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June 8, 2001

Police believe infant girl set adrift in bags

More charges may be laid against 23-year-old woman

Robert Remington
National Post, with files from The Canadian Press and The Calgary Herald

The Canadian Press
MOTHER CHARGED AS POLICE SEARCH CALGARY RIVER FOR SISTER OF DEAD BABY: Rei Fujii, shown with her son, Dominic Ryu Brown, who was found dead on the floor of an empty Calgary apartment and had been dead for days.

Todd Korol, National Post
Divers search the Bow River in Calgary yesterday for the body of Gemini Brown. "We're asking for the public's assistance for anyone who has pulled a garbage bag out of the river," police said.

The Canadian Press
Gemini Brown

CALGARY - Two days after finding the decomposing body of a 15-month-old boy in an abandoned apartment, police yesterday searched the Bow River for the body of his three-month-old sister, believed to be wrapped in garbage bags and set adrift in the icy river.

Downtown joggers and noon-hour strollers watched from the riverbank at Prince's Island Park, a busy downtown recreation area, as divers searched the river for Gemini Brown. The body of Gemini's brother, 15-month-old Dominic Ryu Brown, was found Tuesday on the bedroom floor of an empty apartment surrounded by toys and a playpen. He had been dead several days.

The children's mother, Rei Fujii, 23, was charged yesterday with neglecting to bury a human body in connection with the death of her son. Police said additional charges could be laid against Ms. Fujii, a Japanese national who has been in Canada for four years on a student visa.

"It's heartbreaking," said Madeline Nelson, sitting on a park bench as police helicopters flew overhead. "There is supposed to be a special bond between a mother and a child."

Ikram Schuck, out walking in the park, was almost in tears. "It's very sad. That poor baby," Ms. Schuck said.

Gemini was set into the river sometime within the past several weeks, police said. She was wearing a yellow terrycloth sleeper and a pink dress and was wrapped in a blanket.

Staff Sergeant George Rocks of the Calgary police said the infant was put into plastic garbage bags before being placed in the river, but did not say whether the baby was dead or alive at the time.

A search was on yesterday for the father of the children, who police said was a Calgary resident not living with Ms. Fujii.

"I've been in homicide eight years and this is a very unusual case, with two babies," said Staff Sgt. Rocks, while police dogs and officers searched the brush along the banks of the river.

"Homicide is difficult at the best of times, but when it comes to children, infants especially, it has a great impact on us."

Fire department divers were methodically searching for Gemini by feel in the water, murky from recent rain. "There is zero visibility," said Paul Gough, a district fire chief, as two divers searched a muddy lagoon branching off from the river.

Gemini was released into the fast-flowing water near a boat ramp and the searchers are covering an area about four kilometres downriver, police said.

"We're asking for the public's assistance for anyone who has pulled a garbage bag out of the river. We don't know if it's white or black or what colour it is. We're also asking for the assistance of the public, anyone who may have assisted Ms. Fujii in the care of her children in the last six months," Staff Sgt. Rocks said.

Ms. Fujii was "distraught" when she turned herself in, assisted by friends, police said. She appears in court today and is expected to be under suicide watch while in custody.

Police were alerted to the case on Tuesday by a landlord who reported a pungent odour when he went to collect overdue rent. Officers found Dominic's decomposing body on the bedroom floor of an apartment in an older neighbourhood near downtown.

"The apartment was basically empty. It had no furniture," said Staff Sgt. Rocks. "[Dominic] was on the floor."

Results of an autopsy conducted Wednesday were not released.

Neighbours in the low-rent apartment block said they heard a baby crying and screaming for several days before the apartment went silent. They assumed the tenants had moved out.

"I should have checked on him," said Monica Giroux, 38, who lives downstairs. "Now I'm wondering if he was alone and crying for help."

Ms. Fujii had lived in the apartment for about a month but was staying in Cochrane, 20 kilometres northwest of Calgary, when she contacted police.

She came to Canada in 1997 on a student visa and signed up for English classes at Mount Royal College's Language Institute in downtown Calgary.

Sometime after she arrived, Ms. Fujii met Peter Brown -- with whom she later had two children -- but her career as a student was short-lived. She attended Mount Royal College for only a short time, before quitting about three years ago, said a school official who would not provide any more information because of privacy rules.

The woman moved frequently and lived in at least four different apartments prior to her most recent address. It is not clear how she supported herself along the way.

Sources said Ms. Fujii had her visa extended by Immigration Canada at least twice but failed to renew it when it ran out in August, 1999. She is now being held on an immigration warrant as well as the criminal charge.

Although she lived in Calgary for more than four years, a spokesman for the Japanese consulate said they were not aware Ms. Fujii was in the country.

Tomiko Ohuchi said Japanese nationals are required by law to register with their consul if they stay in a foreign country for more than three months.

He said Schigeki Hamaguchi, the Japanese consul in Edmonton, has been contacted by police and is awaiting further information about the situation.

"It's devastating," Mr. Ohuchi said of the situation. "We will be doing our best [to offer her assistance]."

Chris Dorion, who was jogging by the riverbank yesterday, was saddened that police were searching for a baby's body.

"When you have a mother and her children, that's supposed to be the greatest amount of care we can have for one another," he said.

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