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A baby girl, just nine months old, died on a spring night in Winnipeg, and her maternal grandmother said a series of missteps and an apparent lack of interest by police means no one will be held responsible.
“They just didn’t care,” she said of the police investigation. “I told them about my daughter’s boyfriend at the time. He was never charged.”
CBC News is not identifying the family of the baby girl because she was a minor at the time of her death, and both the baby and her toddler-age sister were involved with child protective services.
“She was such a happy baby,” the woman said, tears in her eyes, as she remembered her granddaughter. “She was always smiling.”
The grandmother said the police conducted their investigation too quickly and not thoroughly, considering they had identified a suspect.
The Winnipeg Police Service has not responded to the grandmother’s recent request for information on the status of the case.
The woman said her daughter had been abused by a then-boyfriend — who was not the child’s father — and was in a cycle of domestic violence at the time of the infant’s death.
The grandmother said had the social service agency investigated her suspicions that her daughter’s boyfriend was abusive, they may have been able to have him removed and ordered to stay away from the home.
The woman added that she was told the baby’s death was considered “unsuspicious,” even though her daughter’s boyfriend was being investigated by police for previously harming the baby’s sister. He was subsequently charged with assault in that case, which remains before the courts.
“He hurt her leg,” the baby’s mother said in an interview. “It looked like he was doing a charley horse on her.”
The mother’s then-boyfriend was with the children on the last night of the baby girl’s life. Her mother was running in and out of the house to hang out with with her best friend, who lived next door. She said her then-boyfriend had friends over and would run upstairs — where the infant slept on a crib mattress on the floor, surrounded by pillows — every time she cried throughout the night.
When the mother returned home later that night, she said she saw her boyfriend “poking at the baby’s stomach” in the upstairs bedroom. She said he told her the baby was unconscious and he put her in front of a fan for some air.
“I said, ‘You should call an ambulance,’ but he said, ‘What if they think we did something?’” she said, adding that soon after, the boyfriend wanted to leave the scene.
Winnipeg police and paramedics responded to the 911 call, which was placed at 1:15 a.m. Paramedics arrived within 20 minutes, but the baby died in hospital, according to the child’s grandmother, who got a call on her cellphone around 2:30 a.m.
“I got to the hospital. I was in shock,” she said. “Her heart had stopped; that was it.”
The baby’s mother said police initially interviewed her for about 45 minutes and she was too frightened to express her suspicions that her boyfriend hurt her baby. She eventually told police after she got out of the relationship, but the grandmother said police didn’t interview the other people present that night.
Manitoba’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner recently sent the baby’s autopsy report to the family. It shows a number of purple bruises and broken ribs on the baby that were attributed to CPR being performed by an inexperienced person.
The immediate cause of death is listed as “undetermined” and the report notes that circumstances “related to an unsafe sleeping environment” could not be ruled out.
“They didn’t take into consideration that the possibility of her being hurt … so they’re trying to say it was the sleeping environment,” said the grandmother, who believes the autopsy report should encourage the Winnipeg Police Service to investigate the matter further.
“We can’t fully grieve without knowing,” she said. “They should have been investigating everybody.”
Said the baby’s mother, “Sometimes my daughter asks to see her sister…. We miss her.”
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.