Manitoba

Charges stayed against mother accused in death of newborn found in Winnipeg garbage bin

Charges have been stayed against a woman previously accused of manslaughter in the death of her infant daughter, whose body was found in a garbage bin in a north Winnipeg back lane in May.

Crown says they wouldn't be able to determine cause of death — or have reasonable likelihood of conviction

A child sits in front of a memorial put up in June for an infant police said was discovered in a Winnipeg garbage bin a month earlier. Charges against a woman in connection with the infant's death have been stayed. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

Charges have been stayed against a woman who was accused of manslaughter earlier this year in the death of her infant daughter.

Jeanene Rosa Moar, 32, was also charged with concealing the body of a child after police said her newborn daughter was found dead in a garbage bin in a north Winnipeg back lane in May.

In an email Friday, a Manitoba Justice official said "all charges have been disposed of," with stays of proceeding entered earlier this month.

On Monday, a provincial spokesperson pointed in an emailed statement to comments the Crown made in Provincial Judges Court on Oct. 5, when the charges were stayed.

"Mindful of our ongoing obligations to ensure that there remains both a reasonable likelihood of conviction and a public interest in proceeding as against a person charged, the Crown had recent communications with the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy," the statement said.

Following that discussion, Crown prosecutors said they wouldn't be able to determine whether the cause of death was "by unlawful act, otherwise unavoidable circumstances, or natural causes."

As a result, the Crown said they were "no longer satisfied that there is a reasonable likelihood of convicting Ms. Moar for any offence arising from these unfortunate circumstances," the statement said.

A stay of proceedings in a criminal case means a charge is not proceeding through court at this time, but does not mean the charge has been formally withdrawn. 

Moar's lawyer, Adam Hodge, said the Crown agreed to bail for his client about a week before the charges were stayed. She was incarcerated for more than four months.

"Ultimately, when I think the Crown realized they didn't have a very strong case against her, they just agreed to release her," Hodge said in a phone interview.

"This kind of thing happens every day. People with bad criminal records, they sit in jail for four months, six months, nine months, 12 months.

"If your charges are dropped or if you go to trial and you win, they open the door and that's that — hopefully you have somewhere to go when they let you out."

Court records show Moar's criminal record begins in 2010 and includes convictions for theft and violating court orders.

Hodge said he never received an autopsy report for the infant.

Child abuse investigators had previously alleged the infant was born at a home in the Garden City neighbourhood, then concealed in a garbage bin in a Boyd Avenue back alley, where her body was found on May 3.

Moar, then 31, was charged in June. At a news conference that month, police said they believed the infant was alive when she was abandoned.

In an emailed statement on Monday, police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray said the force isn't involved in judicial decisions. The news conference about the arrest was held in the summer to accommodate a "significant number" of media inquiries, he said.

'A sad case'

Hodge said he believes the case ended up with the right outcome, especially since his client is a vulnerable person.

A sentencing hearing in 2018 heard Moar has struggled with addictions, homelessness and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Another sentencing hearing two years earlier heard she also has significant cognitive and adaptive functioning impairment, and a full-scale IQ below 70. She also had a difficult upbringing that included using drugs from the age of 14, court heard.

"The only unfortunate thing [in this case], realistically, is how long it took," which sometimes happens if an autopsy is done, Hodge said.

"I think ultimately, the correct result came out in the end here. I don't think they could have proven that she had done anything wrong.

"And unfortunately it's an example of somebody who is kind of lost in the system.… I think that's the reality of her situation — she's very vulnerable and it's just really a sad case."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at caitlyn.gowriluk@cbc.ca.

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