Manitoba

Man sentenced to life, no chance of parole for 13 years in 'heinous' murder of 10-month-old in Flin Flon

Charity Fleury cried out between sobs in a Manitoba courtroom last month as she described the "unimaginable horror" of her 10-month-old daughter's murder by a man Fleury trusted to care for the infant.

Robert Alexander Bear had offered to watch infant while mother returned to work after mat leave, court heard

A young woman smiles as she holds a baby wearing a red dress.
Ten-month-old Chase Pearl McCallum-Fleury was found in medical distress at her home in the northern Manitoba city of Flin Flon on Aug. 11, 2020, while her mother, Charity Fleury, was at work. Fleury's then boyfriend was found guilty of second-degree murder in the baby's death. (Submitted by Charity Fleury)

Charity Fleury cried out between sobs in a Manitoba courtroom last month as she described the "unimaginable horror" of her 10-month-old daughter's murder by a man Fleury trusted to care for the infant.

"It will without a doubt haunt me for the rest of my life," Fleury said, reading her victim impact statement at Robert Alexander Bear's sentencing in the northern town of The Pas on Dec. 15.

"I don't know how anyone could be so cruel, to take my daughter's life — someone who claimed to care about her. But one thing is, you were never her father. The obituary cards with your name listed are burned — and after this is over, I will never speak your name again. You're dead to me."

Fleury's daughter, Chase Pearl McCallum-Fleury, was found in medical distress at her home in the northern city of Flin Flon on Aug. 11, 2020. Fleury was at work at the time, having just returned from maternity leave about a week earlier. Court heard paramedics were called but were unable to revive the baby.

Bear, who was Fleury's boyfriend at the time and lived with her and her daughter, had volunteered to watch the baby after Fleury's child-care plans fell through shortly before she returned to work.

A few days before Chase died, she also suffered a broken arm while he was watching her, court heard.

Bear, 28, was arrested at his home in Sandy Bay, Sask., in 2021 and charged with second-degree murder in Chase's death, after a full medical report concluded her deadly injury could not have been accidental, RCMP said at the time.

He was convicted of second-degree murder on July 7, 2023, court records show. While that conviction carries a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years, Court of King's Bench Justice Sheldon Lanchbery raised the minimum time before Bear can apply for parole to 13 years.

No explanation for how, why injury happened

Lanchbery said he convicted Bear after a trial based on circumstantial evidence and the fact that there was no other reasonable explanation for how Chase died, given that Bear was alone with the baby when she suffered severe blunt-force trauma to the head.

But no evidence or explanation ever emerged about exactly how that fatal injury happened — or why.

"What is so unusual about this case is that Mr. Bear appeared to be in a loving relationship with Charity and acted like a person who relished being placed in the role of fatherhood — a role he accepted willingly," Lanchbery said.

"I would describe what happened as a heinous act."

A young woman smiles as she holds a baby in front of her.
Chase died after she suffered severe blunt-force trauma to the head. Last month, Robert Alexander Bear was convicted in the infant's death, after a trial based on circumstantial evidence and the fact that there was no other reasonable explanation for how Chase died, given Bear was alone with her when she suffered the injury. (Submitted by Charity Fleury)

Fleury said she still remembers every detail of the day her daughter died — how "absolutely helpless" she felt watching paramedics work on Chase, how she screamed in horror when they told her there was nothing more they could do, how she slammed her hands on the floor until both palms were bruised. 

But not knowing exactly how her daughter died weighs on her.

"Did she suffer? Did she wonder where her mommy was? She must have been so scared," Fleury said at the sentencing, speaking through sobs before addressing Bear.

She tore into him for comforting her at Chase's funeral — before he was charged in the baby's death — and putting her family through the ordeal of a trial.

"Still to this day, I don't know what happened to my baby. But I see you as the person you are. And no matter what you try and say to defend yourself — no matter what sob story you try and cry — I see you for what you are."

Pain 'I would never wish on anybody'

Two of Chase's grandparents and her great-grandmother also spoke at Bear's sentencing, at times shouting at him and describing through tears the effect the baby's death has had on their family as they mourn the milestones she will now never experience — like learning to walk, going to kindergarten or graduating from high school.

"That day changed all of us," said Fleury's mother, Colette Gunville.

"To lose our granddaughter so young and to see my daughter cry for her baby — as her mother, not be able to console her. I would give my own life to give my daughter her baby back. It's pain that I would never wish on anybody."

Crown attorney Kaley Tschetter said the "tremendous" emotional impact of the baby's death was clear throughout the trial, including when one of the paramedics who attempted to treat Chase broke down crying while testifying.

When given the chance to speak, Bear said he was sorry.

Court heard Bear is a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. He was born to 16-year-old parents and raised by his grandparents, both of whom were forced to attend day schools.

But there were no factors that might have provided context for the killing, like addictions, mental illness, learning disabilities, a troubled childhood or a previous criminal record, court heard. A pre-sentence report deemed him a low risk to reoffend.

A young woman smiles holding a baby.
Crown attorney Kaley Tschetter said the 'tremendous' emotional impact of the baby's death was clear throughout Bear's trial, including when one of the paramedics who attempted to treat Chase broke down crying while testifying. (Submitted by Charity Fleury)

Defence lawyer Garth Bendig said while the killing was "shocking," it appears to be "out of character" for Bear.

"This is an individual who took on the responsibility of a step-parent without prior parenting experience — who, in a very narrow band of time, committed a very tragic act."

'Try to make amends'

In his sentencing, Lanchbery prohibited Bear from possessing weapons for 10 years and issued an order that means he won't be allowed to contact Fleury while incarcerated. 

"If your days since July 7 have not been filled with negative thoughts, I think you heard those negative thoughts loud and clear today from Chase's family," Lanchbery said at the December sentencing hearing.

"The pain is immense. It will be long-standing. If and when you are released, I would hope you would try to make amends for what you did."

Lanchbery also spoke about the trauma that members of both families have gone through, urging Fleury's family to try to find a way forward, and Bear's family to continue to be present in his life and give him the stability he'll need.

A young woman holds a baby and smiles.
In addition to being sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 13 years, Bear was prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years and barred from contacting Fleury while incarcerated. (Submitted by Charity Fleury)

While Fleury said the hate and anger she feels toward Bear is "indescribable," she knows she'll have to start forgiving herself for the death of her daughter.

"My baby knew how much I loved her," she said.

"She wouldn't want me to carry this pain and guilt forever. I have to try to forgive — not for you, but for myself."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at caitlyn.gowriluk@cbc.ca.

now