Alberta Children's Services not to blame in father's murder of two sons: judge

EDMONTON — An inquiry judge makes no recommendations in a report that says Alberta Children's Services cannot be blamed in the deaths of two young boys.

Judge Raymond Bodnarek says Jason Cardinal was solely responsible for the murder of his sons Caleb and Gabriel in December 2010.

Caleb, who was six, and three-year-old Gabriel were drugged and strangled during a court-authorized visit with their father in Edmonton.

Cardinal pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence with no parole for 25 years.

Bodnarek notes that Cardinal admitted he plotted the murders even before there was a court hearing to determine who should get custody of the boys.

The hearing wasn't finished and had been adjourned for several months, so the boys remained living with their mother, Andrea Badger.

“After carefully considering all of the evidence, I find that their deaths were not caused by flaws in the system,” Bodnarek said in the public inquiry report released Thursday.

“I find that [Children’s Services] made reasonable professional judgment calls throughout their involvement with Caleb and Gabriel. These judgment calls were made with ... information including opinions from mental-health professionals."

The judge's report focuses on a one-year legal battle that started in January 2010 between Cardinal and Badger. The mother had become concerned that the two boys and her older daughter from a previous relationship were in danger due to Cardinal’s mental health.

Children's Services had first became involved with Caleb and Gabriel in May 2009. The children were placed in Badger’s care the following March and Cardinal was granted access with supervision.

By the end of that summer, Cardinal was allowed to spend time with his sons on unsupervised weekend visits subject to random checks by a family reunification worker.

Bodnarek said Cardinal’s behaviour began to worsen in the fall. He was caught obtaining prescription drugs fraudulently, was banned from a doctor’s office for seeking drugs and charged with shoplifting.

The judge outlined Cardinal's mental-health issues and his dealings with two psychologists.

Dr. Ann Marie Dewhurst completed a parenting assessment of Cardinal in July 2013 which concluded that he did not "appear to be generally violent" and was "unlikely to engage in random acts of violence."

She said his risk for future violence was moderately low if he stayed on his medication and continued to improve on keeping his emotions in check.

Dewhurst said at the Dec. 6 custody hearing — about two weeks before the boys were killed — that she could not recommend they be returned to Cardinal, but did not advise a change to Cardinal’s unsupervised access.

Another psychologist met with Cardinal and his two sons the day before he killed them. Dr. Janis Martin said there were no warning signs.

A family worker who drove Cardinal and the boys to Martin’s office also noted nothing inappropriate. 

Cardinal’s mother, Germaine Cardinal, testified at that inquiry that she spoke with her son the day he killed the boys and they made Christmas plans.

“Mr. Cardinal’s failure was profound, disturbing and incomprehensible," Bodnarek concluded. "Mr. Cardinal devised and followed through on his plan to kill his boys. He told no one and fooled everyone.”

(CTV Edmonton)

The Canadian Press

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