Tammy Bouvette will spend another six months in custody after being sentenced in Cranbrook Provincial Court on Thursday, May 16.
The 29-year-old mother of four was sobbing and rocking back and forth in the court room while she heard the judge’s sentencing decision.
Bouvette pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death in the May 2011 drowning death of Cranbrook toddler Iyanna Teeple.
At a sentencing hearing on Monday, May 13, Bouvette also pleaded guilty to robbery over a December 2011 incident at the Fas Gas on Victoria Avenue in Cranbrook.
Judge Lisa Mrozinski on Thursday sentenced Bouvette to 12 months in custody for each charge, to be served consecutively for a total sentence of two years.
However, Bouvette has been in custody awaiting court proceedings since May 2012. Part of that time, she was in protective custody because of negative attention from fellow inmates at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women. Protective custody is similar to solitary confinement.
Judge Mrozinski credited Bouvette’s time in custody before the sentencing as time and a half, meaning she has already served 18 months of her two year sentence.
“What actually occurred in the moments or hours before Iyanna’s death may never be known,” the judge said in making her decision.
Judge Mrozinski said Bouvette has a demonstrated inability to deal with stressful situations because of emotional and intellectual limitations.
Nonetheless, the judge said, Bouvette made “several very terrible and in her own words very irresponsible decisions” on the day Iyanna drowned.
“A prudent parent would have called 911 or taken the child to the hospital” after she fell from a high chair, the judge said; however, Bouvette did not take either of those steps.
“This was a terrible accident, and Iyanna’s death was not intentional,” the judge said, but Bouvette’s decisions did lead to that event.
On Monday, court heard that in statements to the RCMP after the death of the 19-month-old, Bouvette first lied about how the little girl drowned in the bath tub. She later admitted that Iyanna fell out of a high chair on May 26, 2011 while Bouvette was babysitting her. Bouvette told RCMP she noticed only a red mark on the toddler’s forehead, but a pathologist report stated the opinion that with the injuries Iyanna suffered she would have been bleeding heavily and visibly distraught.
Bouvette took the child upstairs to the bath, where she told RCMP she left the child for five minutes unattended. When Bouvette returned, Iyanna was facedown in the water and unresponsive. The following day, the child was taken off life support in hospital.
Bouvette was originally charged with second degree murder in the case and was out on bail in December 2011 when she committed the robbery that she was also sentenced for Thursday.
On Monday, Crown counsel Lianna Swanson told the court that Bouvette went to the Fas Gas on Victoria Avenue wearing a face mask and carrying a carving knife. She threatened to stab the three young people working there, but they managed to talk her out of stealing from the business and Bouvette left before RCMP arrived.
Bouvette later confessed to the robbery to RCMP.
Crown counsel was seeking a two-year sentence for Bouvette on both charges, while defence counsel Jesse Gelber was seeking a conditional sentence on both charges.
Judge Mrozinski considered case law in making her decision and ultimately handed down a sentence between what the two lawyers were asking.
“I am convinced that Miss Bouvette’s rehabilitation and return to the presence of her children must be given significant weight,” Judge Mrozinski said.
After Bouvette is released from custody, she will be on probation for two years. During that time, she cannot have children in her care under the age of six, other than her own children. She is prohibited from consuming non-prescribed drugs or alcohol, or being in a premises whose primary purpose is the sale of alcohol. She is prohibited from possessing a firearm, crossbow or other weapon, except knives for food preparation or employment.