Woman accused of hiding dead babies lived in shelter

Police trying to trace all residences of Jennifer Sinn

Anna Mehler Paperny

From Saturday's Globe and Mail,

A woman accused of keeping the decomposing remains of her infant children into a storage box was living in a shelter for abused women and children when she was arrested.

The Clarke Road shelter that 32-year-old Jennifer Sinn listed as her address in London, Ont., is part of Women's Community House, Canada's largest high-security emergency shelter for abuse victims.

Women's Community House executive director Kate Wigger couldn't say when Ms. Sinn moved there, or confirm that she was a resident of the shelter, which serves women seeking haven from numerous forms of violence, but predominantly partner abuse.

The discovery last Saturday of a box containing the bodies of three babies shocked the residential southwest London community, which as late as Thursday was crawling with police cruisers as officers spent the night combing through house where the box was found for further evidence.

An autopsy on the remains began on Thursday at Toronto's forensic pathology unit. The bodies are so severely decomposed that Ontario's deputy coroner Bonita Porter said it's uncertain what information investigators will be able to glean from them. It could be weeks the forensic tests yield results.

In the meantime, London police are working with the Peel police and Ontario Provincial Police are trying to trace Ms. Sinn through the places in Ontario they think she called home.

They know that at one point she lived in Brampton, where, according to a 1996 Toronto Star article, Peel police helped a 19-year-old Jennifer Sinn give birth to her second child in her father Erwin's house.

Police said they'll have an update on the investigation on Monday.

Ms. Sinn faces three counts each of concealing the body of a child and offering an indignity to a dead body. She appeared briefly in court on Tuesday and has been remanded to custody until her next hearing on June 19. Police aren't seeking a psychological assessment.

Police allege that the 32-year-old concealed the remains of the babies in 2001, 2002 and 2006 in the London house where she lived until very recently.

Next-door neighbour Anne Alleston said Ms. Sinn lived for several months in the rented duplex with the man who found the remains on Saturday, along with three children – two boys and a girl. Ms. Alleston said she moved out with an 18-month-old girl in May.

Simon Fraser University criminologist Robert Gordon said there is precedent for cases like this, often in instances of post-partum depression. But serial charges like this, apparently over the course of several years, are extremely rare, and suggest the actions of someone without access to support services.

“Mothers are not always solely experiencing psychiatric conditions post-partum, and sometimes they will dispose of their infants because of a variety of social pressures, poverty ... sheer despair.”