Tuesday, 7 September 2010

SIDS: Canada, Alberta: Probe into baby's 2004 death leads to further charge against Calgary mom

By Jason van Rassel, Calgary Herald August 28, 2010
Probe into baby's 2004 death leads to further charge against Calgary mom
Stacey Joy Bourdeaux accused of killing Sean Ronald Fewer in 2004

Stacey Joy Bourdeaux, 33, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the 2004 death of her infant son, Sean Ronald Fewer. She has also been charged with one count of attempted murder, choking with intent and failing to provide necessities of life, relating to an incident in May 2010 involving another child.
When 10-month-old Sean Ronald Fewer died in 2004, authorities blamed natural causes and closed the case.
Six years later, they're calling it a homicide.
Calgary police revealed Friday they have charged Sean's mother, Stacey Joy Bourdeaux, with second-degree murder after re-examining the infant's death and determining he had been smothered.
The new investigation was sparked after police charged Bourdeaux, 33, with trying to kill her five-year-old son inside their Glenbrook townhouse three months ago.
Sean's killing would likely have gone undetected if it wasn't for the new allegations against his mother, homicide investigators said.
"There would have been nothing to draw police attention to the case," Staff Sgt. Rick Tuza said.
"The flags started to go up and we had to take another look at that 2004 case."
The decision was prompted by an incident May 27, when Bourdeaux arrived at Alberta Children's Hospital with her five-year-old son in apparent medical distress.
The child was "having problems breathing and struggling to stand up," Tuza said.
"Officials noted the symptoms were consistent with trauma rather than an illness."
Four days later, on June 1, police charged Bourdeaux with attempted murder, choking with intent and failing to provide the necessities of life.
Police are withholding the boy's name to protect his identity.
There was conflicting information about the boy's current condition, but sources said he will suffer from lasting injuries as a result of the assault.
The father of both boys, Ted Fewer, died three weeks earlier, on May 4, when he was electrocuted by an overhead power line near Strathmore.
Fewer, 48, and Bourdeaux were estranged at the time, sources said.
As investigators probed Bourdeaux's background, they discovered Sean's death on Dec. 27, 2004.
Police said Bourdeaux had called 911 to her home in the 4900 block of 35th Ave. S.W., where paramedics found Sean in a crib, not breathing. He died in hospital a short time later.
The initial investigation by police and the medical examiner at that time turned up no evidence of foul play, Tuza said.
"Based on information available at that time, the child's death was determined to be of natural causes and no criminal investigation was launched," Tuza said.
It was the right decision at the time, Tuza stressed, based on all the evidence available to authorities.
In the authoritative policing textbook, "Practical Homicide Investigation," retired New York police commander Vernon Geberth described the difficulty of detecting smothering deaths.
"Investigators should realize that fatal violence may be inflicted without any external signs of trauma," he wrote. "In any number of circumstances an injury may not be readily observed, such as . . . an asphyxiation where the victim has had a pillow held over the nose and mouth."
Although the medical examiner's office wouldn't comment specifically on the homicide case involving Sean Fewer, an official said determining the cause of a sudden infant death can be challenging.
"Even with the best scene investigation and autopsy, it can be difficult to determine cause of death," said Dr. Sam Andrews, deputy chief medical examiner for southern Alberta.
In trying to determine the cause of death, the medical examiner looks at the scene of the death, the medical history, autopsy results and several related tests -- including toxicology, blood cultures and microscopic tissue samples.
It's usually only after all those steps don't yield a definite cause of death that the medical examiner will classify it as sudden infant death syndrome," said Andrews.
"A SIDS diagnosis is an undetermined death. Really, we're admitting we don't know what caused the death," he said.
When police reinvestigated Sean's death in June, new information spared them from having to exhume the child's body, said Tuza.
"We interviewed the mother and she co-operated with our investigation," he said.
Bourdeaux appeared in provincial court Friday morning on the second-degree murder charge. She remains in custody.
Sean's death raises the number of homicides recorded in 2004 to 17.

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