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Saskatchewan Foster Trial
January 7, 2013 permalink
In Saskatchewan foster mother Eunice Wudrich is on trial for causing the death of Evander Lee Daniels.
Testimony underway in trial of foster mother accused in toddler's death
The trial is underway for a 47-year-old foster mother accused of criminal negligence in the death of a 22-month-old foster child.
Eunice Wudrich has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death and endangering the life of a child. She was charged about two months after Evander Lee Daniels drowned in a bathtub, in June 2010, at the Aberdeen-area foster home she operated with her husband. Police said the boy had also suffered extensive "scald-type burns" to his body.
Defence lawyer Mark Brayford said in 2010 that the toddler was placed in the tub that day with only a few inches of water and was old enough to walk and get in or out of the tub and adjust the taps by himself. He said Wudrich's nine-year-old daughter was in her bedroom and the other children were milling around and watching TV in the bungalow's living room while Wudrich was in the kitchen.
Brayford said the girl came out of her room to greet her father, who had just arrived home, when she told her parents the water was running in the bath. He said Wudrich and her husband went into the bathroom and found the hot water tap had been turned on, filling the tub with scalding water.
The Crown's first witness in Court of Queen’s Bench, Social Services resource worker Danene Scott, said the ministry was not aware until after the child's death that Wudrich has a hearing impairment.
“The fact that she’s hard of hearing can’t be that big an issue,” Brayford told reporters outside court on Monday.
“I mean, Social Services approved her and had a chance to deal with her and speak to her and obviously had conversations with her and felt that her hearing was perfectly adequate to be both a parent and a foster parent.”
The major issue in the trial is “when an accident moves up the sphere to what is a very serious criminal offense of being willfully and wantonly negligent to the point that you’ve committed a crime,” Brayford said.
“Just think of all the times when someone unintentionally hurts a child. That’s not a crime simply because someone who is either your child or a child in your care gets hurt or dies.
“If you have five toddlers, you can’t simply be sitting on the edge of the tub with the other four toddlers running around the house. You’ve got to be moving back and forth. So the question is, how long is it between checking from child to child, and if you get distracted along the way by, say, something going on with one of the other children, how long can you be distracted – and if you are, is it negligence?”
“There is no question my client is responsible for Evander’s death. Did she commit a crime when she made that mistake? That’s for this judge to decide,” he said.
Wudrich and her husband were fostering five children at the time, including Daniels. All of them were under the age of five. Four other foster children who were living in the home at the time of the incident were immediately removed.
The recommended number of foster children in the home was three.
The couple's biological daughter, who was eight or nine years old, was also living with them. They had been approved to hire a helper to provide in-home support for 15 hours a week, but had been unable to find anyone.
The boy's father, Chris Martell, expressed doubt about the drowning explanation, saying he had questions about the cause of his son's burns.
Results of an investigation into the death by the Ministry of Social Services have never been made public.
The office of the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth is expected to release a public report of its own after the criminal process is concluded.
Source: Saskatoon Star Phoenix