Edmonton mom who drowned her seven-year-old son not criminally responsible


EDMONTON – Florentino Jajoy says he doesn’t have to forgive his wife for drowning their seven-year-old son in a bathtub because her mental illness is the only one to blame.

Jajoy told reporters outside Edmonton’s courthouse Friday that he supports his wife and hopes she gets the help she needs now that she won’t be going to prison.

“I really feel really sad because everything happened,” the Colombian refugee said in broken English.

“I’m going to stay by her side. But my focus right now is my daughter.”

On Friday, a judge found Nerlin Sarmiento not criminally responsible for drowning Omar Jajoy. The 32-year-old woman admitted to the killing but pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, arguing that she had a mental disorder at the time.

Two psychiatrists testified Sarmiento was having a major depressive episode as part of her bipolar disorder when she killed the boy at the family’s apartment earlier this year. They said she had deluded herself into thinking the boy was better off in heaven.

Justice Sterling Sanderman said that while children “don’t anticipate betrayal” from their parents, Sarmiento was indeed sick.

“She didn’t appreciate the act was morally wrong,” he said. “She felt this was a proper thing to do — a righteous decision.”

He ordered Sarmiento be transferred to a psychiatric hospital and have a hearing before the Alberta Review Board within 45 days. The board is to regularly review the woman’s mental health to determine if and when she is well enough to be released back into the community.

A court order preventing Sarmiento from contacting her 10-year-old daughter also remains in place until the board decides it’s no longer needed, said Crown prosecutor Kimberley Goddard.

Court had heard the woman had thoughts of killing both her children and once choked her daughter in a bedroom. She stopped when the girl questioned what she was doing.

Goddard didn’t oppose the defence’s insanity argument but said the medical evidence needed to be tested by a judge. Outside court, she talked about how it was a difficult case for everyone involved.

“The family has been torn apart. There was really nothing that could be done in this case that was going to change that or get that sense of justice. It was just really tragic.”

Medical reports entered into evidence show Sarmiento was admitted to hospital several times in the two years before she drowned her son.

As early as July 2011, she expressed “ideas regarding her safety and the safety of her children” to staff at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

She also told her husband and mother that she was having dark thoughts about hurting her two children. In late 2012, her mother started spending nights at the family’s home to help look after the kids.

But on Feb. 12, after Sarmiento’s husband and mother had left for work, Sarmiento sent her 10-year-old daughter off to school and shoved Omar toward the bathroom. She pushed him into the tub and held his head under water for several minutes.

When he stopped moving, she called 911.

Sarmiento later told police she had thoughts of stabbing and smothering both children and, while at a downtown mall, fantasized about throwing them both over a third-floor railing.

The day before the drowning, she said she had tried to suffocate herself by wrapping a plastic bag over her head. She also tried to hang herself with a rope strung from a bedroom door.

Her husband has previously said that the medical care she received was “wrong” and the health system failed her. Jajoy said Friday that he hopes the Alberta government makes improvements to help the mentally ill.

“I don’t want this situation to happen anymore.”

Dr. Curtis Woods wrote in his report for the court that Sarmiento had a history of resisting oral medication and, at one point, was prescribed monthly drug injections. But she didn’t get the shot a month before the killing and did not take other drugs sent home with her by a doctor.

He testified that Sarmiento had delusional thoughts about being worthless and unable to provide new clothes and shoes for her children. She wanted to save her son from a life of poverty and suffering.

“Killing her son was an altruistic measure to spare him from the anticipated suffering and send him to a better place,” Woods said.

Although she knew killing her son was legally wrong, she truly believed she was doing what was best for him when she killed him, Woods said.

Dr. Vijay Singh also interviewed Sarmiento several times after the drowning and included portions of their conversations in his report to the court.

On one occasion, Sarmiento told the doctor: “I thought I did right because (Omar) did not have to deal with a difficult life.

“I thought he must die. He had no future, nothing good … I thought I was saving the child.”

