Mother seeking justice for slain son after murder charge stayed

The mother of an infant is appealing for justice 10 months after charges were stayed against the man accused in the boy’s death.

Brittany Pidgeon is seeking answers from Crown prosecutors and the Edmonton Police Service after she says they botched her son’s case, leading to the stayed charges.

“All I want in this world is to get justice for my son and he deserves that,” she said. “I’m not too sure what’s going to happen from here”

Darren Gagnon was charged in February of 2019 with causing the death of Brittany’s son, six-month old Phoenix Pidgeon.

According to court documents, Gagnon lived in the same house as Phoenix and would babysit him while his mother was at work. On July 5, 2016, Phoenix died in hospital after Gagnon called 911 to report the infant was pale and not breathing.

Gagnon was interviewed that day by police but wasn’t charged with second-degree murder until more than two years later.

Charges were stayed in March of 2021, with a Crown spokesperson saying “there was no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction.”

POLICE POLYGRAPH

A key part of police evidence, gathered during a polygraph test with Gagnon in February of 2018, was ruled inadmissible following a pre-trial hearing in January of 2021.

In a ruling issued Feb. 8, 2021, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Brian Burrows found that while Gagnon made a statement to police implying guilt during the five-hour polygraph interview, it wasn’t clear if he had made the statement voluntarily, making it inadmissible in court.

The interview was conducted by EPS Det. Dan Furman who asked Gagnon what he remembered about that morning.

“Getting up and going out for a smoke. Came back in . . . still crying . . . spun him back around . . . foot was going harder . . . bounce his head off the car seat . . . that’s when I started to stop,” Gagnon said according to court documents.

Burrows took issue with how some of those statements, including the alleged admission of guilt, were prompted by police.

He noted that Furman had adopted a “mentor” role with Gagnon, had instructed him to lie during practice runs of the polygraph and repeatedly telling him that even if he had done something to Phoenix, it was not his fault and the boy’s mother was to blame.

“It is possible that Mr. Gagnon’s response was to invent untrue details in order to please his new-found friend and mentor,” Burrows’ ruling reads, later citing what he ruled the “patronizing, condescending and highly manipulative manner” Furman displayed during the interview.

CHARGES STAYED

With Gagnon’s police statement ruled inadmissible, Crown prosecutors were left without a key piece of evidence, leading to the stay of charges.

“A careful and thorough review of this matter was conducted, including a review of the court decision for possible appeal. However, this review of this case determined the case no longer met the prosecution standards,” a statement from March 2021 reads.

A stay of proceedings means the charges are no longer prosecuted and the issue of guilt is not determined.

Prosecutors have one year from the date of the stay, in this case until March 23 of this year, to bring back charges for further hearings.

Pidgeon says she doesn’t think that’s likely after she met with prosecutors last year, days before the charges were stayed.

“They said no. They’re done,” she said.

“There’s going to be no more court proceedings, there’s going to be nothing … so it’s now time to get it out there and not let him be forgotten.”

EPS has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CTV News.

“This could have been different,” Pidgeon said. “It’s not fair to me, my family or my son.” 

With files from David Ewasuk

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