Mom gets life in prison for not protecting daughter from friend who killed her
Roseanne Whalen. (QMI Agency)
WELLAND, Ont. — Marissa Whalen's tiny face was so black and blue with bruises that she couldn't be seen in public.
Her mother did nothing to protect her.
The two-year-old was force-fed to the point where she would throw up and then be forced to eat the regurgitated food.
Her mother did nothing.
She was abused regularly by her mother's girlfriend who ultimately took the toddler's life.
Again, her mother did nothing.
"Marissa had to live the last month of her short life in what can only have been a combination of fear and suffering," Judge Robert Reid said Monday in Superior Court in Welland at the sentencing hearing of Roseanne Whalen, 26.
"She was a toddler. She had no means of independently defending herself or seeking help. She had to rely on adults and particularly one adult, her mother, who chose not to assist her."
While there was no evidence presented at trial that suggested the Fort Erie, Ont., woman ever laid a hand on her daughter, the judge said she was equally responsible for the girl's death and sentenced her to life in prison on a charge of second-degree murder with no possibility for parole for 15 years.
Whalen, wearing a purple sweater and black pants, sobbed in the prisoner's box as the judge read his decision.
Whalen's girlfriend Rainbow Hill pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2013. She received a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 12 years — three years less than Whalen.
Defence Geoffrey Hadfield had asked the judge to consider his client be eligible for parole at 12 or 13 years, saying Whalen is intellectually low-functioning and easily swayed by others.
Outside the courtroom, Hadfield said his client's sentence is akin to "sending a 12- or 13-year-old" to jail.
A psychologist testified earlier that Whalen had a very limited intellectual capacity that brought her into the range of an intellectual development disorder.
The judge described Whalen as "clearly streetwise" and doubted claims she suffers from a developmental delay.
Court heard Family and Children's Services of Niagara began monitoring Whalen in 2009 after receiving an anonymous complaint.
The agency and public health nurses expressed concern to Whalen over Hill's negative influence.
When Whalen left Hill in May 2010, FACs was satisfied that Marissa was being cared for. Whalen returned to Hill in late June or early July of 2011.
Marissa was dead within a month.
In that time, the judge said, Marissa was "scared, malnourished and abused."
"She was hit, slapped, punched and force-fed. She was made to stand against a wall for extended periods, often while Ms. Hill and Ms. Whalen sat on the couch getting high on marijuana."
On July 29, 2011, court was told, Marissa awoke with a full diaper, which angered Hill.
Hill kicked her in the stomach, knocking her to the floor.
Whalen and Hill buried her body in a remote wooded location near Brantford.
Her remains were found Oct. 16 of that year.
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TIMELINE TO A TODDLER'S KILLING
- 2011 Roseanne Whalen and Marissa, move in with Whalen's girlfriend Rainbow Hill and Hill's two children.
- July 5, 2011: Marissa suffers an injury that prompts Hill to text her mother, Carol Hill: "Hey you gotta keep that baby I messed up her face sorry." The next day, Hill texts her mother, asking if the baby's facial injuries are really noticeable. "Bad you really done a number on her," Carol Hill writes back.
- July 27, 2011: Marissa Whalen turns two.
- July 29, 2011: Marissa is killed in the bathroom. Hill and her sister Amanda Dipota drive with Whalen to Six Nations territory in Ohsweken, near Brantford to bury Marissa.
- Aug. 3, 2011: Whalen and Hill return to Ohsweken to dig up Marissa. They remove a blanket and garbage bag and put it in a duffel bag.
- Aug. 4, 2011: Whalen and Hill burn the blanket and duffel bag in Ohsweken.
- Fall 2011: Whalen moves out of the Emerick Ave. home she shares with Hill and moves in with her mother.
- Oct. 8, 2011: Whalen's mother calls Niagara Regional Police to report her granddaughter missing. Whalen gets on the phone and tells the incredulous dispatcher she hasn't seen her daughter since July 29, 2011.
- Oct. 12, 2011: Whalen agrees to wear a hidden microphone to meet Hill and secretly record their conversation while police listen in.
- Oct. 13, 2011: Hill and Dipota are arrested.
- Oct. 14, 2011: Whalen is arrested and taken to NRP headquarters. She is interviewed for five hours.
- Oct. 16, 2011: Marissa's remains are found in Ohsweken, near Brantford.
- June 28, 2013: Hill, 30, pleads guilty to second-degree murder in Welland Superior Court. Dipota, 31, pleads guilty to accessory to murder. She receives a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 12 years.
- April 8, 2014: A jury in Hamilton finds Whalen guilty of second-degree murder
- Sept. 29, 2014: Whalen sentenced to life in prison without parole for 15 years.