Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nine years

I wrote about the life and death of Tiffany Pinckney here.

She was a young autistic woman who was neglected for years extending back into her childhood, by her sister and legal guardian Allison Cox. In the spring of 2005, Tiffany died of starvation in the place where she lived, deliberately locked into a filthy, windowless basement, with no access to a toilet, food or water. She was skin-and-bones when she died, a skeleton, and caked with dirt and feces, just like the room she was locked into. She suffered beyond what can be described in words, in the middle of a wealthy Mississauga neighbourhood, hidden underneath a fancy four-bedroom home.

She may have been dead in her basement prison for more than two days before her death was reported via a 9-11 call.

Today Allison Cox was sentenced to nine years in prison for deliberately neglecting and starving her sister Tiffany to death.

You can find information about Ms Cox's sentencing in today's Toronto Star. Here is an excerpt:

Justice Joseph Fragomeni described the circumstances of the case as among the worst he's ever experienced as a trial judge.

He said Pinckney endured a "slow, painful and lonely descent into death," and that the "graphic and disturbing photos" presented during the trial "spoke volumes" about the last days of her life.

He told Cox that society demanded that she serve a lengthy period of incarceration in a federal penitentiary for what he described as a "tragic, horrific and senseless" death of a "vulnerable" young person.

He said Pinckney was denied the "most basic" of human necessities. "She was denied food, water and medical attention," he said.

"How is it possible in a country of such wealth and abundance that a person could die from a lack of food and water?" Justice Fragomeni asked. "Tiffany didn't see a doctor for five years ... (Cox’s) breach of trust was egregious."
The question remains why Ms Cox was not charged with a more serious crime. In a November 1, 2007 story, the Toronto Star quoted John Raftery, the prosecutor, as arguing in court that:

"Not only is there enough evidence to convict her (Cox) of manslaughter but there is sufficient evidence for first-degree murder."
In 2002, a young boy called Jeffrey Baldwin died in Toronto of extreme neglect at the hands of his legal guardians. He was locked in a room, starved, "forced to sleep in his own excrement", and grossly mistreated, though unlike Tiffany, he had a toilet to drink from. Jeffrey was not autistic. His horrific death (his body was "covered with sores and abrasions" and at nearly age six weighed less than what a one year old should weigh) attracted sustained attention from the major media. No one attempted to blame his death on his own characteristics, his own needs or abilities, his own presumed level of functioning, his own behaviour, etc.

Jeffrey's guardians were originally charged with first degree murder, were convicted of second degree murder, and were required to serve 20 to 22 years in prison (close to the maximum for first degree murder) before being eligible for parole.

Nine years in prison (and two years of house arrest for Ms Cox's husband, Orlando Klass) does not seem much, against the life and death of Tiffany Pinckney, and how much she suffered for so long.

Before being deliberately neglected and starved took all her possibilities away, and when she was away from the horror of her home, Tiffany "loved music." She was "lots of fun" and "excited and happy." She was "great." I will always remember her, every day.


geosaru said...

It makes me weep everytime I hear about more of the evil people can perpetrate. The only thing that keeps me from tears is the extreme anger towards not only the evil people themselves, but those who trvialize it compared to other, equally disgusting tragedies.

Anonymous said...

I have been told that Mr. Klass is no longer under house arrest. From June 2007 - June 2008 only one year. I can't believe it!

Jennifer said...

I know that it is very tempting to compare sentences meted out in all these horrific cases. And I understand that every ethical person wants justice to be done. I, too, am aghast and stunned by the meagre sentence in the case of Tiffany Pinckney. And it is very important that society's abhorrence is reflected in the sentence.

But I'd like to make another point. The personal repentance of the perpetrator seems totally absent in most of these cases. Surely that is what we'd hope for - that the perpetrator, after sitting through the entire court case could recognize their guilt and make some acknowledgment. Instead, it seems that this is entirely absent. And for this, I grieve.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,
ex-collegue - guess who?
Reading reminded me I was to tell you soemthing.I bought this book entitled Deadly Canadian Women (at Loblaws , of all places)and there's a chapter on Danielle Blais and you're quoted alot concerning her being hired at ATEDM.Your sentex site is in the bibliography.
Just wanted to let you know just in case you were oblivious your public statements were quoted -without your knowledge as it happens to me and other auties but at least you weren't plagiarized....

You are everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is the book which has a chapter on Danielle Blais and LaHaie's quotes...
- Danielle Blais, who loved her autistic son, drowned him in the bathtub and then tried to take her own life