A 29-year-old man turned himself in to police Tuesday and was charged with second-degree murder in the July 2016 death of a six-month-old Edmonton baby.
“He was just a happy-go-lucky kid,” the baby’s mother, Brittany Pidgeon, told Global News. “He was always smiling. He was great. He was my boy.”
Phoenix Wolf Richard Jones-Pidgeon died in hospital on July 7, 2016.
Edmonton police said Phoenix was left with a friend of the family, who was watching him while his mother was at work. Pidgeon said the accused had babysat Phoenix for two months prior with no issues or red flags. He has a child of his own and she trusted him, she said.
“It was a regular day,” Pidgeon said. “We woke up in the morning. I went to work. At about 7:30, I left the house. I was driving out to Cold Lake to go to work. I got to Bonnyville and I texted my babysitter and I said: ‘Don’t give him any milk today because it’s upsetting his stomach,’ and he told me he wasn’t breathing.
“So I called 911 from the side of the highway.
Pidgeon said Phoenix had just been to the doctor the week before and was healthy.
Paramedics arrived at the home and took the baby to the hospital. Pidgeon raced back to Edmonton and met them at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
“Just crying the whole way back. I didn’t want to believe it. I got to the hospital and I wasn’t allowed to see him right away. I had to go in for questioning by the police,” she said.
Pidgeon said the doctor told her there were signs of head trauma.
“They did a surgery on him, thinking he would come back from it, but because of the lack of oxygen for so long, he was clinically proven brain dead,” Pidgeon said.
“They gave him 48 hours to try and … come back, and he didn’t so we had to take him off life support, basically. That’s not easy.”
In a news release Wednesday, police said the infant “succumbed to injuries consistent with head trauma” two days after being rushed to hospital.
Phoenix Wolf Richard Jones-Pidgeon was born on Dec. 12, 2015. He died in hospital on July 7, 2016.
After a lengthy investigation and consultation with the Crown prosecutor’s office, Canada-wide warrants were issued for the arrest of Darren James Gagnon, 29, on Feb. 15, 2019.
Until she received a call from the detective, Pidgeon had few answers about what happened to her son.
“I was thinking maybe it was medical. When I went into labour with him he was transverse breech (sideways)… rather than somebody hurt him. Then, on Valentine’s Day, the detective told me it was second-degree murder,” she said.
“Just numb, waiting on answers. Trying to be strong.”
“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster. We’ve been waiting on answers and, eventually, we’ll have them, and hopefully justice for my boy can be dealt with soon,” Pidgeon said.
On Feb. 21, Gagnon turned himself in to police at the RCMP detachment in Grand Forks, B.C. He was returned to Edmonton, arrested and charged.
Gagnon, whose previous convictions include uttering threats and obstructing a peace officer, is next scheduled to appear in court on March 20.
“I hate him and I hope he pays for what he did,” Pidgeon said.
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