The Burlington Post
SUSAN NELLES CASE
"Decision in Nelles case a defining moment"
David Allan Harris B.A., LL.B., Published in the Burlington Post on March 7, 2001
As I reported in my last column, the Ontario Criminal Lawyers Association recently honoured Austin Cooper, presenting him with the G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Award. This award was given in recognition of Cooper's many years of service, both to his clients and to the public.
Susan Nelles was one of those clients. She was charged with four counts of first degree murder in connection with the death of four babies who were patients under her care on the cardiac ward at the Hospital for Sick Children and who died from poisoning alleged to have been caused by the deliberate administration of massive overdoses of the drug digoxin.
Judge David Vanek presided over her preliminary hearing, which occupied forty-one days of evidence from over one hundred witnesses and four days of argument by counsel.
During the preliminary hearing, Crown counsel announced that there were not just four, but 24, babies who had died on the cardiac ward in the same time frame, and in suspiciously similar circumstances. Those circumstances surrounding the twenty additional deaths were admitted as "similar fact evidence"' for purposes of the preliminary inquiry.
In return, Cooper prepared a chart and with the consent of the Crown, filed it as an exhibit. The chart contained a list of the nurses who were on duty on each of the days when the 24 babies died. This chart disclosed that Nelles was on duty on most but not all of the days when babies died and that another nurse was on duty on all of the days when babies had died. Nelles was not, however, on duty on the day of the death of one of the four babies included in the charges of murder laid against her. This was critical since both the Crown and the defence assumed that one person was responsible for killing all four babies. If Nelles did not kill one, it followed that she could hardly be found guilty of killing the others.
In the end Judge Vanek found that the evidence did not reach the threshold required to justify committal for trial and he directed that Susan Nelles be discharged on all four charges of murder. Following this decision, the Government of Ontario appointed a Royal Commission of Inquiry under Mr. Justice Grange of the Ontario Court of Appeal to examine the circumstances the extraordinary number of deaths at the Hospital.
These hearings took well over a year to complete. At the conclusion, the Commissioner's report contained statements expressly agreeing with Judge Vanek's decision in the preliminary hearing and generally approving of his handling of the charges against Susan Nelles.
In his memoirs, Judge Vanek wrote " A defining moment, in my opinion, is an occasion when one is called upon to bring the full force of one's life-experience in the solution of a difficult problem. My decision in the Nelles case was a defining moment in my career as a judge." The case could also be called a defining moment in Austin Cooper's career as a lawyer. The case of Ken Murray would also call upon the full force of Cooper's life experience in the solution of a difficult problem. We will explore that more fully in my next column. At this time, however, it is with sadness that I write that G. Arthur Martin, after whom the G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Award was named, passed away last week. G. Arthur Martin showed his greatness as both a criminal lawyer and as a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Martin Report brought the administration of justice in this province into the modern era. We all suffer a great loss at his passing.
Canadian Press, (various newspapers across Canada, including the Toronto Star) Aug. 16, 2006.
ISLE LA MOTTE, Vt. A Montreal mother recovering from alleged self-inflicted wounds will be charged in the coming days with murdering her 8-year-old son, whose body was found in Lake Champlain, a Vermont state attorney said today.
I am going to prepare a charge of first-degree murder, Grand Isle States Attorney David Miller said in a telephone interview. Read More ..
Australian Associated Press
December 05, 2008
A WOMAN who killed her infant son by jumping with him from the eighth floor of a city apartment block has walked free after being convicted of manslaughter.
Yeeda Topham, 40, of Roleystone near Perth, had pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to a charge of unlawfully killing 21-month-old James Topham on November 5 last year. Read More ..
Fire Officials Claim Fire Intentionally Set
NBC4-TV, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
LOS ANGELES, USA -- Murder charges are expected to be filed against a woman whose infant son's body was found in a washing machine after firefighters doused what they say was an intentionally set fire, authorities said Tuesday.
Latunga Starks, 32, was taken into custody last night, according to the Sheriff's Department Web site.
Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Dennis Shirey identified the mother and her nearly 3-month-old son, Michael Kelvin Thompson.
The Toronto Star, By Peter Small, Courts Bureau, March 01, 2008
Xuan (Linda) Peng has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the drowning death of her 4-year-old autistic daughter Scarlett in a bathtub in the family home.
A Superior Court jury returned its verdict Saturday morning after two days of deliberations.
Scarlett Chen was discovered unconscious by her distraught father David Chen in the tub on the second floor of the family's townhouse on Rosebank Dr., near Markham Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E. on July 12, 2004.
Peng told police that she had put their daughter down for a nap in the adjoining bedroom, and had no idea she had climbed into the bathtub, which the woman had filled with water to clean some kitchen utensils.
