A mother dawdled on her phone and fell asleep in her house while her two daughters died in a hot car, a court has been told.
Kerri-Ann Conley faced Brisbane Supreme Court for sentencing on Tuesday morning to learn her fate over the horrific incident that unfolded on November 23, 2019.
Darcey Conley, 2, and her sister Chloe-Ann, 1, died inside their mother’s car outside their home in Logan City, south of Brisbane.
The court heard Conley smoked ice the day before, visited her friend’s house with the children, then drove home and left them restrained in the Mazda sedan at 4am.
She went into the house to sleep and retrieved her children at 1.30pm as temperatures rose above a scorching 60C, the court heard.
‘This is not a case of an unfortunate lapse in memory … the deaths of these children could have been easily avoided,’ crown prosecutor Sarah Dennis said.
The court heard she had regularly left the children sleeping in the car with several of her friends having to take them out of the vehicle on separate occasions.
Kerri-Ann Conley (pictured) Conley had her charges downgraded from murder after entering guilty pleas to manslaughter at Brisbane Supreme Court
Kerri-Ann Conley’s daughters Darcey-Helen Conley (left) and Chloe-Ann were found dead in Conley’s car, parked outside her Waterford West home in November 2019. Conley on Tuesday pleaded to the manslaughter of the girls
Family members, including the father of one of the children, sat in the back of Brisbane Supreme Court as the horrific series of events was laid bare.
Conley at times wiped her eyes but otherwise stared ahead.
The court was told Conley took her children Darcy-Helen, 2, and Chloe-Ann, 1, to a friend’s house the day before at 11.30pm.
She put them to sleep and spent time socialising at the house before leaving the next morning at 4.10am.
Ms Dennis said Conley left the children secured inside the car with the doors locked and the vehicle parked under no shade, after she returned home.
Temperatures in the car reached up to 61.5C throughout the day, the court was told.
Phone records revealed Conley was using her mobile phone until after 5am in the morning before going to sleep, her children still inside the car.
She woke later in the afternoon, finally taking the children out of the car and into the house.
Crown prosecutor Sarah Dennis said Conley left the children secured inside the car with the doors locked and the vehicle parked under no shade, after she returned home
Chloe-Ann Conley (pictured) and Darcy-Helen died after being left in Conley’s car for hours in November 2019, with paramedics saying their skin peeled off as they tried to treat the dying children
The court was told Conley then phoned the father of one of the girls, who advised her to call triple-0.
‘She told them she had fallen asleep and had left the children in the car,’ Ms Dennis said
‘She was in a distressed state.’
The children’s skin was covered in blisters and was hot to touch, and peeled off as paramedics attempted to treat them, Ms Dennis said.
She said Conley gave a false account of what happened the night before to police.
‘Her attempt to dispose of evidence of her own drug use and the timing of that attempt and the lies she told police to minimise 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,’ the prosecutor said.
The court was told Conley had left her daughters in the car on previous occasions, with neighbours witnessing the incidents.
Ms Dennis said Conley on those occasions explained she left them there because they were sleeping and were ‘difficult’ to settle once awakened.
In her submissions, Ms Dennis said Conley’s children were ‘entirely defenceless’ and had no way of freeing themselves from the car or protecting themselves from the elements.
The children’s skin was covered in blisters and was hot to touch, and peeled off as paramedics attempted to treat them, Ms Dennis said
The girls were left in the station wagon as she went inside and fell asleep, police alleged
‘It represents a complete abrogation of her duties as the mother and primary carer of her children,’ she said.
Conley was described as a ‘heavy and frequent’ drug user by Ms Dennis.
Traces of the drug ice as well as amphetamines were found in her blood and she admitted to smoking a ‘point-and-a-half’ of methylamphetamine the day before the incident.
Conley was initially charged with murder under new Queensland legislation introduced just a few weeks before the incident, which includes reckless indifference to human life as a form of murder.
But she entered pleas of guilty to two counts of manslaughter when brought into court on Tuesday.
She also pleaded guilty to other charges of possessing drugs and drug utensils.
Asked if she wished to say anything during her arraignment, Conoley quietly replied: ‘No, Your Honour’.