Edmonton man to be sentenced for criminal negligence causing death of infant

Brandon Calahoo, 22, admits he shook the head and body of a newborn who woke him by crying.

Brandon Calahoo tells court, ‘I wish things would have been different’

Raelyn Supernant prior to her fatal injury. (Facebook )

Brandon Calahoo, 22, will spend the next month in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, waiting to be sentenced for criminal negligence causing the death of a 44-day-old infant girl.

Calahoo met Carley Supernant at the Edmonton Youth Emergency Shelter when she was six months pregnant, and decided to take responsibility for the baby after she was born.

On July 25, 2016, Calahoo ​and her newborn daughter, Raelyn, were living with Supernant.

According to an agreed statement of facts in the case, the crying infant woke Calahoo at 5:30 a.m. 

Calahoo shook Raelyn by her body and head with both hands, then put her back in her crib even though she was unresponsive.

Later that day, Calahoo and Supernant took Raelyn to the Stollery Children's Hospital.

The baby had suffered severe trauma to her brain and on July 28, she was removed from a respirator.

Raelyn Supernant at Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton after her life-threatening brain injury. (Facebook )

Raelyn continued to breathe on her own, but after consultation with the medical team and the baby's family, nutrition and fluids were withdrawn and Raelyn eventually died Aug. 8.

Calahoo was arrested on July 26, 2016, and has been in custody since. He was originally charged with second-degree murder and failure to provide the necessaries of life, but pleaded guilty last April to criminal negligence causing death.

The Crown and defence are far apart on sentencing recommendations.

'Little evidence of remorse'

Crown prosecutor Allison Downey-Damato is asking Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Justice June Ross to impose a prison sentence of eight to 10 years.

"There is very little evidence of remorse in this case that I am aware of," Downey-Damato told the court. She pointed to three reports that were  prepared for the sentencing hearing.

In a Gladue Report, Calahoo told the author, "I don't know what happened to my daughter. I woke up at 7:30 in the morning to find my daughter face down in the crib."

He expressed resentment, even though he had already entered a guilty plea.

Brandon Calahoo, 22, will be sentenced in January after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing death. (Instagram )

"I felt tricked into saying this was my fault," Calahoo said. "I took the blame and, with all I have been through, I just didn't care. I didn't want to go to trial and risk a life sentence."

In a presentence report, Calahoo's mother said her son was not making the connection between his actions and how the baby died.

She said Calahoo continually blames the baby's mother or the doctors at the Stollery for taking the baby off life support.

He "cannot seem to understand what caused the baby to be taken to the hospital," she said.

She also mentioned her son often blamed her for being in custody, telling her that "if she had done more as a mother, this wouldn't have happened to him."

A forensic psychologist noted in his report that Calahoo struck him "as a young man who is holding onto resentment and feelings of being underappreciated.

"He is quick to find fault with others, perhaps as a means of distancing himself from his own transgressions."

'I was negligent'

Defence lawyer Simon Renouf told the court that in his opinion an appropriate sentence would be three and a half years. 

He noted that with credit for time served, Calahoo has already served more than that amount of time behind bars.

"He's willing to do three years of probation," Renouf added. "He accepts that he requires a great deal of structure and support in terms of his life moving forward."

Renouf said Calahoo was totally unprepared to take responsibility for a newborn.

"He wanted to be a father to the child. He considered himself to be a father to the child. But he did not have the skills to do so."

When the judge asked Calahoo in court Monday if he had anything to say, he apologized to the victim's family.

"I stand here today as a man taking responsibility for my actions," Calahoo said softly. "I was negligent with my daughter. I wish things would have been different."

The judge will hand down her sentence on Jan. 18.

Outside court, the baby's grandmother, Robin Kuori, would only say, "Raelyn was a gift from God. Raelyn did not deserve the fate that Brandon gave her."

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston