CALGARY — The mother of a toddler who died of a methadone overdose testified Thursday that she would have rushed the child straight to hospital if she had realized the girl had taken the powerful drug.
Often fighting back tears, Lisa Guerin repeatedly insisted she thought she was leaving a healthy 16-month-old Summer in the care of her father for the weekend.
Guerin is charged with manslaughter, criminal negligence and failing to meet her parental duties. Summer’s father, Jonathan Hope, faces the same charges.
“If I had known Summer had got into anything, not only just her, both her and (her older brother) would have gone to the hospital and we would not be sitting here right now,” Guerin told court.
However, her friend Amanda MacDonald told court earlier this week that both Guerin and Hope saw Summer with an orange stain on her shirt.
She said Guerin acknowledged the little girl must have drank Hope’s methadone, but the mother was concerned about leaving on time to get to a job as an exotic dancer in a town several hours away.
Hope had at one time been allowed to bring the medication home in a locked box, but that privilege was revoked and he was required to get his dose at a clinic. He was taking the synthetic opiate to help wean himself off an addiction to painkillers, Guerin said.
Hope told two officers he took part of a dose home by spitting a mouthful into a cup of coffee he was sipping to mask the taste of the foul-tasting drug. He said he left the cup on top of a TV in the bedroom because he thought it was out of reach of his daughter’s little hands.
Guerin testified that when she left that day for Rocky Mountain House, Alta., she had absolutely no indication anything was wrong with Summer. Her voice cracked as she described the purple pants and top emblazoned with butterflies the girl was wearing.
“I picked her up and I gave her a hug goodbye.”
MacDonald testified that after the two women left, Guerin got a call from Hope, saying something was wrong with the toddler, but Guerin ignored it. She also said Guerin told her the methadone was in the house because she asked Hope to bring some home so she could try it to see if it affected her.
Crown lawyer Ken MacCaffrey pointed out that since Summer’s death, Guerin has been convicted of failing to appear in court, obstructing a peace officer and fraud. He also said she has frequently lied in the past.
MacCaffrey suggested there was no way the mother could have been unaware that Summer drank the methadone.
“I’m going to suggest to you that’s a lie,” he said.
“That’s bull crap,” she replied.
Guerin testified that MacDonald used cocaine almost every time the two were together, although she admitted under cross-examination that she herself took 10 to 20 Tylenol 3 pills a day and mixed them with alcohol.
In closing arguments, MacCaffrey said MacDonald was motivated only to do the right thing, and said she was open about her drug use. He urged Justice Earl Wilson to find that both parents knew the girl had potentially taken the drug and were obligated to act to help her, dismissing Guerin’s testimony as “self-serving.”
Lawyers for both Guerin and Hope contested that MacDonald was bitter after Guerin evicted her and her heavy drug use made her testimony unreliable. Both lawyers also argued there was no proof to back up MacDonald’s testimony, including no coffee cup containing methadone and no stained clothing.
They also said there was no proof that either parent fully understood the dangers of methadone.
“He’s just a regular person. His knowledge of methadone is that he takes it every day and he doesn’t die from it,” said Joan Blumer, Hope’s lawyer.
Paramedics have testified that Summer was already dead when they arrived at the home — hours after the time Hope told police he had awakened to find the girl not breathing.
One attendant said Hope described trying to resuscitate his daughter by slicing a lamp’s electrical cord, rubbing petroleum jelly on her tiny chest and jolting her with the exposed wires. The girl was found with yellow lesions on her front.
Another paramedic testified that Hope said he couldn’t call 911 when he found his daughter unresponsive because his cordless phone had died, but he managed to call an aunt for help.
An autopsy showed Summer died overnight. A doctor testified that an antidote is available that would have reversed the drug’s effects.
At first, authorities believed the girl died of sudden infant death syndrome, but when toxicology reports revealed methadone in her system, an investigation began.