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Edmonton mother who starved abused twin girls pleads guilty to manslaughter

A refrigerator with food is shown in a handout photo provided by the court in Edmonton. An Edmonton mother has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for starving and abusing her two-year-old twin daughters before one of them died in hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

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A refrigerator with food is shown in a handout photo provided by the court in Edmonton. An Edmonton mother has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for starving and abusing her two-year-old twin daughters before one of them died in hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

EDMONTON - An Edmonton mother has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for starving and abusing her two-year-old twin daughters before one of them died in hospital.

The woman, who can't be named to protect the identity of her surviving twin, also pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life. She had originally been charged with second-degree murder.

The 36-year-old is to appear in court next week to set a date for a sentencing hearing.

The woman's husband, and the father of the twins, pleaded guilty earlier this year to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Court heard he didn't physically injure the girls, but did nothing as they suffered.

The mother admits in a court document that she didn't provide the twins with adequate food and assaulted them both over a prolonged period of time. The assaults led to serious head injuries.

"She subjected both twins to significant inflicted head trauma and yet failed to seek medical attention, knowing the significant force she used to cause their injuries," says the document.

Missing from both court cases has been an explanation for the crime. Court heard the twins had an older brother who was well fed and healthy.

The couple immigrated to Canada from Algeria in 2008 and their three children were all born in Edmonton. The man worked as a machinist and the woman, who earlier studied communications in university, stayed home with the kids.

On May 25, 2012, the court document says the woman called her husband while he was working a night shift and said one of their daughters wasn't breathing. He called an ambulance but when paramedics arrived at the home, they had to repeatedly bang on the door before the woman answered.

The paramedics were initially confused, because they were looking for a sick toddler, but could only find two little babies sitting in their car seats. When they looked closer, they realized they weren't infants at all.

Skin was hanging loose on their pale little bodies, their ribs stuck out from their chests and they were covered in scabs and bruises.

The smallest girl, weighing 13 pounds, wasn't breathing. They performed CPR, then put her in an ambulance.

The document said that when a police officer told the mother she could go to the hospital with her daughter, the woman said, "Why? It's too late ... I don't like to scare my son ... he's upstairs and sleeping."

The girl spent several months on life support in hospital and, following a fierce court battle, doctors took her off the machines and she died. An autopsy determined the cause of her death was starvation and head trauma.

Her sister and her four-year-old brother were also taken to hospital for checkups and, while doctors determined the boy was fine, they found the surviving twin was seriously malnourished and had the motor development of a baby under nine months.

The girl couldn't walk or feed herself. And when a nurse held a bottle of milk for her, she ravenously gulped it back in 30 seconds.

The court document also says the girl didn't like it when her parents came to visit. When her mother held her, the girl cried and tried to scramble off her lap and often sought out a nurse.

Social workers later ordered the parents could no longer visit their daughter. After police charged the couple, both children were placed in foster care.

They have since been adopted.

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