The brokenhearted father of two innocent girls, who were cruelly taken from him after their mother left them in a sweltering vehicle for hours, believes that the woman should have been convicted and incarcerated for murder instead of receiving only nine years on an involuntary manslaughter charge. He is adamant that nothing less than thirty years behind bars would be justice served, considering what his family has endured.
Last week, 30-year-old Kerri-Ann Conley admitted her guilt in the death of her two daughters: Darcey-Helen, aged two and a half years old, and Chloe-Ann at 18 months.
Judge Applegarth delivered a nine-year prison sentence to Conley for her “gross criminal neglect,” citing the fact that she had abandoned the two toddlers in an automobile for nine hours on a day when temperatures skyrocketed past 60C.
At the outset, Conley had been accused of murder but this was amended with Peter Jackson (father to Darcey-Helen) being informed that demonstrating culpability for murder would be too demanding.
According to Queensland law, if Conley had been found guilty of the double homicide she would have faced an obligatory term of 30 years with no possibility for parole.
Mr. Jackson expressed confusion and dismay over the fact that Conley had been able to plead guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.
‘I still think it should be murder. She should have got the 30 years,’ Mr. Jackson told ABC.
‘I don’t think it’s fair. These were defenseless children.’
Conley is due for parole in November of 2021, having already served a three-year sentence.
Just a few weeks prior to the event, legislation had been passed defining murder as an act of reckless indifference towards human life – which is what she was originally charged with.
When arraigned last Tuesday, she was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charges and her possession of hazardous drugs and utensils.
Before the case could reach a jury, the charges were lowered to manslaughter, with the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) conceding that it would be ‘too hard’ to prove Mr. Jackson’s culpability for murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court heard of an array of cases where Conley had neglected her duties, and that she consciously opted to abandon the two girls in the car after coming back to Waterford West, located in southern Brisbane at 4 am on November 23rd, 2019.
‘I do believe the charges should have stuck,’ Mr. Jackson told ABC.
Last week, Mr. Jackson donned sunglasses as he entered the courtroom for Conley’s sentencing and took a seat in the back amongst other family members present.
The court heard that Conley had maliciously left her two daughters in the car, rather than taking them out. After entering her house, she used her phone for some time and eventually drifted off to sleep.
Darcy-Helen and Chloe-Ann were left in the car on a scorching day, with temperatures eventually reaching 61.5°C – for hours.
The court heard that the girls’ skin was scorching to the touch, ravaged with burns and blisters which peeled off as paramedics attempted to resuscitate them.
The court heard Conley admit to a secret police officer that she ingested the drug ice on a daily basis while in custody.
However, she continued to emphasize that her children were always the priority and that her drug use had no bearing on their connection.
‘It’s an astounding statement only a drug addict could make,’ Justice Applegarth stated.
He expressed his anguish, stating that the idea of those little ones being awake and helplessly restrained in a sweltering car while they slowly passed away was “too much to bear.”
‘Your grossly negligent conduct was deciding to leave your vulnerable children uncared for, unheard and unobserved in the dark,’ he stated.
The court heard multiple testimonies of Conley’s neglectful practice of leaving his children in a scorching vehicle.
Justice Applegarth noted Conley’s explanation for why the kids were previously left in the car was that it was “difficult” to settle them once they had been woken up.
He inquired why she was returning home in the wee hours of the morning with two young babies.
“You should have realized the inherent risks of leaving (the children) in the car while you went inside and slept,” Mr. Applegarth stated.
After ushering the girls into their home, Conley was caught on his home surveillance system disposing of a plastic bag that police thought to contain drug traces.
During a police search of her house, officers discovered a minuscule amount of marijuana and an accompanying glass pipe.
It was noted in court that Conley deeply regretted her actions and had suffered neglect throughout her childhood.
Justice Applegarth refuted the notion that her drug use was merely a coping mechanism, pointing out flaws in this defense.
“It simply helps explain your criminal conduct, it is not a mitigating factor,” he stated.
“No child should have a parent who uses methamphetamine.”
Justice Applegarth emphasized that Conley’s case involved criminal negligence, and acknowledged she had no intention of hurting her daughters.
Autopsies indicated that the girls perished as a result of hyperthermia, which is an abnormal rise in body temperature above 40C (different from hypothermia since it occurs due to extreme cold). Yet, medical experts were unable to accurately pinpoint exactly when the death occurred.