Warning: This story includes extremely disturbing descriptions of child abuse that some people will find upsetting.
A man and woman accused of inflicting horrible abuse on two foster children appeared at the Chilliwack Law Courts for a sentencing hearing Thursday (June 15). The names of the accused can’t be revealed due to a publication ban put in place to protect the identifies of the young victims, one of whom died as a result of the abuse, but the courtroom was packed with people from the small eastern Fraser Valley community of Lake Errock where the crimes took place.
The accused were foster parents to two children aged eight and 11 and the documented abuses took place between December 2020 and February 2021. Both pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and manslaughter. Crown and defence reached a joint submission seeking 10 years for manslaughter and six years for aggravated assault, served concurrently.
B.C. Provincial Judge Peter La Prairie presided over the sentencing hearing, which revealed disturbing details from a statement of facts agreed upon by Crown and defence.
The children were placed into the home on Oct. 30, 2019 and from that point on they suffered severe physical and psychological abuse that Crown prosecutor Theresa Iandorio described as deliberate and protracted. On the day it ended, the older child was left so weak from malnourishment and continued physical punishment that the simple act of putting on a t-shirt was too hard to do. Iandorio suggested the failure to do that one little thing may have led directly to his death.
On Feb. 26, 2021 the two foster children were left alone with the woman, who dragged the older one into the kitchen and threw him to the floor. She kicked the child and grabbed him around the neck, putting her full weight on him. He sat up, trying to put a shirt on, but couldn’t summon the strength to even lift his arms over his head. When the woman picked him up again, slapped him with both hands and threw him to the floor again, he couldn’t break the fall with his arms. His head hit the hardwood floor, and Iandorio said the impact was in the same area as the traumatic brain injury that left him brain-dead two days later and claimed his life on Mar. 1, 2021.
But, she added, there were so many injuries over so long a time that no one was entirely certain.
Over months and months the two children were subjected to abuse that included restraints and weapons. Iandorio listed items that were used to hit them, including a two-by-four piece of wood, a broom handle, a belt, a shoe, kitchen utensils, keys, a cell phone, a bucket, the butt end of an axe and a can of Lysol spray. They were choked, gagged, blind-folded and bound with zip ties and duct tape.
Iandorio said both children were forced to do jumping jacks, squats and other physical activities barefoot for hours on end, sometimes naked and often wearing a diaper.
“They were forced to eat their feces and vomit, and drink urine,” Iandorio said. “They were given dog food out of a can, and what they didn’t eat was taken outside for the dog. They were not given same food as others in the house, and had to watch others eat. Food was restricted as form of punishment. Sometimes the older child would go into kitchen late at night to find food and got more punishment.”
By the time he died, the older child weighed 28.8 kilograms (63.5 pounds) where a normal weight for his age would be 49.9 kg (110 pounds).
“Both kids lost weight,” she said. “Bones were visibly protruding through their skin.”
The home had four closed-circuit cameras with 16,000 video clips equaling more than 400 hours of footage. Iandorio said the man and woman abused the children separately and together and the woman even directed an older foster child and her biological children to do the same.
Iandorio said the woman and man can be seen in many clips laughing and mocking the children during the abuse.
There were murmurs and gasps in the courtroom as Iandorio read the details, and one person left sobbing.
While the man wasn’t there on the day the older child suffered the final, fatal injury, Iandorio said he was “party to the manslaughter” because he knew the woman was abusing the child, did nothing to stop it and left him alone with her. On that day, Iandorio said nearly one hour elapsed from the time the child became unresponsive to the time the woman finally called 9-1-1.
RCMP were called in after ambulance and fire crews noted the child’s extensive injuries along with inconsistencies in the woman’s story. Executing a search warrant on the day he was taken off life support, they found the two-by-four piece of wood under a couch along with used zip ties and duct tape. They also found a pair of children’s pants with duct tape around the ankles, with DNA matching the child’s.
Crown and defence expect to need more than one day to get through submissions, with Judge La Prairie likely to deliver a verdict at a later date.