REGINA – Sentencing began today in the case of a Regina woman who pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and unlawful confinement of her two-year-old daughter.
Brittney Catherine Emma Burghardt entered those guilty pleas in November, 2022, while her then common-law partner Justin Noah Paul Anderson faces a charge of forcible confinement as well. His matter is to be dealt with later this month.
In Regina Court of King’s Bench on March 17, first submissions came from Crown prosecutor Chris White - detailing the facts surrounding the confinement and injuries that led to the death of the young girl. White noted that during the five to six weeks leading up to Kassie’s death, the girl had her arms and legs bound with tape and later a pair of shorts placed over her head in an attempt to keep the child in bed during naps and bedtime. He presented as evidence copies of text messages and photos related to the confinement, including conversations between Burghardt and Anderson on how to refine securement methods as the child began to outwit their efforts.
“They resented this little girl,” White said of Anderson and Burghardt. “The contempt is visceral.”
According to White’s presentation of facts, on the morning on June 9, 2021, Burghardt unbound Kassie from the tape. When the child became defiant, the mother threw her into a wall. Cassie hit her head hard on the wall, but was able to get back up. With the two year old still showing signs of defiance, Burghardt again threw her into the wall “three to four times very hard.” This time, Kassie could not get back up.
Instead of calling for medical attention right away, the Court heard Burghardt tried contacting Anderson, with an hour passing before the two could converse, creating an alibi for what had happened. When 911 was called, EMS crews were told the child had fallen down some stairs.
Kassie was eventually flown to Saskatoon to the Jim Pattinson Children’s Hospital, but she was declared brain dead on June 11.
The little girl whose life was cut terribly short was able to greatly affect three other children through organ donation - giving them the gift of life she could no longer have.
The Crown is seeking a sentence on the higher end of the manslaughter scale, being 10 years. With relation to the charge of confinement, White submitted a sentence of two years consecutive to the previous count, for a total of 12 years in jail.
“It’s hard to put yourself into the shoes of Kassie, but just for a moment, lets think about what bedtime was for her,” White said, noting that time is meant for serenity and a chance to recharge for the next day. Referencing the pages of text messages between Burghardt and Anderson, and the method of confinement, the child’s bedtime routine in the approximately six weeks leading up to her death were obviously devoid of peaceful nights.
“Only a significant sentence of imprisonment would affirm and validate these two core values - respect for the sanctity of human life and special protection for those who are most vulnerable.” White said. “Here, it’s her child. Her child.”
Information presented during Burghardt’s pre-sentence report noted that she has no prior criminal record, and had spent 126 days in custody between July and November, 2021.
In his submissions, and with Burghardt by his side, defence lawyer Thomas Hynes stressed the lack of supports received after March 31, 2019. Hynes noted Burghardt has cognitive impairments, and was accessing supports from the Ranch Ehrlo Society, requiring nearly 40 hours per week of assistance. He said that while Burghardt is physically 28 years of ages, her cognitive abilities place her actual abilities at around that of and eight to 12-year-old.
In his submissions, Hynes pointed to the basic, everyday life skills Burghardt needed assistance with, and how the Ranch Ehrlo Society helped her thrive through structured, detailed instructions.
“All of this is spelled out in large bold letters so Brittney has this to work off of,” Hynes said of the daily routine provided to her. “She’s not working like you and I would, by just remembering these things.”
Hynes noted that the text messages previously referred to by the Crown shows how Burghardt was “parroting” Anderson’s sentiments regarding parenting Kassie. He used this of an example of how some people in Burghardt’s life have been predatory towards her, based on her challenges.
“They’re taking advantage of her,” Hynes said.
He asked the court to impose an “extraordinary sentence” as to mirror Burghardt’s circumstances, drawing from a principle of parity and noting it would be “wrong” to equate an average offender on the same scale as someone with cognitive challenges.
In that spirit, Hynes suggested a sentence of two years in custody for the manslaughter charge and three years consecutive probation for the charge of unlawful confinement.
Burghardt provided a statement to the Court, showing remorse for her actions.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Kassie, that I wish to see her again,” she said. “I’m not a dangerous person, I want to chance my life and be a better person.”
Justice Bev Klatt has reserved her decision until June 16.
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