Parents of girl who nearly died after severe dental abscesses could face months in prison
Warning: This story contains details that could be disturbing to readers
The Crown is recommending a couple from southern Alberta's Blood Tribe be jailed for 12 to 18 months for failing to provide the necessaries of life to their daughter, who nearly died from sepsis traced back to dental abscesses so severe that her jawbone was visible.
The couple pleaded guilty to the charges in a Lethbridge court in March after their daughter nearly died from sepsis following months of neglect in 2012 and 2013, when she was nine.
The couple is not being identified to protect the identity of their daughter.
Defence asks for lesser sentences
A Gladue report — used to identify systemic injustices in the sentencing of individuals of Indigenous heritage — was ordered in the sentencing of the parents.
Crown prosecutor Vaughan Hartigan told the Alberta Court of the Queen's Bench in Lethbridge on Monday that, if it weren't for the Gladue report detailing the couple's extreme poverty and struggles with substance abuse, he would have asked Justice James Langston for a more severe sentence of 30 months.
Defence lawyer Miranda Hlady represented the mother and recommended one year of house arrest for her client.
Scott Hadford represents the father and recommended 14 to 20 months of house arrest, or seven to 10 months in jail.
The case has been delayed multiple times to allow the couple to pursue Indigenous healing programs, but they stopped attending in May.
At a hearing in September, the couple was taken back into custody.
Sepsis, pancreatitis, weeks of urgent treatment
In 2013, the girl was rushed to the Alberta Children's Hospital for urgent treatment.
An agreed statement of facts details her fragile state as she battled septic shock, and how she underwent weeks of treatment for "extensive abscesses" on both sides of her face.
The girl's jawbone was visible through the skin on both sides of her mouth, she was anemic and she was emaciated from being unable to eat properly. Her heart was enlarged and had a murmur, her airway was compromised by the extent of the abscesses and she needed to be intubated for seven days.
Doctors estimate the issue of degrading dental care and the resulting abscesses would have been a problem for weeks or months. While it might have been easy to miss initially, it wouldn't have been later on.
Unable to provide a safe, clean home
A key concern in this case was that the couple wasn't able to provide an adequate living situation for their daughter, or her siblings.
Prior to the urgent treatment at the hospital the girl had also suffered from severe head lice, which was left untreated for months. She had stopped attending school as a result of bullying.
An update provided to the court earlier this year said the girl had been placed in a kinship home and was in good health.
The sentencing decision has been postponed until Friday.
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With files from Lethbridge News Now