WINNIPEG — A Manitoba woman who admitted her repeated abuse and neglect killed her 21-month-old daughter is facing a possible sentence of life in prison without parole for at least 14 years.
That's the joint recommendation from the Crown and defence for Vanessa Lynn Bushie, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to the second-degree murder of Kierra Williams.
The toddler showed signs of multiple injuries and malnutrition when she was brought to hospital in July 2014.
Bushie, who is from the Peguis First Nation, was to have her sentencing hearing today, but it was postponed because her lawyer is still preparing a report on her personal history.
The case has raised more questions about Manitoba's child-welfare system, because social workers had been involved with the family, although the provincial government has not released details.
When Bushie pleaded guilty in April, court heard that Kierra had endured a lengthy period of abuse, which was apparent to staff at the hospital where she died.
"It became patently clear to medical staff upon presentation that the child had suffered severe neglect and abuse, and, ultimately, a final culminating assaultive incident," Crown attorney Daniel Chaput said at the April hearing.
"What is quite clear is that the accused failed to provide the necessities of life to the victim — including nourishment and medical treatment — over a prolonged period of time."
Bushie said little at the April hearing, other than admitting to the facts as presented.
"And you admit that your mistreatment of your child resulted in your child's death?" Court of Queen's Bench Justice Douglas Abra asked Bushie.
"Yes," the 39-year-old replied.
The minimum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison without parole eligibility for 10 years.
Bushie's husband, Daniel Williams, is charged with manslaughter. His trial is set for next February and March.
A publication ban on the names of the mother and daughter was lifted Wednesday.
Kierra's death followed other high-profile cases in which children were killed by family members despite earlier intervention by child welfare workers.
The most notorious was that of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl who was beaten to death by her mother and mother's boyfriend after social workers decided she would be safe with the couple and closed her file.
A public inquiry found social workers repeatedly failed to monitor the young girl, whose 2005 death went undetected for nine months.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press