Sentence delayed for foster mom who starved girl
Judge orders another assessment before sentencing
A Dartmouth woman will have to wait longer to learn her fate for starving the two-year-old foster girl in her care.
Susan Elizabeth MacDonnell was supposed to be sentenced today for aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life.
But Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady delayed a decision, saying there were too many unanswered questions.
He said he's never seen anything like this case in 30 years as a lawyer and judge. He ordered another assessment for MacDonnell.
"What is wrong with this picture? How does this happen?" Coady said. "These are not the actions of a rational person."
The little girl was living with MacDonnell in 2010 when she was treated at the IWK Health Centre. The girl was dehydrated and malnourished. Hospital staff suspected abuse when she was slow to recover.
The Crown said the girl nearly died because she was deprived of food for some time.
MacDonnell was originally charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life. After a psychiatric assessment she was found fit to stand trial.
Last November, MacDonnell pleaded guilty to the two latter charges against her.
The Crown is seeking a sentence of five years in jail. The defence is asking for a two-year sentence.
Crown attorney Catherine Cogswell said the sentencing should have gone ahead.
"The Crown's position is that we were prepared to proceed today. I've been prosecuting for 17 years and I've learned one thing and that is sometimes people do evil things for no reason. And in this case, a foster and adoptive mother almost killed her child," she said outside court.
"I don't think we're going to get to the bottom of any good reason for this type of behaviour because I don't think there is any. It happened and we can search high and low for psychiatric reasons and we have."
MacDonnell has been examined by Dr. Risk Kronfli, a psychiatrist at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth, and another psychiatrist who's been treating MacDonnell at a day treatment centre for about two months.
Cogswell said that the psychiatrists were unable to find an explanation for MacDonnell's actions.
"One of the things that Justice Coady pointed out was the only psychiatric disorder she suffers from is anti-social personality disorder which, quite frankly, probably every criminal in Nova Scotia, if you went through the jails, everybody would have that. And there's probably a few lawyers that have that as well," she said.
The Department of Community Services removed the girl from MacDonnell's household, along with other foster children who lived there.