MANDEL: Mom demands to know ‘where is Victoria’s killer?’

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When Hiliary Ashley last saw her baby Victoria, she was bundled in a puffy winter jacket in her father’s arms as he was screaming obscenities and refusing to hand her over.

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The mom knew better now than to respond in kind. She knew Frank O’Dea would twist anything she said or did to further his family court case to deny her any access to their little girl. “It’s my turn to have her,” is all she had said to his ugly remarks. “Can I have my daughter, please?”

But O’Dea refused. So even though this was supposed to be her first court-sanctioned, unsupervised visit with her daughter since November 2013, the weeping mom had no choice but to drive away.

That was Feb. 26, 2015. “She’s in his arms,” Ashley recalls, “And that was the last time I saw her.”

Two months later, 21-month-old Victoria was dead, starved to death by a vindictive father determined to deny Ashley her only child.

Ashley, 39, sits on a bench overlooking Lake Ontario, gazing out at the water as her dark eyes fill. “Nothing’s going to bring her back, but there has to be some accountability for his actions,” she explains in an exclusive interview. “I just want him found.”

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After years of delays, O’Dea’s conviction this summer for manslaughter and criminal negligence was supposed to begin the grieving mother’s healing. But he’s found a way to torture her yet again.

O’Dea, 49, disappeared shortly after he was convicted in July. His bail hadn’t been revoked because he’d always shown up for court before. But now he was facing years in prison as a child killer.

In a scathing judgment last week, Brampton Superior Court Justice Deena Baltman sentenced him in absentia to 15 years — but they have to catch him first.

Learning he’d absconded didn’t leave her surprised — only frightened. “I want to know where he is because I don’t trust him. I don’t know what else he’s capable of.”

Hiliary Ashley poses for a photo in Toronto on Oct. 5, 2021. Frank O’Dea, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the starvation death of her daughter, Victoria. Ashley and O’Dea had been in a custody battle.
Hiliary Ashley poses for a photo in Toronto on Oct. 5, 2021. Frank O’Dea, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the starvation death of her daughter, Victoria. Ashley and O’Dea had been in a custody battle. Photo by Ernest Doroszuk /Toronto Sun

She looks off into the distance. “It hasn’t helped my nightmares,” she says, her voice trailing off.

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Those night terrors are filled with memories and images of horror, even though she refused to see the autopsy photos of her emaciated toddler. “I didn’t need to. My imagination is bad enough.”

According to the coroner, Victoria had been slowly starved over three to four weeks, her ribs protruded, her eyes were sunken, there were ulcers in her cheeks and she had no internal fat stores. At 21 months, she weighed 7.3 kg — equivalent to her weight at 7 1/2 months of age.

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Yet Ashley was the parent who was continually under a shadow of suspicion.

It began in November 2013 after O’Dea called police and had her charged with assault when one of their fights turned physical. The charge was dropped after she signed a peace bond.

So he then claimed she was a bad mother addicted to alcohol — allegations that CAS always investigated and dismissed.

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Still, O’Dea retained temporary custody as they battled it out in family court. Ashley’s access was slowly expanded from supervised to unsupervised and, after his latest claims about cocaine use were found baseless by CAS, she was going to court on April 21 for overnight visits.

Victoria O'Dea was suffering from severe malnutrition when the nearly two-year-old died in Brampton on April 20, 2015.
Victoria O’Dea was suffering from severe malnutrition when the nearly two-year-old died in Brampton on April 20, 2015. Photo by Handout /GoFundMe

“Oh my God, I could make her breakfast in the morning, there’d be snuggles with Mocha (her dog),” she says, smiling. “I’m counting down every day.”

And then came the phone call in the middle of the night from an unknown number. It was Peel Police. “They said they have something to tell me …”

Ashley and her lawyer Laureen Speers believe the slow-moving family court system has to shoulder some blame in this tragedy. If her access had been enforced, she would have seen that Victoria was being malnourished. The little girl could have been saved.

  1. Victoria O'Dea was suffering from severe malnutrition when the nearly two-year-old died in Brampton on April 20, 2015.

    MANDEL: Brampton father guilty of manslaughter in severe malnutrition of his toddler

  2. Frank O'Dea, 42, was found guilty of manslaughter in the severe malnutrition of his nearly two-year-old daughter Victoria who died in Brampton on April 20, 2015.

    Child killer Frank O’Dea sentenced to 15 years while still on the lam

“I want to blame Frank and the justice system,” Ashley says. “But it isn’t going to help or bring her back.”

All she wants now is for O’Dea to be punished for what he did to his own child. So she has one message.

“Please do the responsible thing now, even though it’s a day late and a dollar short, and turn yourself in.”

mmandel@postmedia.com

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