Court hears Sask. woman killed newborn daughter in moment of anger
Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.
Details about how the actions of a Kindersley woman led to her child's death emerged at a sentencing in Saskatoon on Monday.
Teenie Rose Steer was charged with second-degree murder in the death of her one-month-old daughter. Earlier this year Steer pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
On Monday, court heard that in the early morning of Sept. 27, 2018, when her baby wasn't settling, out of anger and frustration Steer threw her newborn daughter against a wooden wall in the living room of her home.
When Steer picked her child up off the floor, she said she knew something was wrong.
An autopsy conducted the next day found the infant girl had a nine centimetre skull fracture on the left side of her head and two points where hemorrhaging had occurred.
The pathologist determined blunt force trauma to her head was the cause of death.
Court heard in the days after her daughter's death, Steer lied to investigators about what happened.
At one point she attempted to advance a theory that her three-year-old daughter was jealous of her newborn sister and mistreated her.
Court heard how Steer told police her three-year-old was rough with the newborn and baby's twin sister.
In her first interviews with police, Steer said she woke up at 3 a.m. and found it odd the baby was still asleep as she needed to be fed every three hours. Steer told police she went to check on her daughter and noticed she wasn’t breathing.
In a subsequent interview with investigators Steer changed her story about where the baby was sleeping the night she died.
Court heard it took 17 months for Steer to admit to police what happened.
On Feb. 25, 2020 Steer was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the death of her daughter.
During a nine-and-a-half hour interview with RCMP, Steer admitted to investigators that she had thrown baby against the wall.
Court heard how Steer told police she heard something crack when the infant hit the wall and when Steer picked her daughter up, she saw that she was gone.
“She was not making sounds and showed no signs of life,” said Crown prosecutor Janyne Laing.
Following her confession RCMP charged Steer with second-degree murder. Steer pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter in May.
DIFFERENT SENTENCES PROPOSED
Laing argued for an eight-year penitentiary sentence for Steer, who was 28 at the time of the incident.
In her arguments Laing said Steer had two other children before the birth of her twin daughters.
Laing told the court Steer failed in her obligation to care for her child, and that a parent abusing an infant, only 27 days old, was an aggravating factor.
Laing said Steer took out her frustration on her daughter and failed to come clean to police until 17 months after her initial statement.
“She knew what the truth was, but still tried to mislead investigators,” Laing told the court.
In her argument Laing added Steer was an experienced mother and was no stranger to a crying baby.
“Stress, anger and frustration is not an excuse,” Laing said.
Steer’s defence lawyer Barbara Degenstein said her client faced many challenges growing up, including a troubled childhood.
She told the court Steer moved about 10 times as a child and experienced abuse in her home.
Degenstein said Steer struggled with a negative self-image, adding her client would sometimes hear voices in her head.
At the time of the incident, Degenstein said Steer hadn't slept for four days and was in a state of extreme exhaustion.
She argued while Steer told police her three-year-old daughter was rough with the twin infants, Degenstein argues this was not an admission or an alternative theory of what happened. Rather it was Steer simply stating something that happened.
Degenstein also argued that the statement Steer and her family made to police the day of the incident was influenced by Steer’s family and it explains why she misinformed police about what happened.
She argues her client didn’t lie for 17 months but told the truth when she had the chance.
Degenstein argued for a four to four-and-a-half year sentence. She said with about 32 months of time already served in custody on remand, the sentence would allow her client to continue to remain in provincial custody. Any sentence longer than two years would mean she serves her time in a federal penitentiary.
Currently, Steer is in custody at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford, where she is undergoing psychiatric treatment, according to her lawyer.
“My client’s remorse and grief are significant,” Degenstein said. “She knows she can’t turn back the clock.”
Justice Gerald Allbright reserved his decision until Dec. 3. At that time, a victim impact statement will be read in court.