Baby Gionni Lee Garlow at centre of Ontario jail-birth scandal dies

Steve Mertl
October 14, 2013
Baby Gionni Lee Garlow at centre of Ontario jail-birth scandal dies

The short life of a baby boy born in an Ottawa jail has ended.

Little Gionni Lee Garlow, born one month prematurely under horrific circumstances while his mother, Julie Bilotta, was in custody last year, died Sunday morning of apparent respiratory problems, his mother's lawyer told CBC News.

"He had had respiratory problems since he was born and that apparently was the cause of his passing ... yesterday in hospital," Lawrence Greenspon said. "Julie was completely devastated when I spoke with her yesterday."

Baby Gionni was born at the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Detention Centre on Sept. 29, 2012, while his mother, who now goes by Julie Dakota Garlow, was awaiting trial on fraud and drug charges. She was eight months pregnant and went into premature labour.

According to news reports, a nurse at the jail told her she was experiencing phantom labour and that the screaming mum-to-be was making too much noise. She was reportedly taunted by staff who said that if she couldn't stand the pain, she should not have gotten pregnant.

[ Related: Correctional officers dismissed, suspended at Ottawa jail slammed by ombudsman ]

Her situation was only taken seriously when the baby's feet appeared, indicating a potentially dangerous breech birth.

An investigation resulted in the firing and dismissal of several officers and health-care staff.

CBC News said police in Cornwall, Ont., went to a home at around 5 a.m. to find the 13-month-old child showing no vital signs. The baby was pronounced dead in hospital.

The mother was too upset to talk to reporters, Kim Hurtubise, the baby's grandmother, told CBC News. Garlow took to her Facebook page to express her grief.

"How could this happen to us. Life will never be the same!" she wrote. "We love you Gionni. Mommy will be with you soon."

Responding to a friend's query, Garlow added that Gionni stopped breathing in his sleep.

"He's gone Ashlee. I don't know what to do. I just know I'm going to be with him soon."

Garlow posted on Oct. 6 that Gionni had been taken to hospital.

"My poor baby was sick all night. I'm just happy we were out of hospital!"

Just the day before that, she posted a photo of a smiling Gionni posing with his new stroller.

[ Related: Ottawa jail complaints 3rd highest in Ontario ]

CBC News said an autopsy was to be performed this week.

The Ottawa-Carleton jail became notorious after Ontario Ombudsman released a report last June about incidents of inmate abuse and subsequent coverups within the province's corrections system.

In one case, a guard at the jail was fired for stomping on a brain-damaged prisoner in 2010. His colleagues at first covered up the attack, but later recanted their lies when investigators found contradictory evidence.

The centre “exemplifies everything that is wrong in a correctional institution,“ said ombudsman André Marin. “It was certainly where we found the worst example of cover up and the excessive use of force.”

Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, the government has announced a long-await inquiry into the 2010 death of a 19-year-old man in Saskatoon's detention centre, the The Canadian Press reported.

Brandon Daniels, a member of the Mistawasis First Nation, was found dead in his cell July 3, 2010, from causes that have not been disclosed yet. Police said Daniels, who'd gone into the city to shop and become separated from his family, was arrested because he appeared drunk, CP reported.

His mother, Sherry Bird, said he was taking prescribed medication for a suspected mental illness and had taken a large dose of the painkiller acetaminophen. A toxicology report found no alcohol or other drugs in his system, she said.

Bird said when her son died, she was told there would be an inquiry into his death within a year. Saskatchewan Justice Ministry spokesman Noel Busse blamed three-year lag on delays in the RCMP review of the death.

An inquest now has been scheduled for Oct. 28.