Half-sister offered to care for baby


(News) Friday, 15 February 2008


PAUL STRICKLAND Citizen staff  
The 19-year-old half-sister of the baby who is in prison with her mother says she offered to look after the child so it wouldn't grow up in jail, but authorities never got back to her.

Natasha Cartledge said she told officials on learning about the baby in October that she was willing to care for Jordyn, while Lisa Anne Whitford was serving her sentence for killing her common-law husband so that the baby wouldn't have to grow up behind bars.

"I was concerned about the baby starting out her life in prison," Cartledge said of the now 11-month-old child. "It's a horrible start. I was told by police on Oct. 11 I would be contacted."

However, Cartledge says no one got back to her.

"I didn't really know where to begin," she said after the murder of her father and hearing about a new sibling. "I was never contacted. I never heard from anyone."

"I didn't know the baby would be staying with her (in prison) until I read about it in the paper," Cartledge said.

On Feb. 6, Whitford became the first woman in B.C. allowed to serve her four-year prison sentence for manslaughter with her newborn.

Whitford, 37, who had a baby last March during her time in custody, fired a fatal shotgun blast at her common-law husband Anthony Ryan Cartledge, 49, at their home northeast of Prince George on July 1, 2006. A shotgun blast caused his death after a single slug hit the top of his head and shattered his skull.

Whitford pleaded guilty to manslaughter Oct. 11, 2007.

Mr. Justice Glen Parrett, referring to six parole violations in connection with previous offences for which Whitford was convicted, said she essentially had one more chance to turn her life around by obeying correctional-system rules and conditions and co-operatively participating in prison programs.

Whitford will be allowed to keep Jordyn with her in Fraser Valley Institution for Women under the Correctional Service of Canada's mother-child program. Although the program has been used in the past in other federal correctional institutions in other provinces, Whitford is the first federal prisoner in B.C. to do so. Some women offenders have served time with young children in B.C. provincial correctional facilities.

Cartledge said Whitford needs to focus her time in the federal correctional system on her on problems "rather than on being a mother in a guarded community.

"Right now she has to learn how to be a functioning human being in society," Cartledge said.