The Crown has concluded its case in the murder trial of Tammy and Kevin Goforth, hearing from the chief forensic pathologist.
On Wednesday, the exact cause of death of a murdered four-year-old was detailed in court in Regina.
Dr. Shaun Ladham performed the autopsy on the girl a few days after she died in August 2012. Ladham is Saskatchewan’s chief forensic pathologist and performs the autopsies for all suspicious deaths in the province, including children.
Ladham gave evidence to say the girl died from hypoxic/ischemic brain injury that developed following a cardiac arrest, secondary to malnutrition and dehydration.
Based on records from the first year of her life, the girl lost a quarter of her weight by the time she died at the age of four.
Ladham documented multiple bruising and skin abrasions across and in places he called unusual like her armpits. But he told the jury he could not say exactly when bruising on a body may have occurred, saying, “it is not an exact science”.
His reports noted crusting around lip which he testified “could indicate a constant licking of lips because of dehydration”. But he noted there are other causes also.
Although he stressed he couldn’t be certain, Ladham put many of the bruises down to malnourishment because “they are caused by pressure of skin rubbing on bone, there is no tissue or muscle”.
The bruises were also clustered in areas where bone would have been sticking out, like the back.
He believed the girl had been malnourished for a prolonged period, estimating weeks, if not months.
The most damning piece of evidence was when he testified he found a number of sticky, dirty marks which, to him looked indicative of residue from tape on the body. Ladham said that would be typical of what you see after a band-aid is taken off after a couple of weeks.
The marks were found on the wrists and ankles where court already heard there were bruises. Ladham maintains, “it isn’t like what you see from hospital tape for three days”.
Due to the perfect shape of the bruises on the legs and ankles, along with the sticky tape residue, Ladham said it was clear that tape had been wrapped around them. He described the legions on the girl’s arm as horizontal and suggested it may not have been the first time she was bound.
There was also bruising to her inner, ankle bone, along with tape residue and bruising that would suggest her feet were bound together, “you just don’t put your legs together like that”.
Ladham told the jury his job is not like “CSI” or other type shows TV shows.
The defense’s line of questioning revolved around the doctor’s experience and qualifications dealing with malnourishment in children. Ladham said he’s testified in three cases, one involving an infant.
Questions also surfaced during cross-examination about whether Ladham had seen all the girl’s medical records, which the defense suggested he had not.
Lawyers for the defence asked if the tape could have been affixed to something else on the skin, such as maybe a sock, to which Ladham responded “I can’t say no”.
The defence also got Ladham to testify that those horizontal marks could be completely unrelated to the other injuries on the girl’s body.
The defence will begin its case on Thursday.
News Talk Radio’s ongoing coverage of the trial
Goforth Trial Day 1: Tensions run high in courtroom for murder trial of Tammy and Kevin Goforth
Goforth Trial Day 2: Forensic officers testify about condition of home
Goforth Trial Day 4: ‘Skinny with bruises’: first responders testify about finding girls at Goforth trial
Goforth Trial Day 5: Goforth murder trial hears doctor describe efforts to save 4-year-old girl
Goforth Trial Day 6: Photos of girls’ wounds shown at Goforth trial
Goforth Trial Day 7: Goforth trial hears girls were taped to wall, locked in bedroom