Members of an indigenous community in central Alberta are angry that strangers are using social media to attack the mother of a toddler who was found dead near a church last month.
The body of 19-month-old Anthony Raine was discovered on April 21 outside the Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Edmonton. Police have said the boy had bruises all over his body and died from a severe blow to his head.
His father, Joey Crier, 26, and Crier’s girlfriend, Tasha Mack, 25, face charges of second-degree murder, criminal negligence causing death, failing to provide the necessities of life and assault.
Some people on Facebook discussion groups have blamed the boy’s biological mother, Dalyce Raine, and her family for his death.
“His mother had no clue or concern as to how her baby was living,” reads one post. “A child who had no voice was murdered because not one person in his family reported what they knew.”
Another post suggests the toddler probably had fetal alcohol syndrome and should have been put up for adoption.
Yet another accuses the family of misusing money raised in a GoFundMe campaign for the child’s funeral.
“They are sick people taking advantage of people’s generosity,” reads the post. “I see a trip to Vegas in their future.”
Luci Johnson, a community worker with the Samson Cree First Nation, said the messages are full of hate and are putting pressure on a family that is still mourning Anthony’s death, she said.
“They are blaming the mother, saying it is her fault,” Johnson said.
“It is ugly. She just lost her little guy. All these people across the world judging her. They never even gave her time to grieve.”
Johnson said she would like to file a hate crime complaint with RCMP, but there is little the Mounties can do because it’s difficult to confirm who posts messages on Facebook.
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A friend of the boy’s family said Raine has also been harassed by strangers in nearby towns who recognize her as Anthony’s mother from pictures posted on social media.
The friend said Raine is afraid to take trips from her home in the Maskwacis area to buy groceries.
“They are blaming her for the death of her son,” said the woman, who declined to be named for fear she, too, would be attacked on social media.
“She didn’t have anything to do with it. She can’t go to town. She can’t even go without people saying things to her.”
Friends of the boy’s mother were in court Monday when the accused couple made a brief appearance on closed-circuit TV.
Crier is to appear in court again on June 5, while Mack’s case has been put over to May 29.