The young mother’s face brightens as she recalls the tiny son to whom she used to read goodnight stories.
“He was the best of all of us; he always did what he was asked,” she said “He was full of life and had the biggest heart, the brightest smile.”
But it didn’t take long for two-year-old Mathias “Ty” Wint’s flame to be snuffed out.
He was killed after being struck by his father, Mario Wint, the man Simcoe Children’s Aid Society workers — the agency meant to protect our province’s most vulnerable children — deemed best to care for him.
“(Ty) was not cut out for this world,” she adds, her eyes now cast downward. “He was too good for this world.”
It was on Jan. 22, 2015 when Ty was struck in the stomach so many times with such force that his liver and pancreas were split in two, resulting in his death.
Ty’s mother, Melissa, (not her real name), along with many in the community have been left deeply disturbed by the details of Ty’s story.
How Ty ended up in the care of Mario, who has a lengthy criminal history, is a question Melissa can’t answer, noting social workers delivered Ty to Mario’s house 41 days before the toddler’s death.
Given the private nature of the case, the agency, now named Simcoe Family Connexions, would not comment directly on its role in the affair.
Melissa’s story begins in Simcoe County, where she, herself, was in the care of the CAS from an early age.
She met Mario, who was born in Jamaica and grew up in Newmarket, about a decade ago in a Barrie nightclub.
Mario, now 30, was quiet, sweet, soft-spoken and a talented spoken-word musician.
“We became very close, very quickly,” she said. “We began dating and moved in together. That’s when the abuse started. You name it, he did it.”
The physical and psychological abuse and controlling behaviour, would carry on for many years.
“It was a nightmare… It became so bad I had to leave,” she said.
It didn’t take Melissa — by then in her early 20s— long before she discovered she was pregnant and Mario was nowhere to be found.
After eight months, he showed back up and said he wanted to be a dad.
This was the couple’s first child, a six-year-old whose identity is protected by the courts.
“The abuse started again almost immediately,” she said. “A week later, he threatened to leave with my baby. Three months later, he forcibly confined me.”
On Dec. 31, 2008, Wint kneed Melissa in the stomach and, about one month later, he kneed her in the rib-cage.
Melissa called the police and Mario was charged. He pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm.
The next few years involved Mario leaving and then re-entering Melissa’s life, repeatedly promising things would be different.
“I loved him. I saw goodness, through all his bull****,” she added. “So I fought for what I believed in.”
Despite Mario’s promises, the abuse continued, often targeting Melissa’s stomach.
Often, his physical abuse was followed by threatening and harassing messages to her phone, leading to a criminal harassment conviction.
After having a second child, Ty, the abuse reached new heights.
One night, in 2010, after showing up at Melissa’s apartment, Mario grew enraged.
When she asked him to leave, he agreed, on one condition — he would be taking the couple’s son with him.
Melissa refused and picked up Ty.
Mario came at her with a knife, threatening, “I’m going to cut you”.
“He said if I put him in jail again, he would do whatever he could to ensure I didn’t have my kids,” Melissa said.
She called police, who in turn notified CAS.
Mario was arrested again and convicted of assault with a weapon and handed a six-month prison sentence.
In all, he has 12 convictions, five of which involve domestic abuse.
Soon after his incarceration at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Mario called CAS to complain about Melissa, she said.
“He made the most unthinkable, outlandish allegations,” she added.
Her file was soon closed, Melissa said, after the social worker found no truth in the allegations.
However, the case was re-opened when Melissa’s father-in-law was murdered in Barrie.
She continues to maintain it was her own upbringing with the CAS and this murder that acted as the catalyst for the children’s removal from her home.
In November 2013, Ty, his older brother and a child from a former relationship were all taken from Melissa and given to foster parents.
When Mario was released from prison, he began weekly supervised visits with the boys, which eventually grew into unsupervised visits and then overnights once a week.
Meanwhile, Melissa was still restricted to supervised visits.
“The (CAS) deemed him fit to be alone with those children even with his huge violent domestic abuse record,” Melissa said.
Mario then sought custody of the boys, landing a job at a factory and completing a number of courses to show his worth to the CAS and the courts, Melissa said.
“I fought for a year for those boys,” she added. “He’s a smooth talker and comes off as caring.”
On Dec. 14, 2014, Mario was granted temporary custody of the boys in Barrie by Justice John McCarthy to live at his basement apartment at 136 Longford Dr., in Newmarket.
Soon after this legal victory, Mario quit his job and went back on welfare, Melissa said.
Despite being required to check on the boys’ welfare, Melissa insists that CAS did not conduct a required check after 30 days. The CAS could not comment, by law, on the allegation.
Nonetheless, Mario was on his very best behaviour, Melissa said.
During this time, she was secretly checking for bruises, but found nothing on the boys.
“I didn’t notice any problems, not one,” she said.
By January 2015, Mario was having money troubles, so his mother, Valerie, was helping him out financially and Melissa was buying diapers for Ty.
The specifics of what happened between Mario and Ty on Jan. 22 remain unknown.
Mario pleaded guilty to striking Ty “more than once with significant force”, breaking the toddler’s back, while in a rage, according to court documents.
“He hit with significant force. I have been hit by Mario with force. I was in bed for one month,” Melissa said. “No child could survive that.”
Melissa still blames herself for Ty’s death, in part because she said she refused to see Mario after he texted her the day Ty died, begging her to visit him.
She continues to believe that it was Mario’s anger over her relationship with another man that led to Ty’s death.
“I wonder, if I had of gone (to visit him), would he still be here?” she said.
To this day, it remains an open question whether Ty was even alive as Mario walked around town with him in a stroller, running errands.
In one surveillance image, Ty’s 23-pound frame was seen to be lying motionless in the buggy, arms extended outward.
Valerie, a nurse by training, told Mario to take the boy to the medical clinic when she saw him, but he ignored the advice, too scared of the consequences.
He not only lied to her about what had happened to the boy, but he also lied to the 911 operator, paramedics, police and friends who supported him.
When Melissa got to the hospital, she felt her boy’s body and he was cold, signifying to her that he’d been dead for hours.
When Mario walked in, she said he tried to talk to Ty, before falling to his knees and crying.
He told Melissa that Ty was sick, wouldn’t eat or drink and just died.
“He could have got help for my boy. He did nothing. He hid,” Melissa said, referring to Mario’s failure to call 911 for hours. “He’s a wolf in sheep clothing.”
Weeks later, as Melissa continued to mourn the loss of her son, she felt another blow to her gut.
She believes the CAS wanted to adopt out the two remaining boys.
“You’re not my mommy; I’m getting a new mommy,” Melissa said one of her boys told her.
About a month ago, Melissa lost all her sons, after they were adopted by another family.
Although covered by a publication ban, a victim impact statement read in court showed the two boys, who lost their baby brother, experienced severe psychological anguish.
After pleading guilty to manslaughter, Mario was handed a 10-year sentence by Justice Nathan Dwyer on Tuesday, minus time served. If he achieves parole at the earliest opportunity, Mario will be out in 32 months.
Melissa wants a coroner’s inquest into Ty’s death and plans to sue the Simcoe CAS.