The bizarre case of a woman who allegedly hid the remains of six babies in a storage locker is unfolding in a Manitoba courtroom, with friends and family revealing on the stand how little they knew about her medical history and private life.
Andrea Giesbrecht was arrested in 2014 and faces up to two years in jail for each charge of concealing the remains of six infants in pails, bins, and other containers that were discovered in a storage by employees who were cleaning it out because of delayed rental payments.
It's unclear how long the infants' remains had been kept in the locker, but court has heard that some of them had been so decayed that it was impossible to determine the causes of their deaths. According to medical experts who testified in April, the infants had been at or near full term — between 34 and 42 weeks — and at least some were likely born alive, since one woman having six stillbirths was virtually impossible.
On Monday, Giesbrecht's son, whose name is protected by a publication ban, testified that he'd never noticed his mom was pregnant or seen fluctuations in her weight, CBC reported.
Jeremy Giesbrecht, the 42-year-old's husband, took the stand at the judge-only trial on Wednesday afternoon, testifying that he, too, didn't notice his wife's multiple pregnancies, and that he only found out that she was pregnant with their first son the day that he was born. He said their relationship had been "off and on" over the years, CBC reported, and that he'd had a vasectomy in 2011, but that he didn't know for sure if the procedure had worked because he didn't go in for a follow-up appointment.
The remains of a baby were found in this container. (Photo presented by the prosecution in the Giesbrecht case via CP)
Between the ages of 20 and 38, Giesbrecht had been pregnant at least 18 times, two medical experts testified earlier in the trial. A Manitoba health official also told the court that according to payment records Giesbrecht, who suffered from a "menstrual disorder," had nine legally induced abortions and one "unspecified" abortion between 1994 and 2011.
Her husband, who was determined to be the biological father of the infants discovered in the storage locker, said he knew of nine abortions, but wasn't aware of the other pregnancies, the court heard. He also said he couldn't be sure that the children weren't fathered by other men.
Although DNA evidence, found on a soiled sanitary napkin from Giesbrecht's home, has linked her to the human remains in the locker, her lawyer has brought up questions throughout the trial about whether or not other women staying at the house had access to the bathroom attached to the master bedroom, and whether or not her husband had sex with any other women — which he denies.
Giesbrecht, however, did have a long-term affair with another man, according to a former friend who testified on Tuesday. Lynn Burdett said Geisbrecht also told her in 2006 that she'd become pregnant with the other man's child, but later claimed to have lost it.
Giesbercht would also often wear baggy oversized clothes to hide any weight gain, the court has heard from multiple witnesses, including her husband, who described her as "boring, boring, boring," according to the CBC.
On Monday, her lawyer brought up the possibility that Giesbrecht may have had trouble carrying a baby to term — although a Manitoba health official said the records available did not include those details.
Liezl Collins, who claims she is Giesbrecht's best friend, testified on Monday that she'd driven the woman to her old storage unit twice to pay her rental fees, but that she never knew what was inside.
Collins said she wasn't aware of Giesbrecht's pregnancies or abortions and was "floored" by a revelation made in court in April that she'd had 10 legally-induced abortions from 1994 to 2011.
The manager of a storage company where Giesbrecht used to rent a locker testified the woman's payments were consistently late, and that the locker was "an anomaly" because it was being used to store so few things — all she saw were two totes with lids, and a pail standing beside them, the manager said, adding that when she asked Giesbrecht why she needed the space, she responded that there were things she couldn't keep at home, like jewelry.
Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk