Tying, choking little boy was drastic 'cry for help'
Severe depression resulted in women's bizarre actions

By Mike McIntyre Winnipeg Free Press
Sat, Dec 16, 2000

A mentally unstable mother who plotted to kill a neighbourhood child, and then changed her mind after choking him and tying him up in a chair, will be allowed to remain free in the community.

Niccola Reynolds, 30, explained her bizarre actions as a desperate cry for help and provincial court Judge Brian Corrin agreed yesterday that jail was not the answer.

She was given a one-year conditional sentence, which will allow her to remain in her home under strict conditions, including mandatory psychiatric care. Reynolds pleaded guilty in August to assault and forcible confinement for the September 1999 incident in Transcona that has left the six-year-old victim emotionally scarred.

The boy was invited over to Reynolds home for some pudding, then told they were going to play a game of "cops and robbers." Reynolds tied her own daughter up loosely, but bound and gagged the little boy in a chair.

She began choking him with her hands, but stopped when he started crying. Although the Crown and defence lawyer Saul Simmonds had recommended a suspended sentence and probation at the time, Corrin reserved his decision until yesterday.

He then took unusual step of overriding a joint agreement between counsel, saying their submission wasn't enough of a punishment.

He said crimes against children must be denounced, and said a conditional sentence to be served in the community was a better fit.

"The victim was an innocent child, and she abused her authority," said Corrin, who also placed her on two years of supervised probation.

"Although she didn't act on her impulse to kill the child, she did engage in dangerous behaviour."

Reynolds was also ordered to continue psychiatric care at the Health Sciences Centre. A medical report and pre-sentence report claim she is not a risk to society, provided she is treated for her mental illness.

At the time of the attack, Reynolds had been battling severe depression and decided to take drastic action to get the attention of her family, court heard. She attempted suicide several weeks earlier, but then began planning to kill a child.

"(The depression) deprived her of her judgment," Corrin said yesterday. She picked the six-year-old neighbour because he had littered on her lawn and she considered him "annoying," said Crown attorney Dale Schille. Before attacking the boy, Reynolds had called the Klinic crisis line asking for help. They sent police, who arrived just as the stay-at-home mother was untying the victim.

He suffered no serious physical injuries, but continues to receive counselling for emotional trauma, the boy's mother said yesterday.

Ricki Klassen was angered by the position of the Crown attorney not to seek a more severe punishment. She felt Reynolds should have been locked up -- either in jail or a mental institution.

"I don't think this was done very fairly. How many other so-called annoying kids will she find out there?" said Klassen, who broke down in tears after the sentencing.

Klassen said the incident should be a valuable lesson to parents. She thought Reynolds was just being a friendly neighbour when she allowed her son to visit her home and play with her daughter.

"If they're not friends of the family or someone you know really well, don't let your kids go. Even if you think you know someone, you really don't," she said.

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