Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers
SASKATOON - A Kindersley woman was sentenced Friday in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench to six years in prison for the death of her 28-day-old daughter.
Teenie Rose Steer appeared in court via CCTV from Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford for her sentencing hearing on a manslaughter charge. She was given 969 days credit for in-custody pre-trial credit. This means she has 1,221 days left to serve.
Justice Gerald Allbright said the infant’s life was tragically ended.
“That tragedy was compounded by the reality that her life was ended at the hands of the same person who gave her life, her mother, Teenie Rose Steer.”
The court heard that Steer threw her daughter against a wall and the infant’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
Justice Allbright delivered his 33-page sentencing decision and went over an agreed statement of facts entered by defence Barb Degenstien and Crown prosecutor Janyne Laing.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 2018, out of frustration and anger that her infant daughter wouldn’t “settle,” Steer threw her against a wall in the living room. When she picked up her baby she knew something was wrong and became hysterical.
An autopsy revealed that the infant had a fracture on the left side of her skull. The pathologist determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
Justice Allbright said the infant’s struggle for life began when she was born prematurely at 34 weeks on Aug. 31, 2018.
Steer’s pregnancy was deemed high risk with her baby having a rare, serious condition, which, without prompt treatment, could be fatal.
Within 24-hours of the diagnosis, Steer was flown to Toronto hospital for emergency surgery.
Crown sought an 8-year sentence
Laing argued for an eight-year sentence for Steer. Degenstien, however, asked the court to impose a four to four-and-a-half year sentence.
Steer was arrested in February 2020 and charged with second-degree murder. In May she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Kindersley RCMP had responded to the trailer where Steer and her family lived after receiving a report that a baby was in cardiac arrest. First responders and doctors at the Rosetown hospital attempted life-saving measures but the infant was pronounced deceased in hospital.
Justice Allbright said the primary aggravating factor is that Steer failed to meet her obligation as a parent to care for a vulnerable child. He said the abuse of trust and authority is aggravating.
“This very young child had a right to a life, unmarked by violence. She lost that right and that should never be forgotten.”
The Crown said Steer not confessing for 17 months was an aggravating factor.
Justice Allbright said Steer’s delay in taking responsibility for her daughter’s death and deflecting blame was aggravating, but not significantly aggravating as the Crown suggested.
The delay was in part due to her family’s desire to protect her from prosecution and they came up with a narrative to tell the police.
“To some extent the die was cast by persons other than herself as to the version of the events to be conveyed to investigators of (the infant’s) death,” said Justice Allbright.
Steer initially told RCMP that she found her daughter unresponsive in a bassinet in the living room. She said she had gone to check on the infant because she found it unusual she didn’t awaken for a feeding.
Steer also tried to blame her three-year-old daughter saying the child was jealous of her infant sister and was rough with her.
Justice Allbright agreed that Steer’s culpability falls in the upper end of the spectrum.
Justice Allbright acknowledged that Steer grew up in extreme poverty as a child and came from a troubled background.
He said other mitigating factors include that Steer doesn’t have a criminal record, she entered a guilty plea before a trial, and it was a single violent act.
He added that a further mitigating factor was the strong progress Steer has made at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford where she has been receiving psychiatric treatment.
“This is to the extent that she insists on being a role model for other inmates,” he said. “The PSR (pre-sentence report) paints a very strong, positive picture of Ms. Steer and discusses her very complex background.”
Justice Allbright said Steer’s reaction to her infant daughter’s death was hysteria at the realization of what happened.
“There was an element of shock that surrounded her at the outset. Ultimately, she did acknowledge her culpability of what she had done.”
He also pointed out that Steer had said if she “had help this would not have occurred.”
He said Steer, now 30, was a mother of four young children.
“In addition, it’s hard to imagine Ms. Steer would not have experienced emotional turmoil and depression surrounding the emergency surgery.”
Steer can be rehabilitated
Justice Allbright said he believes Steer can and will be rehabilitated.
“I believe that Ms. Steer can be, and more to the point, probably will be a rehabilitated individual making a contribution to society. To that end, in my view she will make a significant positive contribution to her other children.
“She obviously deeply regrets what happened to her daughter and will live with the knowledge of what her actions have brought about, and that knowledge will be lifelong and not simply through the duration of whatever sentence she may serve.”
This story has been updated with additional information.