Katelynn Sampson's aunt Pamela States releases seven doves at a vigil yesterday at Parkdale Public School playground. (Jack
In Memory as This Child Died
Police suspect murdered little girl abused over time
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - 08:47 PM
By: Shauna Hunt, with a report from The Canadian Press
Toronto - Toronto police are revealing some disturbing information about the seven-year-old, who was found murdered in a west-end
apartment, Sunday morning.
Investigators believe Katelynn Sampson was abused over a period of time before she was murdered.
And police added the little girl's autopsy is taking longer than usual because of her extensive injuries.
One Detective even described the murder as one of the "most horrific" crimes he'd ever seen after 20 years on the job.
Det. Steve Ryan told 680News he's now urging anyone with information to come forward.
"You know it's important that I speak to them one-on-one and get the first hand accounts as to what's happened in the past
[...] I don't care who they are - if they have information regardless of how insignificant they may think it is, it could
be important to us."
Sampson was found dead in an apartment early Sunday.
Her legal guardian, 29-year-old Donna Irving, had called 911 and said Sampson stopped breathing while choking on food. However,
emergency personnel discovered signs of trauma on the girl's body.
Irving has been arrested and is charged with second-degree murder. She will appear in court again on August 15.
Girl's injuries 'severe,' police say
Worst abuse he has seen in 20 years: detective
Catherine Mcdonald and Melissa Leong, Global News and National Post Published: Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Bernice Sampson, left, mother of Katelynn Sampson, is comforted by a friend, as the look at the second story apartment where
Katelynn was found dead, Monday, August 4, 2008. Donna Irving has been arrested in relation to the case.Brett Gundlock/National
PostBernice Sampson, left, mother of Katelynn Sampson, is comforted by a friend, as the look at the second story apartment
where Katelynn was found dead, Monday, August 4, 2008. Donna Irving has been arrested ...
TORONTO -- When police found the body of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson on Sunday, the little girl appeared to have suffered
what one homicide detective described as the worst trauma he had seen in 20 years.
An autopsy that began at 10:30 a. m. yesterday was still on-going last night because of "the nature and severity" of her injuries,
Detective Sergeant Steve Ryan said. Katelynn appears to have sustained the many and "complicated" injuries over a period of
time, he added.
"When we entered that apartment on the night that Katelynn's body was found, my information was that she was sleeping on the
floor in one of the bedrooms," Det. Sgt. Ryan told reporters.
"[It is] probably the worst thing I've seen in 20 years of policing the worst," he said.
The girl's legal guardian, 29-year-old Donna Irving, is charged with second-degree murder.
Katelynn's mother, Bernice Sampson, had placed her in Ms. Irving's custody while she attempted to straighten out her life.
But her death raises questions about how the system may have failed a child who was supposedly being placed in a safe environment.
Police said Ms. Irving has a history of criminal convictions for "violent crimes."
According to court documents, she was charged on Nov. 23, 1998, with possessing drugs and received a one-year suspended sentence
In February, 1999, she was arrested for assault with a weapon. She was sentenced to one day in jail and 18 months probation.
On Aug. 2, 2000, she pleaded guilty to communicating for the purpose of prostitution and received six months probation and
a suspended sentence.
Court documents also indicate she owes $213.25 in fines for soliciting a ride and being intoxicated in a public place.
Katelynn first began living with Ms. Irving in May, 2007, police say. Ms. Irving, who also lives with her boyfriend, Warren
Johnson, and their two boys, was granted full custody of Katelynn in January because both of the girl's parents had substance-abuse
Ms. Sampson said yesterday that she was not aware that the friend she has known for at least a decade had a criminal background.
"[Had I known] I would have never in my entire life left [Katelynn]," she said, near a growing memorial of stuffed animals
and flowers outside her home.
Det. Sgt. Ryan said detectives have heard "disturbing" third-hand accounts of possible abuse that Katelynn suffered, and he
appealed to anyone, from teachers to neighbours, for first-hand information that might help police learn more about the girl's
Meanwhile, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto is investigating whether it was involved in placing Katelynn in Ms.
Kenn Richard, executive director of Native Child, said the agency has had "some involvement" with Ms. Irving's family, but
could not elaborate.
"Cases like this are always complex," he said. "This is a horrific case and there should be a lot of public interest in it."
He said the agency promises transparency and expects to have the investigation completed in a few days.
Police say the accused called 911 at about 2:30 a. m. on Sunday, claiming Katelynn had choked on food. She was arrested after
officers arrived at the 105 West Lodge Ave. apartment near Lansdowne Avenue and Queen Street West and noted signs of trauma
to the girl's body.
Ms. Irving's two children are in the care of Mr. Johnson, who was not at home when Katelynn died and is not considered a suspect,
Bev Souter, a 57-year-old Parkdale resident, said she often saw Mr. Johnson in the community with his children; he seemed
like a caring, "family man" and she believed that Ms. Irving, who she has known for 10 years, had settled her personal problems
upon meeting him.
"She seemed like a much nicer, calmer person. She seemed to take her sons with her wherever she went," Ms. Souter said yesterday
as she dropped off two teddy bears at a makeshift memorial for Katelynn outside the West Lodge Avenue apartment.
"You don't know what goes on behind closed doors."
A Toronto police officer said Tuesday he has heard "disturbing" third-hand information about the life of a seven-year-old
girl who was found dead on Sunday, and now he's pleading for people with first-hand knowledge to come forward with details.
Photo Gallery: Outrage Grows Over T.O. Girl's Death
1 of 5
Outrage Grows Over T.O. Girl's Death
A Toronto police officer said Tuesday, August 5, he has heard "disturbing" third-hand information about the
life of a seven-year-old girl who was found dead on Sunday, and now he's pleading for people with first-hand knowledge to
come forward with details. Katelynn Sampson, 7, looked as though she might have been abused for some time, police said.
Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan said he doesn't want to disclose the details until they are confirmed, but he said there are suggestions
that young Katelynn Sampson was abused for some time.
"I can only tell you from what I observed as a non-medical person, that some of those injuries did not appear to
be fresh injuries," he told reporters in Toronto.
Ryan said when emergency workers found Katelynn's body in an apartment in the west-end neighbourhood of Parkdale, there
was evidence the Grade 3 student had been sleeping on the floor and had been subject to poor living conditions that he did
not want to discuss.
Photo Gallery: Missing Girl's Mom Formally Charged
Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel / MCT
1 of 8
Missing Girl's Mom Formally Charged
Prosecutors have filed formal charges against the 22-year-old mother of a missing central Florida girl, but not in her
disappearance. Casey Anthony was formally charged Tuesday, August 5, with child neglect and filing a false statement. Police
have held her on $500,000 bail on those charges since last month. A delay between an arrest and formal charges is typical
in Florida as prosecutors build their case.
"I saw probably the worst thing I've seen in 20 years of policing," he said.
He said he'd like to hear from anyone with any information at all about the girl — teachers, neighbours, even
convenience store owners.
"I don't care who they are. If they have information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, it could be important
to us," Ryan said.
Katelynn's legal guardian, 29-year-old Donna Irving, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the
girl's slaying. Ryan confirmed that Irving has been charged and convicted of violent crimes in the past.
According to Ryan, Irving was granted sole custody of Katelynn in January, although she has had contact with the girl
since May 2007.
Court documents obtained by CBC News show Irving took final custody of Katelynn in June. The documents said that both
Katelynn's mother, Bernise Sampson, and her father were drug addicts.
According to the documents, Irving said Katelynn had been living with her since May 2003.
Outside her west-end home Tuesday, Sampson said she was unaware of Irving's violent past.
"I do not know about Donna's past and I don't want to hear about no custody and what I did and what I didn't do.
Everybody makes a mistake in life, there's nobody perfect. But I thought I had a friend," Sampson said.
She said Monday that she put her daughter in Irving's care while she sorted out some undisclosed personal problems. She
and Irving had been friends for 10 years.
Irving has two children of her own; both are being cared for by their father.
Officials began an autopsy on Katelynn's body at 10:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, a procedure that was continuing Tuesday afternoon.
Ryan said the autopsy was taking longer than expected because of the "complicated" nature of Katelynn's injuries.
He would not elaborate.
He said it was too soon to say when Katelynn died, although it's clear when emergency workers found her, she had been
dead for some time.
Irving called 911 early Sunday, claiming that Katelynn had stopped breathing after choking on food. Ryan said Monday that
it is clear Katelynn did not choke and that she had signs of assault across her entire body.
Ryan said police obtained a warrant to search Irving's home Tuesday night but would not confirm what officers would be
Child services agencies are investigating whether they played any role in placing Katelynn in Irving's care, Ryan said.
Custody can be granted in some cases where the person has a criminal record, depending on the offence, according to an
official with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
"If we intervened in every family where there was a criminal offence, we would have no children living with parents
who had had any criminal offences at all," said Virginia Rowden.
Katelynn's mother said the system had a role to play in preventing her daughter's death.
"I think the system shoulda did a better job and they didn't do it," Sampson said.