Manitoba

Mother who killed toddler son after night of drinking sentenced to 8 years

A Manitoba mother who admitted to killing her son after a night of drinking has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Jessica Brandon, 40, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last September as trial was set to begin

Jessica Brandon, 40, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last September. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

A Manitoba mother who admitted to killing her son after a night of drinking has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

The sentence was handed down in Brandon, Man., on Thursday by Queen's Bench Justice Scott Abel.

Jessica Brandon, 40, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last September, on what was supposed to be the first day of a 10-day second-degree murder trial.

She was arrested by RCMP in April 2016, 14 months after her two-year-old son, Draze Brandon-Catcheway, died at the family's home on Waywayseecappo First Nation.

"The Crown is content that all sentencing factors were adequately and thoroughly considered by Justice Abel and the sentence was fair and appropriate in the circumstances," said Crown prosecutor Ron Toews.

During a sentencing hearing in May 2019, court heard police were called by family members on Jan. 31, 2015, requesting officers go to Brandon's home. 

Toews said an officer with the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, now known as the Manitoba First Nations Police Service, found Draze unresponsive on the couch, making gurgling sounds. 

The boy was rushed to hospital in Russell and later airlifted to Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, where he went into cardiac arrest 15 hours later and died.

Waywayseecappo First Nation is about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, near Russell, Man. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Court was told Brandon was having trouble coping with having her children returned to her care by Child and Family Services and had taken five shots of hard liquor, as well as Temazepam and Xanax, after putting the kids to bed.

"She then passed out and woke to find Draze jumping around and refusing to listen to her," Toews said at the hearing in May. "She … immediately grabbed Draze and threw him onto the floor. Draze immediately became unresponsive."

Brandon remembered little after that, he said. She did nothing to try to help Draze.

Most people would call an ambulance, a neighbour, a relative or someone else for help upon seeing their badly injured child, but Brandon used her time to cover her tracks, hiding the liquor bottle and concocting a fictitious story, Toews said.

Brandon told police her son was jumping on the bed when he fell and hit his head. However, a medical examiner found that explanation inconsistent with the injuries. 

"The autopsy confirmed that Draze had died from an acute blunt force head injury," Toews said. The toddler suffered multiple blows to the head, hemorrhaging and brain damage, among other injuries.

The Crown and defence jointly recommended a sentence of seven to 10 years in prison for Brandon, with Toews seeking the longer term and Brandon's lawyer, Norm Sims, arguing for the lesser.

Waywayseecappo is about 280 kilometres west of Winnipeg, near Russell, Man.