WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
A mother in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., says she has had nightmares every night since her eight-year-old autistic daughter was left at home alone all day with her dead father.
Sheri Stuckenbrock shared custody of her daughter, Tillie, with Jeff Stuckenbrock.
Tillie is non-verbal and attends a communication class at H.M. Robbins Public School.
"She's such an amazing little kid. She's turning nine in October and she is the brightest, happiest, funkiest kid you'll ever meet," Sheri Stuckenbrock told CBC News.
"She's non-verbal, autistic. She's got some words and she sings songs and stuff, but she can't talk to you."
Since junior kindergarten, Sheri said, Tillie has always taken a cab to school. On Friday, she was with her father and was supposed to take the taxi to H.M. Robbins at 8:10 a.m.
According to the child's mother, the cab driver later said Tillie stood at the window and waved at the taxi from inside the home.
"And she [the taxi driver] said she knew something was wrong. It didn't seem right."
But she said taxi drivers have strict protocols when they drive children to school.
"They are not allowed to get out of the taxi," Sheri said.
"They are not allowed to assist with buckling kids in. If you have problems or anything, they are not allowed to touch the children."
The driver called dispatch and told them she was not able to pick up Tillie that morning. Dispatch then alerted the school.
When I was getting her shoes on when I picked her up, she had blood on her legs, blood splatter, and she had blood on her clothes. - Sheri Stuckenbrock
But Sheri said she didn't know about what happened until the end of the day, when she called Tillie's father to ask if he picked up their daughter's prescriptions at the pharmacy.
"And Tillie answered the phone. She never answers his phone," Sheri said.
"I was like, 'Give daddy the phone, baby, give daddy the phone.' And she just kept saying, 'Daddy.'"
At that point, at around 5:20 p.m., Sheri said, she called the police.
She said police discovered Jeff dead in his home.
Sheri said the coroner who attended the scene told her Jeff likely collapsed and died of a heart attack.
"He said it looked like she [Tillie] had either tried to help him or clean him," Sheri said.
"When I was getting her shoes on when I picked her up, she had blood on her legs, blood splatter, and she had blood on her clothes."
CBC Sudbury reached out to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service on Wednesday for comment, and will update the story with any response.
Upset with the school
Sheri said she now has access to Jeff's phone and saw he missed two calls from Tillie's school, at 11:46 a.m. and at 12:43 that afternoon.
"Even calling as late as 11:46 or 12:43 is unacceptable in my eyes," she said.
Tillie had just started at H.M. Robbins, and her mother said both she and her father always got automated calls if there was a problem at school.
But she never received a call.
"I was told that H.M. Robbins is a close-knit community and we don't have the automated system because, 'We prefer the personal touch of a human calling and reaching out,'" Sheri said.
"I said, 'Well, your personal touch sucks.'"
The Algoma District School Board says it's aware of what happened to Tillie but can't comment further. (Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock)
School board's response
In an email to CBC News, the Algoma District School Board said it was aware of the incident with Tillie and looking into the matter.
"In order to maintain student confidentiality and privacy, we are unable to provide further details or to comment further," the email said.
Sheri said that when she called the school board, officials seemed "absolutely shocked" and said they could understand why she was upset.
"Tillie needs a voice and we need to give it to her — make sure that the possibility of this ever happening again gets fixed because we're traumatized and we're horrified."
Sheri said her nightmares started Friday, and Tillie has been acting out in ways she didn't before.
"She's having some outbursts that we haven't seen before," she said.
"For the first time ever, she tried to closed-fist punch me. She's had some long screaming fits."