St. Thomas police lay charges in death of newborn baby

A 37-year-old St. Thomas, Ont. woman is charged with failing to provide the necessities of life following the death of a newborn baby in June 2021, according to police.

The incident occurred last summer when St. Thomas police and other first responders were called to a city residence for a report of a medical assist for a vital signs-absent infant.

Charges were laid after what police describe as a lengthy investigation by detectives from the St. Thomas Police Criminal Investigations Branch following an “unassisted home birth.”

Police say the woman — whose name has not been released — was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon without incident and transported to the Colin McGregor Building for processing.

Police have released few other details at this time, but add that the incident occurred on a small street in north St. Thomas.

This is not the first time a tragic situation like this has occurred. In June 2016, London police launched an investigation after the body of a baby was found in a dumpster along Richmond Row.

In that particular case, it was determined that the infant died during childbirth. A 26-year-old woman concealed her pregnancy and gave birth in an apartment washroom.

She later received a two year suspended sentence for the charge of concealing the body of a child, with the judge citing deep-rooted psychological issues.

AnnaLise Trudell is the manager of education, training and research at Anova, a London agency that helps victims of gender-based violence.

In her work, she sees circumstances where abuse, poverty, mental heath issues and addiction can result in women taking actions most believe are unthinkable.

"Undoubtedly, this is a tragedy," she said. "There's just no way around that."

She says it’s important to reinforce the message that there are support systems available in cases of an unwanted pregnancy.

"There were points in this story where she was failed. So that can be a whole slew of things. It can be from the very moment of conception, that that wasn't her choice; that was forced upon her. It could be having access to abortion without shame. It could be having access to adoption care. Undoubtedly it could be having access to post-partum care," Trudell added.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Johnstone of the Criminal Investigations Branch says police will identify the extenuating circumstances regarding this particular case, but ultimately it’s up to the courts to decide what role those circumstances will play in determining innocence or guilt — or how they may impact sentencing.

"Those are obviously considerations in investigation but, ultimately the role of the police is to investigate and form grounds, and if charges are supported than to lay the appropriate charge,” Johnstone said.

The accused has been released from custody and will appear in court on June 7.