N.B. woman gets 30 months for newborn's death

A 21-year-old New Brunswick woman was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for criminal negligence causing the death of her infant son.

Warning: this story contains disturbing details

A 21-year-old New Brunswick woman was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for criminal negligence causing the death of her infant son.

Sarah Marie Russell of Charlotte County wept quietly after she was sentenced by Justice David Walker in provincial court in St. Stephen.

Walker said that by not separating herself from her boyfriend, who had given indications while Russell was pregnant that he would harm the baby, Russell showed a "wanton and reckless disregard" for the safety of the baby she was carrying.

Russell's former boyfriend, Rodney Miller, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the infant's death in October. He is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Despite reports that depicted her as a person of low intelligence and as a woman afraid of the baby's father, the judge said Russell intentionally ignored multiple chances to reach out for help from family members and social services workers.

Court had heard that in a statement to police, Russell said Miller told her he wasn't going to let the baby live.

"I cannot accept she was not able to seek help on or before the day of birth," Walker said.

Russell's and Miller's baby boy was just minutes old when Miller stabbed him through the heart and wrapped him in a blanket. He then poured gasoline over the infant and set him on fire at some train tracks close to their home in Moores Mills, in southern New Brunswick.

Police found the infant's body on Jan. 29, 2009.

Russell was originally charged with manslaughter, accessory after the fact and disposing the body of a newborn but pleaded guilty to the charge of criminal negligence causing death in November.

Crown prosecutors said that while Russell did not conspire with Miller to kill their infant, she was guilty for not removing herself and the child from the home she shared with Miller. They requested a sentence of up to five years in a federal institution.

Jim McAvity, the Crown prosecutor, said that while Russell's 30-month sentence was within the requested prison time, there were no winners in the case, only losers.

"I think the judge in this particular case was forced to show — through his sentence — society's abhorrence to this particular crime," he said.

Randy Wilson, Russell's defence lawyer, said his client was remorseful.

"I think as long as she's monitored and given an opportunity to perhaps pursue some educational outlet, she'll do just fine," said Wilson outside the courtroom. "I don't think she's a violent person. I don't think she's a malicious person. I think she'll do just fine."

Russell was given four months of credit for time she has already served in custody, meaning she will spend 26 months in prison.

With files from The Canadian Press