Edmonton Journal

Friday, June 21, 2002

Mom partied while babies starved, court told

Woman's craving for new boyfriendled her to abandon children for 10 days

Daryl Slade
Edmonton Journal

Rie Fujii put her selfish sexual cravings ahead of her two young children when she fled to Cochrane, only to return 10 days later to find the toddlers had starved to death.

The 24-year-old Japanese woman, living illegally in Calgary on an expired visitor's visa last year, lied to new boyfriend Chris Knowler about having left 15-month-old son Domenic and three-month-old daughter Gemini with a babysitter.

In fact, she admitted in a detailed agreed statement of facts read in court by Crown prosecutor Pat Yelle, she had left the helpless children to fend for themselves with only one full baby bottle when she departed her second-floor apartment on 14th Avenue S.E.

Fujii, who pleaded guilty through lawyer Bob Batting to two counts of manslaughter on Thursday, admitted she had callously disposed of the tiny girl's lifeless body in a garbage bag and placed it in a nearby dumpster on May 18, 2001, never to be found.

She left her son's body wrapped in a blanket in the lone bedroom and even returned once to her Victoria Park home with Knowler, who was unaware the dead child was there.

Police ultimately found the decomposing corpse on June 5, 2001, after the building owner came to follow up on an eviction notice he had placed under the door four days earlier.

Two expert witnesses testified during the sentencing hearing that Fujii suffered from similar types of personality disorders, but both conceded she did not have any illness that would have impaired her from making such a calculated decision to abandon her children.

She also knew of other resources that she could have drawn from as she had previously stayed in women's shelters and had employed babysitters and Children's Cottage to tend to the children, forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Duska told court.

"The tragedy of this situation was she wanted to meet her own needs and those children were left at home to die," said Duska, who diagnosed Fujii as having a histrionic personality disorder.

"She went to Cochrane with this guy clearly to have a good time."

Duska said Fujii had only intended to stay for one day, then another, and soon began to suppress any guilt from her mind.

Duska said it was consistent with her disorder that she would leave the "demanding infants" and look elsewhere to bolster her self-esteem.

Fujii, who had faced second-degree murder charges until her change of pleas on Thursday, faces up to life imprisonment for her offences. But it is more likely that defence lawyer Bob Batting and Yelle will argue for sentences in the five- to 12-year range, respectively, less just over a year spent in custody.

Both lawyers will make their pitches to Court of Queen's Bench Justice Peter Martin today.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Thomas Dalby, while generally agreeing with Duska's conclusions, diagnosed Fujii with borderline personality disorder.

"She has an emotionally unstable personality," said Dalby. "She is unstable in emotions, unstable in relationships and work.

"She's an abnormal person. Her ties to people are pathologically limited. Leading up to May 8, she was despondent, overwrought, overburdened with the responsibility of having two children to take care of and she wanted to escape the burdens of that environment to satisfy her needs and wants."

Dalby said Fujii clearly had the ability to be in a complete state of denial that the children were at risk when she left them alone on May 8. He said she had left them alone overnight before, with nothing but one baby bottle, and they were OK.

Both experts said she had tried to escape the abusive relationship with Peter Brown, the father of her children, who had used money she was sent by her parents in Japan to support herself to satisfy his drug and gambling habits.

Fujii was in and out of women's shelters and had her children in day care over a two-month period before beginning her relationship with Knowler in April.

Fujii was initially charged just with being responsible for the death of Domenic. But based on conversations she had with fellow inmates while on a forensic assessment at the Peter Lougheed Hospital, she was also charged two months later with killing Gemini, whose body she told police she had dumped in the Bow River.

© Copyright 2002 Edmonton Journal