

The three sisters spent their baby brother's birthday at his graveside.

The youngest thought Ryker Daponte-Michaud had died of a spider bite. 

The middle sister remembered tripping over her brother's lifeless body in her family's Strathroy home. 

The oldest blames herself for not saving her brother's life. 

Those heartbreaking recollections were read into the court record Wednesday on the first day of sentencing for the children's mother, Amanda Dumont, and her ex-boyfriend, Scott Bakker. 

Dumont and Bakker were found guilty last month of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. 

Ryker died three days after being scalded by instant coffee in May, 2014.

Victim impact statements

The court heard four victim impact statements — one each from Ryker's three sisters and Dumont's daughters, and one from their foster mother. 

"I'm sad. I miss Ryker. It makes me sad that we have to celebrate Ryker's birthday at the cemetery," wrote the now 13-year-old sister.  

"I have mixed up feelings," wrote the now nine-year-old, who had to spend time in a group home to help her deal with the emotional trauma of the baby's death.

"If Ryker was alive he would be five years old. I would teach him to walk and talk and we would walk to school together," said the girl who was five when the boy died. She's now eight. 

Dumont wept in the prisoner's box as the children's victim impact statements were read out to the court. 

The foster mother said all three girls had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had weekly trauma counselling. 

A horrible childhood and a cry for help

Asking for a sentence of about four years for Bakker, who was Dumont's boyfriend and caregiver to the children at the time of the scalding and death, his lawyer Perrie Douglas described Bakker's childhood. 

Bakker has since been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiance disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Douglas said. No medical evidence was provided for his mental illnesses. 

As a child, Bakker was bullied for excessive drooling and a speech impediment. 

He's had over 40 convictions, some of them for domestic violence and others for violence against animals. His convictions were a "cry for help," Douglas said. His mother gave up care for him to the Children's Aid Society when he was a young teenager. 

He doesn't know how to take care of himself or others, Douglas said, and is less morally culpable for Ryker's death than his biological mother. 

But, interjected Justice Renee Pomerance, "this case isn't just about failing to take care of someone. It's about choosing not to, and lying about it." 

'Great rehabilitative potential'

Unlike Bakker, Dumont had no criminal record prior to Ryker's death. 

She had a tumultuous childhood, but went to college twice, became a personal support worker and worked to support her spouses. 

"This was not somebody who has drifted through life until this event and then drifted through life ever since," said Dumont's lawyer, Ken Marley. 

At the Vanier Centre for Women, Dumont has taken 30 correspondence bible courses through New Life Prison Ministries, with an average of 95 per cent. She works in the prison laundry. 

She should not be sent to prison, where there would be fewer programs to help her, Marley said. 

"This community or whatever community she lives in when she gets released, and she will be released, would be best served if she is rehabilitated," he said. "She has great rehabilitative potential." 

'This was not just neglect'

Crown Prosecutor Elizabeth McGuire asked for a sentence of 12 years for both Bakker and Dumont, to be served in a penitentiary. 

"Rehabilitation is secondary to deterrence and denunciation," she said. "This was not just neglect. This was a deliberate hiding of injuries, lying over the course of a number of days. This child had no one else to depend on but those two." 

Neither Dumont or Bakker had anything to say when asked to address the court. 

Pomerance can give each the same sentence, or two different sentences. Much of Wednesday, she considered whether one was more morally culpable than the other in the baby's death.

"This was a joint enterprise. These two colluded to not provide care and the prevent anyone else from getting care," Pomerance said. 

Pomerance is expected to begin delivering her verdict at 10:30 on Thursday.

About the Author

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.