New Brunswick

Saint John man now faces second-degree murder charge in toddler's death

A 23-year-old Saint John man accused of causing the death of a two-year-old by putting a Ping-Pong ball in the child's mouth now faces a charge of second-degree murder.

Madison (Karrson) Bennett elected trial by judge and jury

Madison (Karrson) Bennett now faces a charge of second-degree murder in the death of a two-year-old child in Saint John in September. (Facebook)

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

The 23-year-old Saint John man accused of causing the death of a two-year-old by putting a Ping-Pong ball in the child's mouth now faces a charge of second-degree murder.

In a brief court proceeding on Tuesday, Madison Bennett, also known as Karrson Bennett, elected to be tried by a judge and jury. No date has been set for him to appear in the Court of Queen's Bench. 

Bennett was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death and breach of probation in the child's death. The identity of the child involved is protected by a publication ban. 

Saint John police responded to a 911 call on Sept. 18 about an unconscious child at a residence. The child was eventually airlifted to the children's hospital in Halifax but died on Sept. 19.

In October, Bennett was found fit to stand trial after a 30-day psychiatric assessment at the Restigouche Hospital Centre.

His defence lawyer, David Lutz, immediately asked for another assessment to determine whether Bennett was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the alleged offence, which would exempt him from criminal responsibility.

Lutz said that assessment found Bennett to be criminally responsible at the time of the alleged offence. 

Not the first time

It's not the first time Bennett has been charged with hurting a child. 

In 2017, he was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault of another toddler. 

He eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced in January 2019 to three years in prison, which was to be followed by 36 months of supervised probation. With credit for time served, the sentence amounted to 18 months. 

According to a Parole Board of Canada decision obtained by CBC News, when the police entered Bennett's apartment in the 2017 case, "they noticed a child with a black eye and bruising on her cheeks, forehead, eyes, arms and legs.

"A police report on file indicates that you packed up the child in a duffel bag and put her in a closet, you threw a book and a doll at her face, you picked her up by the hair and threw her on a bed, and you put your hand over her mouth to the point where her lips turned purple."

Probation doesn't prohibit contact with children

Under the conditions of his supervised probation, Bennett was ordered to have no contact with the victim or the victim's family, to abstain from drugs, participate in treatment and counselling, submit a DNA sample, and not to own weapons for 10 years.

There was no mention of having no contact with children. 

The Parole Board of Canada, however, raised concerns about Bennett's risk to reoffend. It noted those concerns when Bennett applied for day parole and full parole after only serving six months of his sentence. 

The June 2019 decision also cited concerns from the Correctional Services of Canada, which recommended several conditions of release, including "not to be in the presence of any children under the age of 12 unless you are accompanied by a responsible adult who knows your criminal history and has previously been approved in writing by your parole supervisor."

Correctional Services also wanted Bennett to receive mental health treatment and be obligated to "immediately report all intimate sexual and non-sexual relationships with females to your parole supervisor."

But parole was denied, so Bennett would have been released on his "warrant expiry date," meaning he wasn't under the supervision of any correctional agency and therefore, no further conditions were imposed. That left only the order by the sentencing judge, Andrew Palmer, which did not prevent him from having contact with children.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Urquhart is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at mia.urquhart@cbc.ca.

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