Caleigh Shea found not guilty of abandoning baby
Saint John woman was accused of leaving five-month-old outside in sub-zero temperatures
A 27-year-old mother of four was found not guilty of child abandonment in a Saint John court on Wednesday.
Caleigh Shea was accused of leaving her infant alone outside in freezing temperatures last winter.
The alleged incident involved her five-month-old girl being left in a car seat, outside their uptown home on Paddock Street on Jan. 21. The temperature felt like -15 C with the wind chill.
Defence lawyer Brian Munro said during the trial that Shea had set her baby down outside her apartment after shopping for groceries, just long enough to help her other two young children undress.
The Crown, however, alleged the infant was left for 15 to 20 minutes.
She was fully clothed and had a blanket around her at the time, police have said.
Provincial court judge Henrik Tonning said he was unable to determine from the evidence how long the child had been left alone, and that there was no evidence the child had been purposely left outside.
"This case is all about perception," Tonning said in rendering his verdict.
The judge said it was a case where coincidence led to a criminal charge.
After the verdict, Shea expressed relief and said she "will never set her baby down again."
"I'll never take my eyes off my kids again," she told reporters outside the courtroom. "I'll never take the chance again. I've definitely learned a big lesson."
Munro said Shea's circumstances as a single mother may have worked against her.
"A lot of us have cars and a lot of us have garages, and here's a young lady with four kids that doesn't have or didn't have some of the luxuries that some of us take for granted," he said.
Unlawfully abandoning or exposing a child under the age of 10 so that the child is likely to be endangered or permanently injured carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.