Calling it a case of cruel and inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable of victims, a judge in Regina has imposed prison sentences on Tammy and Kevin Goforth, the Regina couple convicted of killing a four-year-old girl in their care and harming her younger sister.
Tammy Goforth, 39, was given a life sentence and will be eligible for parole after 17 years. She was convicted of second-degree murder, meaning an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ellen Gunn said Friday that 17 years was the appropriate time for parole eligibility.
Kevin Goforth, 40, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter. In her sentencing decision, Gunn noted that time spent in custody will be credited, so he has 14 years left to serve.
There were cheers in the courtroom when his sentence was read out.
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The mother of the children, who has been attending the trial throughout, wept as the sentencing decision was announced.
The Goforths sat close together in the prisoner's box, holding hands, and Tammy Goforth wiped tears from her eyes from time to time.
When sentencing was done and the couple were led out of the courtroom, members of their family shouted "love you."
Family members of the girls hugged and said, "We got justice."
"These babies didn't have a voice," one of them said outside court. "Nobody stuck up for them at the time … this was being done to them. And today their voices were heard."
The Goforths were found guilty by a jury after a three-week trial in February.
In determining the sentences and parole eligibility periods, the judge said she believed the two girls were neglected for three to four weeks before they were taken to the hospital.
According to testimony heard by the jury, the girl who died was suffering from malnutrition and was in cardiac arrest when she arrived at the hospital in the summer of 2012. Her brain was damaged as a result of the heart attack. Two days after being taken to hospital, on Aug. 2, the child was taken off life-support and died.
The girl's sister, who was two at the time, also needed hospital treatment, but survived.
"It clearly shows child abuse of this nature is being taken very seriously by the courts and that was reflected in the sentence that was imposed today," said Kim Jones, the Crown prosecutor on the case.
"My client's disappointed," Kevin Goforth's lawyer, Noah Evanchuk, said about the sentence his client received. "He will be considering all of his options going ahead."
"We'll have to look closely at the written decision and go from there," said Tammy Goforth's lawyer, Jeff Deagle, adding that he felt the parole eligibility wait was longer than he had expected.
"It's more closer to the high end of any of the similar [second-degree murder] convictions." Deagle said.
The girls had been placed in the couple's care in November 2011. Before that, according to testimony at the trial, the children lived in seven different homes.
The children were placed in the Goforth home under an arrangement known as a person of sufficient interest, in which the Ministry of Social Services checks in on the child once per year.
The Goforths were initially charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm after the girls were taken to the hospital.
New charges were laid after the older girl died.