A 35-year-old Saskatoon woman was sentenced Monday for stabbing her then six-year-old son.
Last month, she pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the case.
At a sentencing hearing in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench, court heard the details of the March 2013 incident.
At that time, the woman lived in a home with her two boys, then aged six and nine. It was a day when the children’s father was supposed to pick them up.
The older boy told police he and his younger brother were watching television when their mother led the youngest boy away. He also said his mother was ‘flipping out’ after a phone conversation with the boys’ father.
The older brother told police he heard his younger brother screaming from the bathroom in the basement of the house.
Meanwhile, the boys’ father was becoming increasingly worried as his kids hadn’t come out of the home. He called police, who made several efforts to contact the mother by phone, and then sent officers to the house.
The older brother let the officers in, leading them to the bathroom. Inside, police found the woman and her youngest son. The boy had been placed clothed in the tub, with the water running.
The boy was found with multiple stab wounds, including a serious cut across his neck. The mother had cut her own wrists and stabbed herself multiple times in the stomach. Police also found what was described as a 30 to 36 centimetre-long knife.
The pair were rushed to hospital. The mother woke up in hospital claiming no memory of what happened, and was subsequently charged.
A pair of psychiatrists analyzed the woman. Ultimately, she was found fit to face a criminal trial. However, the doctors’ reports noted she suffers from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The doctors also said it was likely the woman was left with a brain injury after being struck by a drunk driver some years before the stabbing.
The Crown told court the woman’s mental health issues left them feeling they wouldn’t get a conviction on the original charge of attempted murder. Instead, they accepted a guilty plea to a lesser charge of aggravated assault.
Victims describe three years of living in terror
As part of the sentencing process, the Crown read victim impact statements into the record from the victim and his father, the older brother and the boys’ grandparents on their father’s side.
The boy’s father criticized the decision to let the woman remain out of custody in the three years it took for the case to make its way through the courts. He wrote that he spent that time living in constant fear that the woman would take the kids and hurt them. He wrote that his son has difficulty being alone, and has been left especially frightened of washrooms. The boy wrote that he finds it difficult to explain his scars to people, and that he still has nightmares.
The woman has been forbidden to have any access to her children since the incident. In his victim impact statement, her older son, now 13, referred to her as ‘the defendant’. He also wrote about having nightmares since that day. He said the stabbing has also ruptured the relationship with his mother’s side of the family and caused constant worries over security at school and at home.
The boys’ paternal grandparents both wrote of hyper-vigilance whenever they took the boys out. They also talked about the stress their son endured living with the constant worry that the boys’ mother was living just a few blocks away, with nothing more than a monitoring anklet and restraining orders keeping her away.
Woman says she hopes to see sons again
After hearing the victim impact statements, Justice Gerald Allbright gave the woman an opportunity to speak.
Through tears, she thanked her family for their unconditional love and support. She told court that she plans to devote herself to becoming someone worthy of being part of her sons’ lives when and if they choose to reconnect with her.
Allbright agreed with a joint submission made by the Crown and defence. He imposed a sentence of five-and-a-half years in federal prison.
Several of the woman’s family members present in court told her they loved her as she was led away in handcuffs to begin her sentence.
Speaking outside the courthouse, defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle said the woman is forbidden from any contact with her children while she is incarcerated. He said any attempt to reconnect would have to come after that, and would likely be several years down the line, if it ever happens.
The names of the victim and his family members are subject to a court-ordered publication ban.