However, seven months later, homicide detectives charged the 36-year-old Chinese immigrant with first-degree murder. The charges were later reduced to second-degree murder. Read More ..
Associated Press, Globe and Mail, Tuesday, May. 13, 2003, Page A15
TYLER, TEX. -- A woman accused of fatally beating two of her sons with rocks spent Mother's Day sobbing and muttering in a jail cell.
Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, remained on suicide watch yesterday at Smith County Jail, where she was held in lieu of a $3-million (U.S.) bond on capital-murder and aggravated-assault charges.
Ms. Laney is accused of killing Joshua Laney, 8, and Luke Laney, 6, and injuring their 14-month-old brother, Aaron. The toddler remained in critical condition yesterday at a Dallas Hospital.
In a call to emergency workers early Saturday, Ms. Laney reported that she had just "bashed their heads in with a rock," Sheriff J. B. Smith said. Read More ..
Investigation into the Death of Zachary Andrew Turner (18 July 2002 to 18 August 2003)
Zachary Turner, a 13 months old baby, died at the hands of his fugitive mother, Dr. Shirley Turner, who killed him and then committed suicide on August 18, 2003.
Turner was facing extradition to the United States to stand trial for the 2001 murder of Dr. Andrew Bagby, Zachary's father.
28-year-old Dr. Andrew Bagby was found shot to death in Keystone State Park, 55 kilometres northeast of Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.
Turner fled to Newfoundland, Canada where Zachary was born. She was out on bail against the wishes of U.S. authorities at the time of Zachary's death. Read More ..
Canada's largest national newspaper
The Globe and Mail
October 6, 2006
Toronto - As a female friend of Frances Elaine Campione put it, this after Ms. Campione was charged on Wednesday with murder in the death of her two young children, "That mother needs a hug."
In that line, widely repeated in Toronto and national media outlets, is a telling clue to what is so wrong with much of what happens both in the nation's family courts and in its child-protection system -- the pervasive view of the female of the species as constantly nurturing (except, you know, when she allegedly kills) and as in need of constant nurture (hugs all 'round, no matter what).
For the record, Ms. Campione was arrested two days ago after she phoned 911 to report that there were two dead children inside her Barrie, Ont., apartment, and shortly after, didn't police arrive to find the bodies of her own little girls, one-year-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena.
She and her estranged husband Leo were reportedly in the throes of a nasty custody battle, with Mr. Campione accused of assaulting his wife and the older child, and Ms. Campione allegedly alarmed, and/or depressed, at the prospect of losing that fight.
And The Globe has confirmed that involved with the family was the Children's Aid Society of Simcoe County. At the moment, the nature of that involvement is unknown -- except as it has been reported by neighbours who saw social workers at the apartment and say that, for a time recently, the girls lived with their paternal grandparents.
Wednesday, May. 22, 2002
KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) -- An Ontario woman who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in one of Canada's stiffest penalties for child abuse will be released on full parole after serving less than half her term.
Lorelei Turner, 38, and her husband Steven were convicted of manslaughter in July 1995 for beating and starving their three-year-old son John to death in a case that horrified Canadians who followed the trial.
But on Wednesday, a panel of the National Parole Board in this eastern Ontario city ruled Turner will be released but placed on probation until July 2011.
Until then, she must remain within 25 kilometres of her residence, is not allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under 16, and must continue to receive counselling.
"The board would have looked at the risk and obviously found a low risk to reoffend," Carol Sparling of the National Parole Board said Wednesday.
The Associated Press, U.S.A., November 4, 2014
NEWPORT, Ore. -- A woman who said she threw her 6-year-old son off a historic bridge on the Oregon coast was arrested after the boy's body was found in the bay, police said.
Police and firefighters in the coastal city of Newport, Lincoln County deputies and the Coast Guard searched the bay with boats and a helicopter after Jillian Meredith McCabe, 34, of Seal Rock called 911 at 6:25 p.m. Monday to report throwing her son off the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
The boy's body was found at 10:23 p.m. in the bay after it was spotted near the Embarcadero Resort, police said.
Days after buying another woman Valentine's Day flowers, a Sydney father came home to find a trail of blood leading him to the bodies of his two young children lying next to their mother, a court has been told.
Australian Associated Press
Aug 24 2009
The woman had given the couple's three-year-old daughter and four-year-old son rat poison and an unidentified pink liquid before smothering them and killing them, court papers said.
She then tried to take her own life, the NSW Supreme Court was told.
Doctors agree the mother, from Canley Heights in Sydney's west, was suffering from "major depression" when she poisoned her children on February 19 last year.
She has pleaded not guilty to the two murders by reason of mental illness.
As her judge-alone trial began, the mother's lawyer told Justice Clifton Hoeben his client didn't think life was worth living after learning about her husband's affair.