Calgary mother found not criminally responsible in 2016 death of disabled daughter

A Calgary mother has been found not criminally responsible in the death of her disabled daughter.

Patricia Couture, 70, was charged with criminal negligence causing death after her 38-year-old daughter Melissa died in their southwest Calgary home in April 2016.

Melissa Couture had cerebral palsy and functioned at the cognitive level of a toddler. She weighed just 51 lbs when she died from choking.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Melissa lived with severe mental and physical disabilities, including hearing loss, visual impairment and stiffness in her extremities.

At the time of her death, she had recently become completely immobile.

Couture was Melissa's primary caregiver and told the court that she didn't realize how much her daughter's health had deteriorated.

She testified in her own defence and cited religious scripture, saying her belief in God protected her daughter.

Long-standing delusional disorder

Physicians who testified in the case said Patricia Couture had a long-standing delusional disorder.

One psychiatrist said that Couture's judgment was impaired and that she believed an external force or energy was making her daughter sick.

Couture was originally charged with failure to provide the necessaries of life, but that charge was later upgraded.

A Calgary judge ruled Couture was not criminally responsible Tuesday because she suffers from a severe mental health disorder.

'Extremely tragic case'

According to Couture's defence lawyer Andre Oullette, the senior will not be spending time behind bars.

"It's an extremely tragic case. We heard from the psychiatrist in this case that my client did everything in her own mind that she could to protect her daughter," he said.

A provincial review panel will now decide whether Couture will need in-patient care in a mental health facility. Oullette said his client belongs at home.

"There was clear evidence that my client does not pose a danger to others and that's the predominant concern under the criminal code," he said.

The panel has 45 days to conduct a hearing and decide the next steps.

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