QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA: A court has heard how a mother played on her phone and dozed off in her house while her two daughters died in a hot car. Kerri-Ann Conley appeared at a sentencing hearing in Brisbane Supreme Court Tuesday morning, February 14, following the tragic deaths that took place on November 23, 2019.
The children -- identified as two-year-old Darcy-Helen and her sister, one-year-old Chloe-Ann -- died inside their mother's car outside their Logan City home, south of Brisbane. The court heard how Conley smoked ice the day before the incident, visited her friend's house with the children, and drove home only to leave the children restrained in the Mazda sedan at 4 am. The mother went into the house to sleep and only retrieved her children at 1.30 pm as temperatures rose above a scorching 140F.
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Crown prosecutor Sarah Dennis told the court, "This is not a case of an unfortunate lapse in memory ... the deaths of these children could have been easily avoided." She said Conley regularly left her children sleeping in the car and several of her friends had taken them out of the vehicle on multiple occasions. The suspect's family members, including the father of one of her children, were present at Brisbane Supreme Court as prosecutors laid out the horrific series of events. Conley was reportedly seen wiping her eyes at times but stared ahead otherwise.
Conley's phone records revealed she was using the device until after 5 am that fateful morning before going to sleep while her children were still inside the car. She woke up only in the afternoon and finally took the children out of the car and into the house. The court learned that Conley subsequently phoned the father of one of the girls, who told her to call the emergency number triple-0 immediately. "She told them she had fallen asleep and had left the children in the car," Dennis said. "She was in a distressed state." The prosecutor highlighted that the children's skin was covered in blisters and peeled off as emergency responders attempted to treat them.
However, Conley reportedly offered a false account to the police of what transpired the night before. "Her attempt to dispose of evidence of her own drug use and the timing of that attempt and the lies she told police to minimize her own culpability indicate while shock may have been a factor, her primal instinct was to protect herself … when her primal instinct as mother and caregiver should have been to protect her children," Dennis said. As mentioned, Conley had left her daughters in the car on multiple occasions in the past. On those occasions, she apparently explained she left them there because they were asleep and were "difficult" to settle once awake.
Dennis, in her submissions to the court, noted how Conley's children were "entirely defenseless" and had no way of freeing themselves from the car or protecting themselves from the scorching heat. "It represents a complete abrogation of her duties as the mother and primary carer of her children," she said. The prosecutor described the mom as a "heavy and frequent" drug user. A medical screening test found traces of the drug ice as well as amphetamines in Conley's blood, before she admitted to smoking a "point-and-a-half" of methylamphetamine the day before the incident.
Conley was originally charged with murder under new Queensland legislation introduced just weeks before the incident, which reportedly includes reckless indifference to human life as a form of murder, according to Daily Mail Australia. However, she pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter when brought into court on Tuesday. Meanwhile, she also pleaded guilty to other charges of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia, the newspaper reported.