Globe and Mail

Calgary mother gets 8 years

Canadian Press
Monday, September 9 – Online Edition, Posted at 5:55 PM EST
The Globe and Mail

Calgary — Rie Fujii's babies never had a chance, a judge said Monday in sentencing her to eight years for leaving her children alone in a barren apartment to starve to death.

"These children had the sad misfortune to be born to a mother who could not care for them and a father who would not," Mr. Justice Peter Martin of Alberta Court of Queen's Bench said.

Judge Martin acknowledged Ms. Fujii was depressed and alone after being abandoned by her abusive common-law husband. She also suffered from a personality disorder which made her crave love and attention and enabled her to deceive herself that 15-month-old Domenic and three-month-old Gemini could manage without her.

But the judge said Ms. Fujii was aware that leaving her children alone for 10 days while she partied with a new boyfriend in another town was dooming them to certain death.

Immigration officials say Ms. Fujii, a 24-year-old Japanese citizen who is in Canada illegally, will be deported once she serves her sentence.

Ms. Fujii showed little emotion to the judge's harsh words and did not look at her parents, who had travelled from Japan for the decision. Her father broke down after she left the courtroom.

Court heard earlier that Ms. Fujii assured her new boyfriend that a babysitter was caring for the children.

Doctors say the babies likely lapsed into comas caused by dehydration before they died.

Upon her return, Ms. Fujii tossed the body of little Gemini into a dumpster outside their apartment near the Stampede grounds. She wrapped Domenic's remains in a blanket and tried to warm him with her own body heat then left him on the floor before she returned to her new boyfriend.

The boy's decomposing body was discovered 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.

In a written statement, Ms. Fujii's family apologized to the Canadian people in general and the Japanese community in particular.

"We would like to ask your forgiveness for her giving you uneasiness and trouble," said the release from Hideto and Tomoko Fujii, who were unaware of their grandchildren's existence until they were dead.

"We would also like to apologize to the Japanese community for [Rie Fujii] hurting their image of being good residents of Canada."

The judge had harsh words for the children's father, Peter Brown, a petty criminal who did not attend any of the court proceedings. Prosecutors have had been unable to locate him.

Judge Martin called Mr. Brown "anything but a model father," noting that he abused Ms. Fujii emotionally and physically before and after the births of their children and did nothing to support his family.

In fact, Mr. Brown often used Ms. Fujii's $2,000 monthly allowance from her parents to buy drugs and gamble. His behaviour repeatedly got them evicted.

"His derelict, irresponsible behaviour greatly contributed to his family's despair," the judge said.

Judge Martin gave Ms. Fujii 30 months' credit for time served in remand, meaning she will remain behind bars for another 5 years.

Lawyer Robert Batting said the worst is still ahead for his client when she begins to fully appreciate what she has done.

"In a way she does have a life sentence," Mr. Batting said outside court, noting that she is likely to be shunned when she returns to Japan.

"My client will have opportunities denied to her because of the reputation she'll have garnered."

After surrendering to police last year, Ms. Fujii was heard complaining that her children were "cramping her style," and interfering with her ability to have a good time.

While under observation at the forensic unit, she spoke of the babies in a cold, detached manner and said she could not deal with their crying.

Prior to abandoning the children, Ms. Fujii 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.

By that time, Ms. Fujii was no longer involved with Mr. Brown. She had also turned to women's shelters for a place to stay when Mr. Brown became abusive.

Ms. Fujii lied to counsellors about being a landed immigrant and was afraid to tell them her visa had expired, fearing she would be sent back to Japan alone.

After pleading guilty to manslaughter, Ms. Fujii tearfully apologized, saying she knew her behaviour was cruel and disgusting. She could not explain how her life spiralled out of control.

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

Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.