B.C. babysitter's conviction in death of child may have been miscarriage of justice, review finds

·3 min read
Tammy Bouvette of Cranbrook, B.C., was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and sentenced to a year in prison in 2013 in connection with the 2011 death of 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple. Now, a special prosecutor who reviewed the case has found that the Crown withheld documents rejecting a medical examiner's conclusion that the injuries were intentional, possibly resulting in a miscarriage of justice. (Doug Husby/CBC - image credit)
Tammy Bouvette of Cranbrook, B.C., was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and sentenced to a year in prison in 2013 in connection with the 2011 death of 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple. Now, a special prosecutor who reviewed the case has found that the Crown withheld documents rejecting a medical examiner's conclusion that the injuries were intentional, possibly resulting in a miscarriage of justice. (Doug Husby/CBC - image credit)

A B.C.'s babysitter's conviction in the 2011 death of a toddler may have been the result of a miscarriage of justice, according to a special prosecutor appointed by the province.

Tammy Bouvette's Charter rights may have been breached by the non-disclosure of documents rejecting a medical examiner's conclusion that the injuries to 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple were intentional, Vancouver defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford has found.

"There is a strong case to be made that Ms. Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant, relevant materials," a news release from the B.C. Prosecution Service states.

"Her conviction may, accordingly, represent a miscarriage of justice."

Sandford has recommended that the case undergo an appeal to determine what happened.

Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder in the toddler's death, but pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in order to avoid an automatic life sentence and was sentenced to a year in prison with credit for time served in 2013.

The charges stem from May 2011, when Bouvette was caring for Iyanna in a Cranbrook home. She found the little girl unresponsive in a bathtub and called 911. Iyanna was airlifted to Calgary for treatment, but she could not be saved.

Iyanna was found face down in a bathtub on May 26, 2011, while being babysat by Bouvette, who was 28 at the time.
Iyanna was found face down in a bathtub on May 26, 2011, while being babysat by Bouvette, who was 28 at the time.

Last year, a retired B.C. Mountie told CBC's The Fifth Estate that investigators originally considered the death a tragic accident. Bouvette told police that she had left the child to attend to a spill in another room.

But medical examiner Dr. Evan Matshes told prosecutors there was "no benign" explanation for some of the injuries on the toddler's body and identified bruising that was "typical of child abuse," according to court documents obtained by CBC.

'Unreasonable' conclusions about injuries

An investigation by The Fifth Estate found that three forensic pathologists were later asked to review the autopsy in response to concerns about some of Matshes's other findings. The panel of medical experts stated in their report that the comments Matshes made to the prosecutor about "intentional injuries" on the body and prior abuse were "unreasonable."

Bouvette's lawyer, Jesse Gelber, has said he never received a copy of that review. By law, prosecutors must provide defence counsel with all relevant documents in a criminal case.

In an interview last year, Bouvette told CBC that the conviction has had a profound effect on her life, and she cannot forgive anyone responsible for withholding potentially exonerating material.

"I am not a baby-killer.… People just look at me differently like I was some type of monster and I'm not," she said.

"I'm a loving person and a loving mom."

Sandford was appointed to review the case in January 2020 in response to CBC's inquiries about the apparent lack of disclosure in the case.

She has now recommended that Bouvette's legal team be provided with all of the evidence uncovered during her investigation.

The prosecution service says that if Bouvette applies to the B.C. Court of Appeal for an extension to file an appeal and the right to file fresh evidence, the Crown will not oppose those applications.