Losing someone you love is a devastating thing.
That devastation increases ten fold when the one you love is taken from you as a result of a criminal act. As if the loss isn’t enough, consider the added grief and stress associated to spending the next several years of your life going through a not so user-friendly court process that includes remand dates, motions, preliminary hearings and trials. If you’re fortunate enough to get a conviction then you better start preparing yourself for the endless parole hearings that are sure to follow.
When it comes to Homicide, these people could be considered the lucky ones, the unlucky ones are the people who try to live under the weight of a cold case. Cold cases bring an entirely different sense of loss, pain, fear, uncertainty and suffering.
The fact that the Canadian Criminal Justice System has become completely offender driven only exacerbates the grief experienced by surviving family members, loved ones and friends.
That’s where MOVA (Manitoba Organization for Victim’s Assistance) enters the picture. MOVA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting victims and helping them navigate through the complex criminal justice system. Many of the people who work for MOVA have suffered the same devastating losses their clients have experienced. That means MOVA representatives and the people they serve speak the same language, an important factor that eliminates the sense of alienation survivors of these crimes often feel.
In their continuing quest to advocate for their clients, MOVA representatives organized a march from The Forks to the Legislature in support of victim remembrance. The march came at the end of the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week and was attended by approximately forty (40) enthusiastic participants.
After arriving at the Legislature, supporters listened intently to speeches provided by Karen Wiebe, mother of murder victim TJ Wiebe, Carol de Delley, mother of murder victim Tim Mclean, MLA Deanne Crothers, Sober Ride founder Shay Hawthorn and Winnipeg Police Service Inspector Scot Halley.
The speeches all contained heartfelt messages of support and understanding, however, it was WPS Inspector Scot Halley that captivated the crowd with an emotional speech centered on a murder case that affected him in a profound way. It was the child abuse killing of baby Sophia in 1996, an angelic little girl who Halley will never be able to extricate from his mind. It’s not the horrific violence baby Sophie suffered that haunts Halley, it’s more a sense the little girl’s death is just another forgotten tragedy. To Halley, that compounds the pain of her loss. It was in that context that Halley made an admission that is rarely heard from a high-ranking member of the Police Executive. He admitted the WPS has not done a very good job representing victim’s of crime in the past and he pledged things were going to change in that regard going forward.
Halley’s remarks made it clear this shift in focus was part of a new direction the WPS is moving towards, a more accountable, socially aware organization led by a unique man with a vision not common in the Police Universe.
The gathering ended with the release of helium filled balloons with cards of remembrance attached for loved ones lost.
I for one, am extremely grateful we have a group of people committed to come to the aid of people who have received the worst possible news anyone will ever hear. If only our Government could find the political will to divert some of the funding spent on criminal offenders to organizations like MOVA.
We need to get our priorities straight.
The immediate circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Sophia Lynn Schmidt (Sophia) are a matter of public record. Norma Jean Sinclair (Sinclair) pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter in connection with the death of Sophia and was sentenced to a 5 year prison term. Wade Douglas Tanner (Tanner) was convicted of causing the death of Sophia by criminal negligence and was sentenced to a 4 year prison term.
If it had not been for the involvement of Child and Family Services of Winnipeg (CFS) in placing Sophia in the home of Sinclair and Tanner approximately two months before her death, I would have filed a report pursuant to ss. 34(2) of the Act advising the Minister that the circumstances of the death had been adequately examined in the aforementioned criminal proceedings.
Sophia was born on April 24, 1995, the daughter of Cynthia Schmidt (Schmidt) and Tanner. She was apprehended the same day by Child and Family Services of Winnipeg (Central) (CFS (Central)), one of the area offices of Child and Family Services of Winnipeg, because she was considered by the agency to be a child in need of protection pursuant to ss. 17(1) of the Child and Family Services Act.
As of January 21, 1996, Schmidt, born January 9, 1972, has given birth to 4 children: J.S., born December 5, 1990; A.S., born October 22, 1991; a stillborn child in 1993 and Sophia. The first two children were apprehended by a child and family services agency and pursuant to a court order, they are in the custody of their maternal grandmother.
On the afternoon of January 21, 1996, as a result of a 911 call made by Sinclair, Winnipeg Ambulance Service attended the Sinclair-Tanner residence. Sophia was found to be comatose and in respiratory distress. She was transported to the Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Hospital. On arrival at the hospital, Sophia was diagnosed with severe head injuries. Her prognosis was grave. Notwithstanding the intensive and vigorous medical treatment she received, Sophia was declared brain-dead on January 26, 1996, at the age of 9 months and 2 days.
The immediate cause of Sophia’s death was an acute and subacute subdural hematoma which resulted in massive swelling of the brain. The subdural hematoma was consistent with having been caused by violent shaking. Medical examination revealed further, non-fatal injuries. Sophia was found to have numerous bruises, abrasions and lesions to her face, scalp, body, arms, hands, legs and feet. In addition, Sophia sustained a torn frenulum (the connective tissue between the upper lip and gum), a lesion to her palate (the roof of the mouth), a bite mark on her left buttock and on her right inner thigh, a healing trauma, likely a fracture, of her right tibial shaft (leg), a healing trauma, likely a fracture of the left radial neck (arm near the elbow) and fractures to the left 3rd, 4th and 5th ribs, possibly caused by the untrained application of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The multiple and numerous bruises were of various ages, none older than approximately 21 days and some caused very recently. Some of the bruises were consistent with being forcefully grabbed and others were consistent with being pinched.
The severity and widespread nature of the trauma, as well as the age range and recurrent nature of the injuries, clearly demonstrated that Sophia was a severely battered and abused baby. Her last month of life, a least, was one of pain and agony.
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