A Queensland mum who ‘inexcusably’ left her girls to die in a hot car has been slammed for her ‘grossly negligent’ conduct, with a judge attacking her statements about her drug use when she was arrested.
Kerri-Ann Conley pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her daughters Darcey-Helen, 2.5, and Chloe-Ann, 1, earlier this week.
On Thursday, in front of family members of the two girls, Supreme Court Justice Peter Applegarth sentenced Conley to nine years, with eligibility for parole in November 2024.
Peter Jackson, Darcy-Helen’s father, was seen sitting in the back of the court with other family members.
Mr Applegarth detailed the statement Conley made to a covert police officer upon her arrest about her drug use.
The court was told Conley disclosed she smoked the drug ice daily to a covert police officer while in custody.
But she insisted her kids ‘always came first’ and her drug use did not affect her relationship with the girls.
‘It’s an astounding statement only a drug addict could make,’ Mr Applegarth said.
On Tuesday, the court was told Conley, 30, left the two girls in her car after arriving at her Waterford West home from a friend’s house after 4am on November 23, 2019.
Kerri-Ann Conley was sentenced to nine years in jail over the manslaughter of her daughters
Kerri-Ann Conley’s daughters Darcy-Helen Conley (left) and Chloe-Ann were found dead in Conley’s car, parked outside her Waterford West home in November 2019. Picture: Supplied / Channel 9
Instead of removing her daughters from their seats, she went inside, dawdled on her phone for a few hours and fell asleep.
Darcy-Helen and Chloe-Ann were left in the vehicle for hours as temperatures climbed to 61.5 degrees.
The girls’ skin was broken, covered in burns and blisters and was ‘peeling off’ as paramedics tried to revive them, the court was told.
‘Your grossly negligent conduct was deciding to leave your vulnerable children uncared for, unheard and unobserved in the dark,’ Mr Applegarth said.
He said the thought of the distressed children being awake and strapped in the hot car as they died was ‘too much to bear’.
The court was told there were prior incidents where Conley’s children were left in the hot car.
Mr Applegarth said Conley’s excuse for previous occasions where the children were left alone in the car was that she did not want to wake them as they were ‘difficult’ to settle.
He said this begged the question as to why she was coming home in the early hours of the morning with two young infants.
‘You should have realised the inherent risks of leaving (the children) in the car while you went inside and slept,’ Mr Applegarth said.
After taking the girls inside from the car, Conley was captured on home surveillance cameras throwing away a plastic bag that police believed contained drug residue.
A small amount of marijuana and a glass pipe were found by police during the search of her house.
The court was told Conley was genuinely remorseful for her conduct and she had experienced neglect growing up as a child.
Peter Jackson, Darcy-Helen’s father, watched Conley’s sentencing from the back of the Supreme Court Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Her drug use was described as a coping mechanism but this was also torn apart by Mr Applegarth.
‘It simply helps explain your criminal conduct, it is not a mitigating factor,’ he said.
‘No child should have a parent who uses methylamphetamine.’
Mr Applegarth stressed Conley’s case involved criminal negligence and accepted she did not genuinely wish to harm either of her daughters.
Autopsies confirmed the girls died of hyperthermia, but a time of death could not be properly established.
Conley was initially charged with murder under legislation introduced just a few weeks before the incident that includes reckless indifference to human life as a form of murder.
But she pleaded guilty to the downgraded charges when arraigned on Tuesday.