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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

October 28, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The case of Teagan Batstone may come to a close soon.  Teagan was the little Canadian girl who was killed by her mother, Lisa Batstone, back in December, 2014.  Lisa Batstone was apprehended when she backed her car into a ditch and Teagan’s body was found in its trunk.  The child was eight years old.

Just why it’s taken almost four years to bring Lisa to trial is anyone’s guess.  Mental health professionals said she was fit to stand trial shortly after her arrest, but so far no trial has taken place.  The latest proceeding is a one in which the judge must determine whether Lisa’s statements to various people at the scene and at the hospital later are admissible in her trial for Teagan’s death (Abbotsford News, 10/16/18).

Her statements are damning.
Justice Catherine Murray heard testimony from Peace Arch Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Maskall and PAH social worker Jennifer Culbert, who both had direct interactions with Batstone at the hospital that day.
Both shared statements attributed to Batstone, including disturbing accounts of how Teagan died.
The mother and daughter had been having a “camp out” in their living room the night before, but Batstone was “frequently awakening,” Maskall told the court, reading from his report on his interview with the then-41-year-old.
Batstone told him that Teagan “looked so peaceful sleeping and I just wanted her to be with Jesus,” Maskall said.
“She proceeded to take a plastic bag and hold it over (her daughter’s) face.”
According to Maskall’s report, Batstone said she killed her daughter to “protect” the youngster from her father – who the court heard Batstone had an “acrimonious” relationship with – and because she didn’t want Teagan to “have her (mother’s) brain.”
“Lisa tells me it was then her intention to kill herself and die with her daughter.”…
Culbert said Batstone repeatedly referenced Teagan’s dad, “saying several times, ‘You win, Gabe.’”…
Culbert said there was one statement that has “kind of not ever left my mind – that she had done this to spite Gabe.”
“Gabe” of course is Teagan’s father.  From that statement, it seems clear that Lisa feared losing custody of Teagan to Gabe Batstone and, rather than see that happen, she took her daughter’s life.  If that’s the case, it appears she had good cause for her fear.
Maskall later noted that Batstone had struggled with mental health since her teens. She was involuntarily hospitalized in 2012, and told Maskall she had asked for psychiatric help months before Teagan’s death.
Teagan was born in 2006 and Gabe and Lisa divorced two years later.  Gabe was a businessman, too embroiled in his role as CEO of a startup company to have full custody of his daughter.  But when Lisa was hospitalized in 2012 following a suicide attempt, he gained temporary custody of Teagan.  Given his ex-wife’s mental condition, he asked the court for long-term custody, but was denied.  As soon as Lisa left the hospital, the court ordered Teagan back with her.  Two years later, she was dead.

In this article from 2014, Gabe calls the court’s decision “a heartbreaking, crushing moment.”(CBC, 12/12/14)
"A month after [the suicide attempt] we were forced to return her. Lisa was the primary caregiver as decided in court, and apparently attempting to abandon your child through suicide did not meet the threshold."
And he was far from the only one to note Lisa’s precarious mental condition.  Her pastor, Ellis Andre, thought Lisa was a danger to either herself or others.
However, he said, Batstone's behaviour — which was punctuated by swings from elation to depression— had become more erratic, intense and "out of control" over the past three months.
"There was an increasing desperation taking place, she was seeing a counsellor," Andre said. "I encouraged her to see a psychiatrist because I thought medication may be helpful to her."
He said Batstone had been in contact with him over the weekend from a zip-lining camp she was attending with Teagan and "seemed to be happy."
But, just days later, she sent an "alarming" email that prompted the church to contact police.
"We acted immediately, not knowing that Teagan was already dead at the time," Andre said.
In short, a court kept a little girl in the care of her mother despite knowing that she was suicidal, had a long history of mental illness and that her father was altogether capable of caring for her.  At the time, Gabe fingered the true culprit.
Teagan's father said he's hoping for a deep investigation and substantive change in family law.
"It's not about [me being] better, or judgment," Gabe Batstone said. "There were two home environments that were available to Teagan, and we collectively didn't, unfortunately, choose the safest one. And terribly, it played out in a way that ended her life so many years too soon."
"Something's broken. Something needs to change. …That can't happen to someone else. It just can't.
"It's the worst thing you could ever imagine."
But of course, there’s been no substantive change in Canadian family law since 2014.  Nor has there been a change in judges’ behavior that routinely favors mothers in custody battles.  Sometimes that favoritism ignores realities that scream at us from the pages of psychiatric reports, hearing transcripts and finally the pages of newspapers.  We hear the anguish in Gabe’s voice when he says the intentional killing of a child by her mother “can’t happen again, it just can’t.” 

But it can, and it will.

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