Brandon police have concluded their investigation into the death of a toddler who fell down stairs at an unlicensed home-based daycare and no charges will be laid.
While there were some troubling factors surrounding the case — including the fact that the incident happened at a daycare, and the discovery of drugs in the home — the death of the 18-month-old boy has been ruled an accident.
"As a result of investigation, there was no evidence to support a criminal charge in relation to the death of the child," Brandon Police Service Sgt. Mike Pelechaty said on Friday as he outlined details of the investigation done by police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The child’s tragic death happened more than four months ago, but the police investigation only officially ended last week after they received post-mortem results.
Further details of what happened have been revealed in court, and in court documents.
Messages left for the boy’s parents were not returned. Without that contact, the Brandon Sun has opted not to identify the child.
The newspaper has also chosen not to name the man who ran the daycare, and who was present during the fall, as he ultimately wasn’t charged in relation to the boy’s death.
The fall happened at a house on the 700-block of 20th Street around 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, Pelechaty said.
A man ran a daycare out of the home, and four children under four years old — three of them the children of clients, and one of them the operator’s own son — were there at the time of the fall.
The man and the children were in the basement, which included a play area and TV area, and the kids were doing various activities.
No one witnessed the fall. The daycare operator, the only adult in the home then, wasn’t looking at the stairs at that time and was alerted to the fall by a thud. He then discovered the boy lying on his back at the bottom of the stairs that led to the main floor.
Pelechaty said it appears the boy fell backwards as he tried to climb the stairs. It’s not known how many steps the child fell down, but it’s possible he was only one or two steps up at the time he fell.
It appears the boy hit his head on the basement floor, which police described as linoleum laid on top of concrete.
The man called 911 and reported that the child was unresponsive. The boy was taken to Brandon hospital, where he died that same day around 9:15 p.m.
A few days later, a post-mortem was done at Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre and Brandon police received the results last week.
The post-mortem determined that the toddler had died from a severe head injury consistent with a single blunt force injury to the rear of his head.
It also determined that the child had an unspecified pre-existing medical condition that may have contributed to the severity of the injury and ultimately his death.
The boy’s death was accidental, police concluded —the result of the fall down the stairs and his head hitting the cement floor.
"As a result of the investigation, there was no evidence to suggest any criminal negligence on behalf of the caregiver at the time of the incident," Pelechaty said.
Police noted that a wooden gate was at the top of the stairs, but there was no indication there was one at the bottom.
And, while police found marijuana in the home while investigating the accident, they determined the man wasn’t using drugs while caring for the children.
"There was no indication of any recent drug use within the residence," Pelechaty said.
Details on the drugs police found were revealed this week when the 33-year-old daycare operator pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana.
Court documents state that a BPS constable was photographing the basement near where the boy was injured. The officer then entered a mechanical room and smelled the strong odour of fresh raw marijuana.
Crown prosecutor Jason Clouston told court that the officer found a bag on the workbench of the mechanical room that contained marijuana.
A police search that followed turned up a total of two bags of marijuana in the mechanical room that weighed 112 grams combined.
Police also found assorted drug paraphernalia such as a grinder, rolling papers and pipes.
Defence lawyer Philip Sieklicki said the daycare operator, who has no criminal record, used marijuana to ease his anxiety but has now stopped.
The man had the marijuana in the house for a couple of months, Sieklicki said.
Judge Donovan Dvorak sentenced the man with a nine-month conditional discharge and 50 hours of community service work.
No mention was made of whether the daycare continued to operate, but Sieklicki indicated that his client is currently receiving employment insurance.
The man declined to speak with the Brandon Sun following his sentencing on the drug charge.
» Twitter: @IanHitchen
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 15, 2014