Warning: This story contains details that some may find disturbing.
A Regina woman will have to wait three months to learn the punishment for her role in the death of her two-year-old daughter.
On Friday, the Crown and defence presented sentencing arguments in the case of Brittney Catherine Emma Burghardt, 28, who pleaded guilty last November to manslaughter and forcible confinement.
Court of King's Bench Justice Beverly L. Klatt told the court she'd deliver a decision on June 16, in part because of a packed trial schedule in April and May.
"I know that sounds like a long way off," Klatt said to Burghardt, who sat next to her lawyer Thomas Hynes. "But I do want to make sure that I give everything from your lawyer and the Crown prosecutor my full attention."
On June 9, 2021, police responded to a call at a home on Retallack Street in Regina. At the time, police were told a young girl had been seriously injured after falling down the stairs.
The court had previously heard that first responders noted the girl's body spasmed in a way often associated with head trauma. She appeared to be unconscious, with a low heart rate and sporadic breathing. She was rushed to hospital, where they performed surgery to drain blood pooling in her head.
The girl was eventually airlifted to Saskatoon, where scans showed the surgery had worked, but the bleeding continued. She was later declared brain dead and kept alive to donate organs, the court heard.
She died on June 13, 2021, about a month before her third birthday.
Further investigation found that Burghardt and Justin Noah Paul Anderson — with whom she was in a relationship at the time, but is not the father — co-ordinated how to confine the young girl for weeks before her death.
The girl often wouldn't sleep, prompting Burghardt and Anderson to bound the girl's arms and legs, and later pull a pair of shorts over her head.
Burghardt also later admitted to initially lying about what had actually happened: her daughter had not fallen down the stairs. Burghardt had thrown her against the wall multiple times, resulting in head injuries.
She called Anderson, instead of first responders, when she saw her daughter became limp. They co-ordinated a story to tell the police.
Burghardt was initially charged with second-degree murder and Anderson was charged with accessory after the fact. Both were also charged with forcible confinement.
Burghardt's murder charge was later reduced to manslaughter.
There is no mandatory minimum sentence in Burghardt's case, but life in prison is the maximum she could receive, according to the Criminal Code of Canada.
The Crown is seeking a 12-year prison sentence — 10 years for manslaughter, plus two additional years for forcible confinement, said prosecutor Chris White.
Manslaughter, White said, can be committed in a myriad of ways. He cited multiple manslaughter cases involving children's deaths, but the Crown was unable to find a precedent involving forcible confinement, making this case "unique."
White argued that Burghardt breached her daughter's trust. He also noted that the abuse only applied to this particular child — not the other two even younger children in Burghardt's care at the time.
"It was her duty as a mother to care for her. To protect her from harm — not subject her to it," White said.
"She failed spectacularly in the duty she owed to that child."
Hynes, the defence attorney, asked for a five-year sentence: two years for the manslaughter charge, to be served in an alternative setting such as the healing lodge in Maple Creek, Sask., plus a three-year probation order for the forcible confinement charge.
He also suggested that Klatt sentence Burghardt per the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
"We're asking for an extraordinarily unique sentence in this case, because [Burghardt's] circumstances are extraordinary," Hynes said.
Burghardt has low cognitive capabilities — much lower than others her age — due to her upbringing, he told the court.
Prior to her daughter's death, she was receiving significant help from the Ranch Erlo Society — a local non-profit — for basic parenting, such as being in the kitchen when feeding her children and giving them the correct portions, he said.
Burghardt wanted to become a better parent, he said, citing past reports, but she struggled to retain the information. So Hynes argued her actions on June 9 were those of a child, not a typical adult.
A youth guilty of committing manslaughter could receive a custody or supervision order of up to three years, according to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The person would serve part of the sentence in custody and, if required, would serve the remainder under conditional supervision in the community, the act states.
Counsel acknowledged that Burghardt had previously shown remorse for her actions. On Friday, she delivered part of a statement she had written, taking accountability for her actions and expressing regret and longing for her daughter.
"For a long time, I was very angry and blamed others for my choices," she said. "I realize now that, no matter what situation I was in, it was still my responsibility to protect and to keep my kids safe.
"I failed, and let my kids down."
Hynes delivered the rest, which expressed Burghardt's hopes to get help to become independent and a better parent, and explained that she understands the need for consequences.
Burghardt was in remand from July 2021 to November 2021.