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Toronto Grandparents---Guilty


Mike Oliveira, Canadian Press
Published: Friday, April 07, 2006

TORONTO -- The grandparents of a five-year-old boy who was locked up and left to wither and die in a cold, fetid room were convicted of second-degree murder Friday in what police described as one of the worst cases of child abuse Canada has ever seen.

Fifty-four-year-old Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, 53, were supposed to save Jeffrey Baldwin and his siblings from a life of abuse at the hands of their birth parents.

Instead, the pair used the children as a source of income, collecting government support cheques in their names while confining the young ones to what police described as "a horrible room'' that was "harsh, dark, cold and damp.''

"This has been one of the most horrific child abuse cases involving murder that I've ever come across _ in fact, I think, that this nation has ever seen,'' said Toronto police Det. Mike Davis, the lead investigator on the case.

Other officers remarked that they'd seen nothing like it in three decades.

Court heard Jeffrey was hidden away in the unheated bedroom for as long as 14 hours a day, breathing in the stench of his own urine and feces.

Police described the child's room as "extremely shocking,'' with wet uncarpeted floors, mattresses soaked through and littered with stains, bags of filthy diapers throughout, and no toys in sight.

Jeffrey, who weighed just 21 pounds when he died in November 2002, was treated like a dog: he ate out of a bowl with his fingers and often drank from a toilet when he was thirsty.

Jeffrey and his sister were locked up so frequently that regular visitors to the home often had no idea they even lived there. Court heard it took several weeks of repeated visits until they finally learned of what was called "bedroom number two.''

Although the siblings lived in squalor, the rest of the house was normal, including the living quarters of other children living in the house, court was told.

The tragic details of Jeffrey's short life were read once more into the record Friday in a lengthy decision by Justice David Watt, which took around six hours to read.

Emergency crews were shocked when they found Jeffrey's frail body.

Years of malnutrition stunted his growth and destroyed his body, leaving him emaciated without body fat.

Paramedics said he didn't look like any child they'd ever seen before. He was so small, had sunken eyes, and veins and bones jutted from his body. Doctors later said he had more bacteria growth on his skin than they had ever seen.

He died of starvation and pneumonia, weighing less than he did when he turned one-year-old.

When his sister was rescued from the house, she too showed obvious signs of starvation, skinny limbs, a distended belly and open sores.

Jeffrey's paternal grandmother, Susan Dimitriadis, said she was relieved by the verdict, and had been expecting the worst.

"I was afraid they'd get away with it,'' Dimitriadis said. "They needed to be convicted of this because my grandson is now dead and I miss him.''

The grandparents were also found guilty of forcible confinement for the sister's care.

Kidman spent almost the entire day in court hunched over with his head in his hands, looking down. Bottineau stared straight ahead for most of the proceedings but began to slump in her chair as the verdict was being read.

Her lawyer Anil Kapoor had argued his client did not deliberately kill her grandson. He cited a psychologist who testified Bottineau was mentally handicapped with a personality disorder that prevented her from seeing Jeffrey waste away.

But another expert witness, Lisa Ramshaw, contradicted that assessment and said Bottineau had "a higher order of thinking than someone with mental retardation'' and lied to protect herself.

Lawyer Catherine Glaister told Watt that Kidman did not plan to kill Jeffrey and had little involvement in the children's lives.

Immediately upon the verdict's release, Ontario's chief coroner declared that an inquest would be held, although no date was made available.

"The circumstances surrounding Jeffrey's death have been a matter of public interest,'' Dr. Barry McLellan's office said in a release.

"Issues to be addressed at the inquest include the Toronto Catholic Children's Aid Society's involvement in Jeffrey's placement and the role that agency, and others, had in monitoring his well-being prior to his death.''

The Catholic Children's Aid Society released a statement saying it deeply regrets Jeffrey's tragic death.

"Knowing that we could have done more to prevent Jeffrey's death has been heartbreaking for everyone involved,'' said executive director Mary A. McConville.

"The CCAS wishes to assure the public both that we have made substantial changes to our operating practices to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again and that we will co-operate fully with the coroner in the inquest into Jeffrey's death.''
Canadian Press 2006


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