KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — A mother who drowned her newborn son in a sink before leaving her home to write a university exam has avoided time behind bars, though a judge described her actions as “abhorrent.”
Courtney Saul, 19, was sentenced to two years’ probation in provincial court in Kamloops, B.C.
Saul was a student at Thompson Rivers University when her baby, George Carlos, was born on Dec. 15, 2011.
Court heard Saul gave birth alone in the bathroom of a basement suite where she was living.
“She held the baby for some time, but she had an exam that day,” Crown lawyer Will Burrows said. “Because she had the exam, she didn’t know what to do. She finally decided she should drown the baby. She did that in the sink and then she went to her exam.”
Afterwards, Saul wrapped the baby’s body in a T-shirt and a shower curtain and placed it in an empty computer box. She put the box inside a backpack, which she placed in the trunk of her car.
It is an abhorrent act
Saul would later tell investigators she hoped to bury the baby in her hometown of Lillooet.
The body was discovered three weeks later, when she loaned her car to an acquaintance, who was involved in a collision.
Firefighters opened the trunk to cut power as a safety precaution. A police officer noticed a backpack in the trunk and opened it, revealing a computer box with an odd bulge. He opened the box and found the baby’s body.
Saul was later arrested. While in custody, police recorded a conversation she had with her mother.
“During her meeting with her mom, Ms. Saul admits she’d had the baby,” Burrows said. “She said she didn’t know she was pregnant until very late in the pregnancy.”
Saul confessed to police and was charged with infanticide. Court heard the charge was stayed a short time later and, in 2015, Saul was charged with second-degree murder.
In August, following a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year, Saul’s charges were downgraded back to infanticide.
She told police the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault. She said she’d passed out at a party and woke up without her clothes on.
“She believed someone had sexual intercourse with her while she was unconscious,” Burrows said.
So, did she report the rape at the time? If she was raped and recently realized that she was pregnant, she might well have been in a traumatic state and not able to deal with reality. The fact that she left the child's body in her trunk for 3 weeks might support that theory.
I am not without sympathy for this girl but find it inexplicable that she held him in her arms for some time before deciding to kill him. And yet, bonding is not something that happens easily to a sexually abused person. Is the woman going to get some psychological counselling? She needs it!
I would like to see the police pursue an investigation into Saul's apparent rape. They have DNA to work with; it shouldn't be too hard.
I would also like to encourage girls to stop drinking or drugging until you pass out. It is incredibly stupid that you leave yourself so vulnerable. You know there are predators everywhere just waiting for an easy target.
Saul and her mother cried in court as the offence was detailed.
I know I made a mistake
Defence lawyer Murray Armstrong noted the circumstances.
“This is certainly a tragedy in all senses of the word,” he said, adding Saul remains troubled by the events but is moving forward.
“Nothing is going to change what happened, but certainly now Ms. Saul is not a risk to anybody,” he said. “In terms of punishment, there’s no punishment greater than the guilt and remorse she feels.”
When asked by Judge Len Marchand whether she had anything to say, Saul, who has since moved back to Lillooet, managed six words before crying.
“I know I made a mistake,” she said.
Marchand noted Saul’s remorse, but also the seriousness of her offence.
“It is an abhorrent act and it was inflicted on a vulnerable and completely helpless person,” he said.
But Marchand said mitigating factors — including Saul’s lack of a criminal history and the circumstances of how she became pregnant — were powerful.
In addition to her two-year probation term, Saul was ordered to surrender a sample of her DNA to a national criminal database.
Was the complete lack of a prison sentence partly to do with the idea that had she killed the child a few minutes earlier it wouldn't have been a crime? Has abortion made the murder of babies a matter of convenience? Was her exam so much more important than her son's life?
How do you answer such questions? And why did Saul have no-one that she could call or talk to about her predicament? I've lived in Kamloops; they have some great churches there, some very caring people, why was there no connection?
I'm asking the pastors in Kamloops, do you have a presence on Thompson Rivers U campus? Do you have a 'crisis centre' on campus? You should have.