Stepfather pleads guilty in case of 4-year-old girl who suffered life-altering injuries

Tyler Laberge pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing bodily harm. In March 2018, his four-year-old stepdaughter suffered life-altering injuries while Laberge was taking care of her.  (Submitted - image credit)
Tyler Laberge pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing bodily harm. In March 2018, his four-year-old stepdaughter suffered life-altering injuries while Laberge was taking care of her. (Submitted - image credit)

Warning: This story contains distressing details.

A Calgary man pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing bodily harm in the case of his four-year-old stepdaughter, who suffered life-altering injuries.

Tyler Laberge, 37, was handed a two-year prison term after prosecutor Aleksandra Simić and defence lawyer Yoav Niv presented a joint recommendation to Justice Anne Brown as part of a plea deal.

CBC News has previously identified the child as Hannah in order to comply with a publication ban on her name.

Laberge was originally charged with aggravated assault after his stepdaughter was taken to hospital in March 2018 suffering serious head injuries that required emergency surgery.

In September 2021, following a trial, Laberge was acquitted after Justice Terry Semenuk sided with Laberge, who testified that Hannah fell in the bathtub, over the testimony of two medical experts.

But last November, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled Semenuk's improper analysis of the case caused him to "misapply the law." A new trial on a charge of aggravated assault was ordered.

'A wanton and reckless disregard'

On Monday, Laberge pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, offering no explanation as to how his young stepdaughter was injured.

"The precise sequence series of the inflicted injuries on [Hannah], whether through acts or omissions or combination thereof, cannot be readily ascertained," reads an agreed statement of facts presented as part of Laberge's guilty plea.

"However, Mr. Tyler Laberge admits that, while in his care on March 11, 2018, through a combination of acts and/or omissions, he played a significant contributing factor in the added injuries … and thereby showed a wanton and reckless disregard for the life and safety of [Hannah]."

Laberge — a stay-at-home dad to Hannah and his own daughter — called his girlfriend in the afternoon of March 11, 2018.

911 not called

He told her that her daughter Hannah had drowned in the bathtub.

Laberge never called 911 even though the girl was unconscious.

During the trial, Hannah's mother testified that when she came home, she asked Laberge to get her phone so she could call 911 but he wouldn't allow her to call for an ambulance.

Hannah was still unconscious and unresponsive when she arrived at the hospital.

On top of the head trauma, Hannah had bruising and other injuries to her face, chest, hips, groin, legs, arms and back.

Medical evidence suggests Hannah suffered multiple blows to her body and a severe blunt force head injury.

Laberge had history with child services

She was in critical, life-threatening condition, and for the first two days of her stay in hospital, doctors did not believe she would survive.

Hannah spent more than eight months in hospital and continues to suffer "life-changing impacts and brain damage," according to the agreed statement of facts.

She is able to walk only short distances and often uses a wheelchair.

According to the statement of facts, Laberge had a documented history with child services. In 2017, the year before Hannah's injuries, there were concerns Laberge used excessive force in disciplining his children. The file was closed after child services intervened and established parenting goals with Laberge.

But months later, in January 2018, staff at Hannah's preschool became worried about her safety.

'He should be in jail longer'

One employee regularly checked Hannah for injuries. In early January, she noted Hannah had scrapes on her spine and big bruises on her body.

Laberge told her Hannah had fallen from her bunk bed and said he'd taken her to see her family doctor. But when authorities looked into this months later, they found no evidence of a doctor's visit, according to the agreed statement of facts.

On March 5, when confronted about more visible injuries, Laberge informed preschool staff that Hannah had fallen in the parking lot of the grocery store.

Her near-fatal injuries were inflicted six days later.

Outside of court, Hannah's mother expressed disappointment with the sentence handed to Laberge.

"I believe that he should be in jail longer," said the mother. "I believe he should suffer in the way that everyone else in this entire case has."