A Winnipeg man accused of fatally stabbing his three-year-old daughter to death Wednesday was convicted of assaulting the girl's mother after he forcefully attempted to induce the woman to abort her unborn child in 2017, court records show.
Winnipeg police allege the man kidnapped his daughter, from whom he was estranged, from the Robertson neighbourhood in the North End, after taking her from her mother at knifepoint.
Fifteen minutes later, at Jefferson Avenue and King Edward Street, officers took the man into custody and found the child, identified in court documents as Jemimah Bundalian, inside a car.
Police and paramedics performed emergency first aid and CPR, and took her to the hospital, where she died.
Police have charged 28-year-old Frank Nausigimana with first-degree murder.
At a noon-hour news conference, Const. Jay Murray called the tragedy "unbelievably horrific" and said, "I can't imagine the grief and the pain (the family) are experiencing."
"I want to extend my sympathy to the mother, friends and the community," he said.
Murray said the mother and the child were alone in a vehicle on their way to another location when the kidnapping took place.
Soon after, near Jefferson Avenue and King Edward Street, the suspect flagged down a passing driver and they exchanged words, but Murray would not reveal what was said. The passing motorist called 911, leading officers to a suspect and the vehicle, where the child was still inside.
"All of this unfolded in an incredibly tight time frame," Murray said, noting there wasn’t time to issue an Amber Alert.
"It’s certainly something we would have assessed, had we had the time."
Nausigimana and the victim's mother broke up soon after their daughter was born, he said, and had not been in contact in recent months.
The mother wasn’t seriously physically injured.
"(But) you think of the pain she endured at the time of the incident, the stress and… afterwards as she’s learning to cope with the loss of her daughter," Murray said.
"I’m hesitant to say she wasn’t injured because I think this is going to take a long time for her to recover from… if she ever does."
Murray said police believe the abduction is a "significant" part of the reason a first-degree murder charge was laid but couldn’t expand on the other elements of the crime that led to it.
In 2012, the Free Press wrote about a group of deaf students, including Nausigimana, who were learning how to mime. At the time, the 19-year-old was attending the School for the Deaf, and said he was a refugee from Burundi.
The police news conference featured a deaf interpreter for the benefit of the family, Murray said.
Murray said he spoke to homicide investigators Thursday morning.
"There was a number of investigators that were still at work, and they worked through the night," the police spokesman said.
"I was told that a number of them went home and the first thing they did was they woke up their children and immediately hugged them very tightly."
In 2019, Nausigimana pleaded guilty to assaulting the child's then-pregnant mother two years earlier and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation.
Nausigimana was driving the woman home from the grocery store when he pulled over in the area of Huron Avenue and McPhillips Street where they "had a conversation about what to do about the pregnancy," Crown attorney Matthew Armstrong told court at the time.
"With all due respect to my client, he must have googled "wivestails.com," because that is no way to induce an abortion." – Defence lawyer Amanda Sansregret during the 2019 trial for assaulting the child's then–pregnant mother two years earlier
The conversation turned heated, with Nausigimana trying to convince the woman to have an abortion. When she refused, Nausigimana held the woman down in her seat and tried to convince her to drink from a water bottle he had brought with him "filled (with) a then unknown liquid," Armstrong said.
"When she refused, he tried to forcibly pour it down her mouth," he said.
The woman "inadvertently swallowed" some of the liquid, at which point Nausigimana stopped the assault and the woman ran away.
The woman rushed to Seven Oaks Hospital, where, after "a battery of tests," it was confirmed there was no threat to her pregnancy, Armstrong said.
Nausigimana was arrested three weeks later and admitted he had mixed the ultimately harmless liquid concoction in the belief it would induce an abortion.
"With all due respect to my client, he must have googled "wivestails.com," because that is no way to induce an abortion," defence lawyer Amanda Sansregret told provincial court Judge Tim Killeen.
Sansregret said Nausigimana viewed the woman as a "friend with benefits," not a life partner, and panicked when he learned she was pregnant.
"He didn't feel their relationship was in a place where they should bring a child into the world," she said, adding Nausigimana at the time was applying for Canadian citizenship. "But these charges occurred, so he remains a permanent resident."
"My view is that he made a terrible mistake and committed a harmful and frightening act at a time when he was likely very anxious about the pregnancy and perhaps unable to contemplate exactly the impact on the rest of his life and her life." – Provincial court Judge Tim Killeen
Sansregret had urged Killeen to impose a discharge, a sentence that would have spared Nausigimana — who had no criminal record at the time — from any possible deportation ramifications.
A pre-sentence report prepared for court described Nausigimana as an intelligent, capable man who had overcome several life challenges, including his flight from a home country marked by violence and political instability, losing his hearing after contracting meningitis, and several years in foster care.
Killeen said the "unusual and troubling" nature of Nausigimana's crime ruled out a discharge.
"My view is that he made a terrible mistake and committed a harmful and frightening act at a time when he was likely very anxious about the pregnancy and perhaps unable to contemplate exactly the impact on the rest of his life and her life," Killeen said.
"Unfortunately for the accused, I think an offence like this requires a message of deterrence which would not be met by a discharge, even with his background," he said.
Nausigimana appeared in court by video Thursday on the new charge, and agreed to have no contact with the child's mother and two other people.
"Yes, my contact with all those people is done," he said through a sign-language interpreter.
Nausigimana remains in custody. His next court date is July 16.
“All I can say is I’m totally in shock.”
One woman who knew the mother and daughter said she cried when she learned about the incident and realized it was them.
"All I can say is I’m totally in shock," said the woman, who asked that her name and connection to the family not be printed.
She’d known the mother and daughter for eight months, and described the mother as a "very nice," hardworking person, and the child as "just a regular child."
"She was a young mom. She was trying to go to school, she was trying to make a life for her and her daughter," she said.
She said she had never met Nausigimana in the time she'd known them, and had never heard the mother talk about him. Other family members were very active in the daughter's life, she said.
"She had support from her parents, I know that," she said.
— with files from Malak Abas
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.