Woman, 20, gets 30 months for crim­i­nal neg­li­gence in new­born slay­ing

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS/WEATHER -

ST. STEPHEN, N.B. (CP) — A 20-year-old New Brunswick woman was sen­tenced to 30 months in prison for crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing death in the slay­ing of her new­born boy, a graphic case that was an ex­am­ple of “wan­ton and reck­less dis­re­gard,” a judge said Tues­day.

Sarah Rus­sell was orig­i­nally charged with man­slaugh­ter, ac­ces­sory af­ter the fact and dis­pos­ing the body of a new­born af­ter her child was stabbed in the heart within min­utes of be­ing born. But in Novem­ber those charges were dropped and she pleaded guilty to the charge of crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing death.

Rus­sell’s boyfriend, Rod­ney Miller, pleaded guilty in Septem­ber to first-de­gree mur­der for fa­tally stab­bing the child. He is serv­ing a life sen­tence with no chance of pa­role for 25 years af­ter con­fess­ing his role in the child’s death.

The boy was stabbed three times, wrapped in a towel and a blan­ket, doused with gaso­line and set on fire in a wooded area be­hind their home in Moores Mills in south­ern New Brunswick on Jan. 17, 2009.

Court had heard that Rus­sell was afraid of Miller, but pro­vin­cial court Judge David Walker said he saw no proof of that.

Walker said Rus­sell did noth­ing to pro­tect the child and hid the preg­nancy and birth.

Rus­sell showed a “wan­ton and reck­less dis­re­gard to pro­vide the nec­es­saries of life to her child,” Walker said, adding that she didn’t seek any med­i­cal help dur­ing her preg­nancy.

“I can­not ac­cept she was not able to seek help on or be­fore the day of birth.” Rus­sell wept qui­etly as she was led from the court. Crown lawyer Jim McAvity said he thinks the sen­tence for Rus­sell’s “crime of omis­sion” is enough to re­flect so­ci­ety’s ab­hor­rence to her ac­tions.

“She didn’t do what she should have done start­ing back when she knew ... that her to-be-born child was in peril,” McAvity said.

“She didn’t drive the knife through his heart and that is es­sen­tially the dif­fer­ence here.”

Miller and Rus­sell were ar­rested Jan. 29, 2009, on sus­pi­cion they had con­cealed the birth of a baby boy.

For months, so­cial work­ers be­lieved Rus­sell had been preg­nant, but she con­sis­tently de­nied it.

But dur­ing an es­corted visit on Jan. 22 with her first child — who is in foster care — so­cial work­ers said she no longer ap­peared preg­nant.

De­tails of the case be­gan to un­fold af­ter Miller was taken into cus­tody and told po­lice that the baby had been born alive, but was then killed.

Dur­ing a video­taped po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tion, Miller al­leged that he and Rus­sell talked about killing the child more than three months be­fore the birth.

But Rus­sell’s de­fence lawyer, Randy Wil­son, said Tues­day that nei­ther he nor the Crown be­lieve that al­le­ga­tion.

While Wil­son had asked for a sen­tence to be served in the com­mu­nity, he said his client should do well if she is given a chance to re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion in prison.

“I don’t think she’s a vi­o­lent per­son. I don’t think she’s a ma­li­cious per­son. I think she’ll do just fine,” he said.

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