Singh said he is convinced the woman was motivated to kill her child by overwhelming despair and cannot be held criminally responsible.

“She felt morally obligated to complete the act with the perception that her son would end up in a better world called heaven and live happily ever after.”

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Edmonton mom who drowned her seven-year-old son not criminally responsible

  1. Yes. Of course. Not guilty because they we’re mentally ill. But we are all just a little tired of the same old excuses that let people off on charges of killing their children. Apparently she had knew that murdering her son was against the law. That alone, should be grounds for a guilty verdict, not some doctors assessment of her medical condition. Plus, people with severe metal/medical conditions shouldn’t be left with the care of children. This crap is happening just a little too often. What was the welfare child welfare system doing throughout all this? Looking the other way again? Turning a blind eye to the whole messy affair?

  2. Agree with metropika, this is unacceptable behaviour. We have been told to accept killing of children by depressed mothers and sometimes fathers. We’re told by the courts and by doctors that it’s okay to kill your kids if you’re depressed, but then the victims really don’t have a chance to argue their point of view, do they.

  3. Concerning the headline, could we please stop calling people who kill their children “moms” and “dads”? These are terms of endearment, not at all appropriate in the context.

  4. No. No. No.

    Mental illness is a disease. A sad sad case, but you people need to educate yourselves about what is really going on here. The lack of services to the mentally ill is the real issue.

    • Sorry Gayle but we don’t need to educate ourselves about anything. We’re already only too aware of this tired old excuse. Meanwhile children, who rely on their parents to give them shelter, are still dying at their hands. What a terrible realization it must be for a child to be killed by a parent. The utter horror that must engulf them in their last moments on this earth.
      Although I suffered from a form of clinical depression for a long time I never once thought of taking my children’s lives. Try something else on us for a change. Maybe that will explain it all way.

      • Sigh. Yes, of course. I should have realized that you suffering from depression makes you just as knowledgeable as the psychiatrists who went to medical school and then treated patients for decades.

        I get that people like you prefer to discard knowledge, education and expertise when it doesn’t fit in with your narrow, twisted view of the world, but just because your mind is too small too accept that you may be wrong it doesn’t mean you are right.

        It is indeed a tragic, horrible case and that little boy must have been terrified. That family will bear the scars for the rest of their lives. But she us mentally ill. Some people are. Life is cruel and horrible sometimes.

        • Yes. Of course. And your a forensic psychiatrist. Dr. Vijay Singh offered up one of the weakest arguments for ‘not criminally insane’ as I’ve ever heard from an investigative MD. A total whitewash of the facts. She knew what she was doing. She had tried to harm her children before. While she was opportunistic in her approach to the crime, she was in charge of her faculties.and thought the whole thing through from beginning to end. Not someone who was acting erratically, not in control, or given to hallucinations. Delusional maybe, but still guilty of murder. To forgive these people of the crimes they commit because some defense lawyer claims they were insane, is complete and utter bullshit. Something that needs to be challenged in a court of law. Not something you bandy about on this forum.

          • Of course you would know this, because you have a medical degree in psychiatry, have been a practicing forensic psychiatrist for decades, and have been treating and assessing this woman in the hospital for the past year.

            Or is it that you simply do not want to believe it, so have created your own alternate universe where things magically come true just because you say they are true.

            See, when you base your argument on your imagination, you are not particularly convincing.

          • I was reading psychiatric texts when I was nine years old. I’ve consulted with a number of law enforcement agencies throughout North America on various profiling cases. I helped the RCMP in profiling a serial killer. I developed a new approach to modelling algorithms that are used for extrapolation functions. My mother was a RN. Judging from your infantile comments you’re not even at the grade eight level in your basic understanding of anything. So please don’t go lecturing people about a subject that you have absolutely no background in. Because, regardless of what you think, it shows just how stupid you really are.

          • If that is true you would know you are not capable of diagnosing this woman from a newspaper article.

            Nice try though.

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