Mother pleads guilty after baby drowns in homebrew

FORT VERMILION, Alta. — Little Lexi Ribbonleg drowned in a batch of homebrew while her mother, who had earlier been seen drinking the alcohol, slept soundly near her in their mobile home in a remote northern Alberta community. The baby was head down in a crate of the fermented potato-yeast concoction, her legs sticking up in the air.

FORT VERMILION, Alta. — Little Lexi Ribbonleg drowned in a batch of homebrew while her mother, who had earlier been seen drinking the alcohol, slept soundly near her in their mobile home in a remote northern Alberta community.

The baby was head down in a crate of the fermented potato-yeast concoction, her legs sticking up in the air.

Details about the 10-month-old’s death last spring near Fox Lake emerged publicly for the first time in court this week.

A document obtained by The Canadian Press says the baby’s 12-year-old brother made the discovery May 29 when he came home from school.

Their mother, Viola Ribbonleg, entered a guilty plea Tuesday to a charge of criminal negligence causing death for failing to provide adequate child care. The 32-year-old woman is to be sentenced in Fort Vermilion court July 15.

Court heard that Ribbonleg’s son saw her and another man drinking brew in the trailer on the night of May 28. The next morning, Ribbonleg was drinking again and her son believed she was drunk. She asked her son to come home at lunch and babysit for the afternoon.

When he returned with two friends, the door was locked, so one of them climbed in through a window.

The boy’s mother was sleeping on the floor. Two men were asleep on one of the couches in the living room.

The boy pulled the baby out of the brew, which was in the crate beside a couch, and then woke up his mother.

The document says Ribbonleg got upset, tried to wake the infant and told her, “I love you.” Clutching her child’s limp body, the woman ran to a nursing station.

As paramedics tried to revive the baby, the mother knelt on the floor, crying.

When they declared Lexi dead, Ribbonleg begged staff to do more to save her and hit one of the paramedics on the chest.

She picked up the child and refused to put her down, repeating “dead baby, dead baby” and some words in Cree.

She also tried to breast feed the dead child.

The court document, called an agreed statement of facts, says a nurse noticed Ribbonleg was slurring her words and smelled strongly of homebrew — and that the same smell was coming from the baby’s body.

Ribbonleg denied drinking, but the document says the nurse, Sara Peters, believed the woman was intoxicated and “shouldn’t have been doing any activities that require attention.”

The document says Peters told investigators Ribbonleg refused to let go of Lexi for about three hours, even as the little body turned cold and blue.

The document says the baby’s diaper was dry, but her fingers were wrinkled from being immersed in the alcohol.

The document quotes the nurse as saying Ribbonleg insisted she had been “watching the baby the whole time.”

Ribbonleg “kept looking in Lexi’s mouth and saying that Lexi must have choked on something … She said she and some other men had been outside the house when this happened to Lexi.”

Medical staff had alerted tribal police and Mounties later joined the investigation.

Fox Lake, a community of about 2,000 along the Slave River, is part of the Little Red River Cree Nation.

The document says an autopsy confirmed the child drowned.

Toxicology tests also showed the homebrew contained about eight per cent ethyl alcohol, slightly higher than in beer.

The person who made the brew told police it was a mix of water, rolled oats, sugar, potatoes and yeast. It had been left to ferment for about a week in a plastic bag inside the crate, typically used to hold milk cartons.

Ribbonleg’s lawyer, Michael Nanooch, refused to comment.

Just Posted

City of Burnaby issues eviction notice to protesters at Kinder Morgan terminal

BURNABY, B.C. — The City of Burnaby is evicting protesters from a… Continue reading

The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ adapted for picture book

NEW YORK — Two new children’s books will add pictures to the… Continue reading

B.C. homeowner groups can fine defiant short-term rental hosts $1,000 a day

VANCOUVER — Homeowners groups in British Columbia will soon be able to… Continue reading

Zuckerberg clarifies statements on treatment of fake news

NEW YORK — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is clarifying his stance pertaining… Continue reading

Greenpeace members climbing Olympic Stadium tower in Montreal

MONTREAL — At least three Greenpeace members are climbing the outside of… Continue reading

WATCH: Global FMX at Westerner Days

There are three freestyle motocross shows a day at Westerner Park this week

Charges laid against woman found in Innisfail hotel room with eight dogs

A woman faces 12 charges after eight dogs were seized from an… Continue reading

Ottawa police investigating fireworks incident involving fans at TFC-Fury match

Ottawa police are investigating a fire that delayed Wednesday night’s Canadian Championship… Continue reading

Pay down debt or save money? How to allocate your cash

It’s one of the most common questions financial advisers hear: should I… Continue reading

Rivers dry and fields dust, Iranian farmers turn to protest

VARZANEH, Iran — The small group of Iranian farmers gathered around their… Continue reading

‘Brady Bunch’ house for sale for nearly $1.9M

LOS ANGELES — The home featured in the opening and closing scenes… Continue reading

Study links air pollution to drop in national park visitors

DENVER — Visitors appear to be steering clear of some U.S. national… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month