The family of a North Vancouver toddler who police allege died as a result of poisoning from snake venom say they are shocked a man charged in connection with her death has been allowed out on bail.
“It’s kind of a slap in the face,” said Phyllis Starblanket, grandmother of Aleka Gonzales, outside North Vancouver provincial court following the decision by Judge Patricia Bond Friday afternoon.
Aleka was only two when she died almost five years ago, in May 2014, in circumstances police have described as tragic and unusual.
“She would have been seven this month,” said Starblanket.
Vanessa Gonzales, Aleka’s mother, said she was also shocked.
“I’m angry,” she said outside the court on Friday. “He shouldn’t have been released.”
Henry James Thomas, 51, of Seabird Island, Agassiz, was arrested in January at his home and faces a charge of “failing to provide the necessaries of life” to the toddler under the criminal code.
Police allege the girl died as a result of poisoning with snake venom while in Thomas’s care.
According to RCMP, Thomas was charged after a lengthy and in-depth police investigation, involving assistance from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
In July 2015, police raided Thomas’s Agassiz home under a search warrant, where “snakes and related equipment were seized.”
Police said further biological DNA testing was conducted in 2016 and 2017, confirming that the girl had died of poisoning by snake venom.
Thomas was released Monday, following a bail hearing in North Vancouver provincial court.
A court-ordered ban prohibits publication of any evidence from the bail hearing and the reasons for the judge’s decision.
Conditions of Thomas’s bail include not possessing any “controlled alien species” as identified in the Wildlife Act of B.C., not being in the presence of any child without a parent or guardian accompanying that child at all times, not having any children at his residence except his own grandchildren in the presence of their guardians, not going to any school, daycare, swimming pool, park, playground or recreation centre, continuing to live at his current address on Seabird Island, obeying a curfew, surrendering his passport to the RCMP, and complying with an electronic monitoring system.
Thomas has not yet entered a plea to the charge.
Outside the court, Thomas’s defence lawyer Darrel Schultz said he has only just begun to receive thousands of pages of documents from Crown prosecutors that disclose details of the case. Schultz added he expects it will be six to eight weeks before he will be in a position to know how Thomas intends to deal with the charge. “Those are decisions yet to be made,” he said. “There is much to review first. This case has unique aspects to it.”
Thomas is due back in court next month.