Inquest Urged In Child's Death
Wednesday August 6, 2008
Katelynn Sampson was found dead in her guardian's apartment Sunday.
Beyond that, little is known about how the seven-year-old died, or even how she came to be in the woman's care. Ontario's
Youth Advocate is urging that the government perform an inquiry into her alleged murder.
Bernice Sampson, Katelynn's biological mother, claims the girl was let down by two child protection services. She's pictured
here with Katelynn.
However, Braham Siegel, a certified family law specialist, said part of the blame lay in her decision to surrender the child
to the accused.
"The mother to take much more careful and thorough steps when she decided to hand custody of the child over to [the accused],"
may have had a part in preventing this, he said on CityOnline.
Sampson has stated that she was dealing with personal problems at the time, and may not have been capable of making such a
"My understanding [is that] child protection agencies, although they had been involved with the family at one point, were
not involved and did not really have an interest in the case at the time the custody order was made. Am I correct," Siegel
"That's still being answered," responded John Muise, director of public safety for the Canadian Centre For Abuse Awareness.
Irwin Elman, Ontario's Child and Youth Advocate, is calling for an inquiry into the child's death.
"I do believe we need to find the answers about why this child died and the specifics to that so that any tinkering with the
system that could prevent this specific instance from happening again, we should do. I also understand full well and I agree
that we have been over this ground too many times," Elwin expounded.
"Once the serious criminal charge is dealt with, getting the answers to make the system work better if indeed there are ways
... can be done in an inquest," Muise added.
"In children's aid cases .. before they permanently place or before they ask the court to permanently place a child with someone,
they do criminal background checks. But when Children's Aid is not involved, the court usually expects that the client and
their lawyers will do whatever it takes to determine whether or not it's best for this child to be placed in someone's care,"
"We do have cases from time to time where both parties will stand up in front of the judge, both lawyers [will agree that
both parties will] have joint custody of this child," he continued.
"I would go one step further," Muise argued. "It shouldn't be impractical to delve deep into these kinds of matters. So for
instance if you're going before a family court and there's sort of a private circumstance; it shouldn't be private. I mean
is there anything more important than child protection?
"I think we need to put the resources in to looking at all of these cases."
Donna Irving, 29, has been charged with second degree murder. She appeared briefly in court Monday and will return August
Her boyfriend, 46-year-old Warren Johnson has also been arrested on a similar charge by police.
Opposition critics demand inquest into death of Katelynn Sampson, 7
Wed, August 6, 2008
Body showed signs of having been beaten on an ongoing basis, police say
By THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Ontario’s opposition parties joined the province’s child advocate Wednesday in demanding an inquest
into the death of a seven-year-old Toronto girl who was found dead in her caregiver’s apartment over the weekend.
So severe were the injuries suffered by Katelynn Sampson that autopsy results, originally expected Tuesday, won’t be
available for several more days, police have said.
Toronto police Det. Sgt. Steve Ryan has described the sight of the little girl’s body as the worst thing he has seen
in 20 years of policing.
The case makes it clear Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act, which governs how custody is determined in at-risk
situations, is in need of an overhaul, opposition New Democrats and Conservatives both complained Wednesday.
“When a child can simply be handed from one legal guardian to another with little or no scrutiny of the new guardian’s
background, there is a problem here,” said Andrea Horwath, the NDP’s children and youth services critic.
“Children aren’t commodities.”
Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, called Tuesday for an inquest into Sampson’s
death, saying the laws that are supposed to protect kids in Ontario “all failed” the little girl.
“Child Welfare has what’s thought to be a pretty strict screening process,” Elman said. “Any time
a child dies under these circumstances, we as a community, as a society, have something to learn.”
The Progressive Conservatives said Wednesday an inquest is needed, but would have to wait until after all criminal proceedings
“The tragic death of Katelynn points to flaws in our child-protection system,” Conservative children and youth
services critic Julia Munro said in a statement.
“The government must take immediate action to toughen child protection as we wait for an inquest.”
Pamela States, an aunt who identified the third grader’s body for police, said she noticed a litany of serious visible
“She had, like, the two black eyes, she had a bruise on her nose, scratches on to her face,” States told Toronto
television station CP24.
“She had a big bump here, and a big one back there . . . I mean, you wouldn’t do that to a dog.”
Police said Katelynn slept on a bedroom floor of her caregiver’s home and showed signs of having been assaulted on an
Her mother, Bernice Sampson, surrendered custody of the little girl last January to Donna Irving, who remains in custody on
a charge of second-degree murder.