A Charlottetown woman who pleaded guilty to two counts of infanticide last month has been charged with infanticide again after city police recovered the skeletal remains of an infant in a shed Friday.
Charlottetown Deputy Chief Brad MacConnell says police received a call shortly after 1 p.m. Friday from a Sherwood resident who had suspicions about a container that was in a small garden shed on Shannon Dawn Rayner’s former residence on Walnut Drive.
The Charlottetown major crime unit attended the property along with a coroner and the remains were found in the shed.
The next day, Rayner, 40, was arrested and charged with one count of infanticide.
Police arrested Rayner at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital but MacConnell would not comment why Rayner was at the hospital at the time. Rayner has been remanded in custody in Unit 9, the mental health unit at the QEH.
Rayner pleaded guilty early last month to two counts of infanticide dating back to 2014 and 2016 after it was determined she was fit to stand trial.
Court documents say the first two babies both died “a short time” after they were born, and their bodies were dumped in a garbage bin. The bodies were found in September at Rayner’s residence.
Sentencing was set for June 5, but the latest infanticide charge may impact the timing of that sentencing.
Rayner is now scheduled to appear in court 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, on the latest charge.
MacConnell says the remains of the infant found Friday are being taken to Halifax for forensic autopsy.
He hopes the autopsy will help determine several facts including the gender of the baby, the cause of death and how long the infant has been dead.
“We have very few details at this point,’’ said MacConnell. “We know that there was considerable decomposition to the body.’’
He says police conducted an extensive search Friday of the property and residence where the infant’s remains were found in a shed.
He adds the investigation is in the very early stages and a lot of details still need to be determined. Rayner has yet to be interviewed by police.
“However, we feel comfortable with the circumstances as we know them to have laid the charge in question and to arrest and take this person (Rayner) in custody,’’ he says.
“A mind can’t process that … how could a person process that? Three of them."
-Walnut Drive resident
Residents of Walnut Drive say police converged Friday on the property where they say Rayner lived for at least a few years but had not been living recently.
One neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, says he counted eight police cars at Rayner’s former residence.
The man said he and his wife were stunned when they first heard Rayner had been charged with two counts of infanticide in July 2018.
“We were shocked,’’ he says. “We were shocked and sort of felt sorry for the predicament she was in. We were wondering if they were still born. You would think maybe one was but not likely two but pretty sure that three wouldn’t be.’’
The third infanticide charge against Rayner has the couple shaking their head in disbelief yet again.
“We’re further shocked … it’s a continuing tale,’’ he says.
The man says Rayner used to strike him as a good mother, regularly walking children he believed to be her son and daughter to school, bringing them lunches, and doing errands like cutting the grass on her mother’s property.
“She seemed to be very caring,’’ he says.
Another resident, who also asked to remain anonymous, says to think someone she had lived next to could possibly take the lives of three of her own babies is unfathomable.
“A mind can’t process that … how could a person process that? Three of them,’’ says the resident.
MacConnell says working on the previous two infanticide cases along with the new one is extremely challenging for police on an emotional level.
“Police work can be difficult at times but situations that involve children are especially difficult for police to deal with,’’ he says. “And when we have multiple incidents of tragedy then it weighs on all of us, for sure, no question.’’