Skip to main content

Trial underway for B.C. caregiver charged with criminal negligence in woman's death

Warning: This article contains disturbing content

A trial is now underway for a B.C. woman charged with criminal negligence in connection with the death of a woman with Down syndrome who was in her care.

Florence Girard’s body was found in a Port Coquitlam home on Oct. 13, 2018. At the time, police said they believed there were signs of malnourishment and starvation.

Astrid Dahl is now on trial, charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. On Tuesday, the court heard an audio recording of a statement she gave to Coquitlam RCMP the day after Girard’s body was found.

In the statement, Dahl told Cpl. Shannon Lopetinsky that she met Girard about 30 years prior, and they developed a “rapport.” Eventually, she said Girard’s sister no longer wanted her to live in a group home and requested Dahl care for Girard at her own home.

Dahl said about two years before Girard’s death, she split up with her long-time partner and she and her son moved with Girard to a house which had stairs. Dahl said Girard needed help to get up and down from her room due to mobility issues.

“In the last little while, for sure, definitely, I knew Flo’s health was declining but you know, there’s always that part of you that doesn’t want to admit it because it’s just another loss that we just didn’t want to have to deal with,” Dahl said in the statement. “We didn’t want to have to lose somebody else.”

Dahl said Girard, who she estimated was almost 5’ in height, weighed about 185 pounds when she left the group home, and ended up losing about 100 pounds.

“She was small,” Dahl said, “And that, pretty much, was like a perfect structure for her…she wasn’t in discomfort.”

Dahl told the officer Girard was “doing OK” up until the last month of her life, when she noticed her appetite began to decline and she was losing weight.

When Lopetinsky asked why Dahl didn’t take her to the doctor, Dahl said she didn’t know.

“I guess I wasn’t panicked,” Dahl responded. “She was still Flo, she was still OK.”

Dahl also told the officer the last time Girard had been to the doctor was prior to their move two years before.

Dahl said on the day before Girard’s body was found, she had tried to feed her mashed potatoes but said she “wasn’t responding” to the food.

“I pretty much knew that was going to be her last night alive. You could see it in her,” Dahl said. “She was trying to drink, you could see she wanted to, and then you could just see that she just gave up.”

Dahl said she placed Girard in bed and then went to bed herself, after taking some NyQuil to get some sleep following a flu she had come down with recently.

Dahl told the officer she went into Girard’s room the next morning around 10 a.m. and she was cold to the touch.

“I opened the door, called her name, went over, touched her on the forehead,” Dahl said. “I went back out. I went to my room and closed the door. I don’t know if I was there for maybe half an hour. I didn’t know what to do…I didn’t know how to react.”

Dahl said she called police around 1 p.m., after getting her phone and researching what to do when someone dies.

Lopetinsky asked Dahl if there was a point in the night when she thought Girard should go to the hospital. She said no.

“I guess in the back of my mind, I thought she’s going to be OK tomorrow,” Dahl said. “I don’t know.”

Dahl told Lopetinsky she received a monthly contract fee to care for Girard, and a government agency was supposed to cover her rent, although Dahl said there was an issue regarding that payment and it hadn’t been coming in.

Dahl also said she had not spoken to Girard’s family about end-of-life plans, and didn’t learn very much about providing that type of care for people with Down syndrome when training in college.

The recorded statement was entered into evidence after a voir dire, or trial within a trial, which was held to determine admissibility.

Girard’s sister was in the courtroom, and previously told CTV News Vancouver her 54-year-old sibling came from a large family, and was sweet and funny.

The final witness of the day to testify was Dahl’s son, who told the court he knew Girard his whole life and considered her a family member, and added he noticed “gradual” weight loss over the last year of her life.

The crown’s case is expected to conclude later this week or early next week. Top Stories

Stay Connected