Thursday, June 20, 2002

Babies who "cramped mom's style" died when left alone in Calgary apartment

Canadian Press

Rei Fujii is shown with her son Dominic Ryu Brown in a police handout photo.
CALGARY (CP) - A woman who left her two babies alone in an empty apartment for 10 days of partying with a new boyfriend thought they were likely dead after five days, but didn't check on them.

Instead, Rei Fujii stayed with her new beau an hour's drive from Calgary, assuring him that a fictional babysitter was caring for 15-month-old Domenic Brown and his sister Gemini, aged three months. "Sometime during that 10-day period, both Gemini and Domenic died as a result of not having any food or water," prosecutor Pat Yelle said Thursday. Fujii, 24, showed no emotion as she pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Court of Queen's Bench. She did not look at her parents, who travelled from Japan for the hearing.

Court heard the tiny children likely lapsed into comas caused by dehydration before dying.

Upon her return May 18, 2001, Fujii put Gemini in a plastic garbage bag and threw her in a dumpster outside the apartment near the Stampede grounds. She wrapped Domenic's body in a blanket.

"The accused would hold Domenic to warm him and see if he would wake up, but she knew he was dead," Yelle said.

Fujii spent the weekend in the apartment with the baby's body before returning to her boyfriend's place in Cochrane, Alta., for another five days.

The child's decomposing and partially mumified body was discovered in the apartment on June 5, 2001, when the landlord came to collect the rent and was overwhelmed by a sickening odour. Gemini's body has never been found.

Two days before Domenic's remains were found, the boyfriend found Fujii crying, saying she didn't think she was a very good mom.

Court heard Fujii had left the children alone in the apartment overnight with a bottle on other occasions and nothing had happened. She refused offers of babysitting, at times saying the children were not worth the money.

Fujii is a Japanese national who is facing deportation because she was living in Canada illegally after her visitor's visa expired. It's not known if any sentence must be served in Canada.

The penalty for manslaughter ranges from a suspended sentence to life in prison. A sentencing hearing was to continue Friday before Justice Peter Martin.

Fujii surrendered to police after the discovery of Domenic's emaciated body. She was originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Court heard that while under observation at the forensic unit, Fujii spoke of the children in a cold, detached manner, noting that she could not deal with their crying. She told another patient the babies were cramping her style and she longed to have sex and do drugs.

"She seemed to treat the whole situation as a big joke and said her lawyer was going to get her off," said Yelle, reading from an agreed statement of facts signed by Fujii.

"The accused said she was going to be deported and sent back to Japan."

Yelle told court Fujii had become overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for two infants. She made repeated use of a crisis nursery in Calgary. She left Domenic there for up to three days at a time and again after Gemini was born.

Some time in the weeks before the children died, Fujii ran into a friend of the babies' father, Peter Brown, at a transit stop.

"She told him she hated Peter Brown, she hated her kids and that she wanted them all to die," Yelle said. "She wanted to kill them. She hated her life."

Even before the second child arrived, Fujii turned to women's shelters for a place to stay when Brown became abusive.

Brown has never attended any of the court proceedings. He was jailed for unrelated petty crimes shortly after Domenic's body was discovered.

Fujii lied to shelter counsellors about being a landed immigrant and was afraid to tell them her visa had expired, fearing she would be sent back to Japan without her child.

A psychologist found Fujii expressed emotions ranging from happiness to anger, but was not grieving for the loss of her children.

"She escaped from what she thought was an overwhelming environment," testified Tom Dolby, who examined Fujii three times for the defence. "I think she simply put them out of her mind."

Dolby said Fujii has an emotionally unstable personality that is treatable, but may not be curable.

Fujii came to Canada in 1997 on a visitor's visa and briefly attended Calgary's Mount Royal College.

© Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press