News / Kitchener

Prosecution wants 10-year sentence for stepfather in spanking death

KITCHENER — The prosecution questioned the sincerity Wednesday of a burly Cambridge man’s remorse for killing his four-year-old stepdaughter during a spanking because she wouldn’t go to bed.

Robert Boettger, 30, hit the frightened girl so hard that he left a hand-shaped bruise on her buttocks and sent her flying headfirst into the wooden steps of her bunk bed.

The impact knocked Rayna Gagne backward and she hit her head on the floor, going unconscious from a brain injury before choking on her vomit while lying on her back.

She was about three feet, six inches tall. Boettger was six-foot-two and almost 250 pounds.

Defence lawyer Tom Brock argued during a sentencing hearing that Boettger demonstrated how sorry he is for the “unintentional death” by pleading guilty to manslaughter.

“He understands there is no excuse for what he did,” he said. “Simply put, what he did was wrong.”

Brock asked for an eight-year sentence, minus enhanced credit for 22 months Boettger has already been in custody since his arrest in February 2011.

But prosecutor Mary Ellen Cullen noted Boettger lied twice about the spanking to “deflect” blame, first in a 911 call from the family’s Queen Street West townhouse and then in an initial interview with police.

In the police interview, for instance, Boettger said he had no idea what happened to Rayna, claiming he found her unconscious after hearing a loud bump in her bedroom.

Cullen also stressed Boettger’s history of domestic violence and the fact the girl’s pyjamas were pulled down so it would hurt more when he spanked her.

“This was no accident,” she said, arguing for the equivalent of a 10-year prison term.

Boettger had lived for about two years with Jennifer Taylor, who had two daughters from a previous relationship. The couple also had a young son together.

He looked after the three children while Taylor worked an afternoon shift at a local factory.

Court was told Boettger got angry because Rayna was still up after he had sent the two girls to bed for the night.

In the lead-up to the deadly spanking, he punched a wall and slapped her so hard in the face that it left another hand-shaped bruise. The girl also urinated in her pyjamas.

Cullen said her soiled clothes showed the fear Rayna was experiencing as the violence at the hands of her stepfather continued.

She also argued Boettger — then on probation for a domestic dispute — “knew the damage he could do” when he hit the girl so forcefully.

Brock said there should be extra credit for the dead time Boettger has already served. Cullen argued against it.

With that issue included, the two sides were almost three years apart in the amount of additional prison time Boettger should now receive.

Boettger is expected to make a statement before Justice Patrick Flynn decides his sentence in Superior Court in Kitchener later this month.

More on