Baby dumped in Walmart toilet
Embed CodeSwitch Player
Loading the player ...
One of the first witnesses to testify in the case of a woman accused of leaving her newborn in the washroom of a Walmart store said what she saw in the store bathroom was traumatizing and would stay with her for the rest of her life.
April Dawn Halkett, 22, is being tried before a judge alone in Prince Albert, Sask. She faces a charge of child abandonment stemming from an incident on May 21, 2007.
On Monday, the judge heard testimony from people who were in the bathroom of the discount department store that day.
One told the court that she saw blood drip down a toilet inside a bathroom stall and begin forming a large pool on the floor. When she heard a grunting noise, she said she ran out of the bathroom to get help.
Another witness, Beatrice Stieb, said that when she examined the empty stall, she saw a toilet bowl full of bloody toilet paper and a small, purple-coloured arm poking out from the mass, along with an umbilical cord.
Later, outside of court, Stieb told reporters it was an image she could not forget.
"It was pretty shocking, actually," Stieb said. "We had just been through a birth with my daughter as a labour coach, so we knew what was going on, but to see it there and know that somebody had left, that was pretty traumatic."
Stieb had testified that the infant wasn't moving. She also told the court that she quickly rushed out of the washroom to alert store staff.
At first, she said, she was brushed off, but she and her husband insisted there was a baby in the toilet and that it was an emergency.
Stieb said the face of the employee she approached turned white at hearing their words. "She said, 'You're kidding, right?"'
The assistant manager, Lynda Sinclair, testified she had been alerted to blood inside of a bathroom stall earlier and had been to the washroom twice to ask the woman in the stall if she was all right.
"She said, yes, everything was fine," Sinclair testified. "She was wiping the floor as I was talking to her."
She said she was going to return to the washroom again but got distracted. When the Stiebs came to her, she told store manager Chad Fraser about the baby, and he ran into the washroom.
"He pulled a baby out of the toilet," she said.
Sinclair said she grabbed some towels to wrap around the baby and then ambulance workers arrived.
In his testimony, store manager Chad Fraser said he found a "disgusting mess" in the washroom.
"Then I saw something move. Then I noticed a leg," he said. "I realized there was a baby in there."
Fraser said he also noticed bubbles of air coming from the newborn's nose. "There were some signs of life."
One of the paramedics who arrived told the court the baby was cold and gray and appeared to be three months premature.
Darren Russell spent five minutes performing CPR before the infant started breathing on his own.
The court also learned on Monday that Halkett, who had been traveling with friends, told them she was fine, despite appearing ill and having to lie down in the back of their SUV during the trip.
The group, which made a stop at the Walmart store, did not know that Halkett had given birth there.
Days later, when local police released a photo of the suspect mother from the store's surveillance video, one of her companions recognized Halkett. She had been wearing his jacket.
He went to police. "I went to set the record straight," Dwayne Merasty said. "I thought they had the wrong person."
After the child was discovered, he was treated in hospital. Then, at eight days old, he was released to a child welfare agency.
Defence lawyer Ajay Krishan thanked Stieb before she left the courtroom for insisting that Walmart staff check on the situation.
"You probably saved that child's life by doing that," Krishan said.
Halkett's uncle, Fisher Charles, also testified on Monday.
He told the court that after the Walmart trip, the group headed to his home and that Halkett fell asleep on the couch.
He also said that Halkett had told him about an earlier pregnancy and miscarriage.
Charles added that she has since given birth to another son.
"She is great with kids," he testified.
Jennifer Claxton-Viczko, the Crown prosecutor, told reporters that it was a very serious case.
"A parent has a responsibility to provide for their child, and that responsibility begins immediately," Claxton-Viczko said. "To walk away from that, in our mind, is a crime. It's criminal."
Earlier in the day, as the accused and others arrived at court, there was tension.
"How do you spell vulture?" an unidentified person called out at media covering the case.
You need to be registered in order to add comments! Register HERE
|Liveleak on Facebook|