TORONTO – A woman convicted of starving her five-year-old grandson to death has asked to be involved in a coroner’s inquest examining the Toronto boy’s case.
Lawyer Jill Witkin, who represents the coroner, said Monday that Elva Bottineau called her from prison last week to say she wished to seek standing at the inquest into Jeffrey Baldwin’s death.
Bottineau, who is currently held at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., sent a letter through the warden in February requesting to participate, but it never arrived, Witkin said.
In the letter, which was presented at the inquest Monday, Bottineau said she wanted to voice her opinions and “put the thruth (sic) out there.”
Bottineau and her partner Norman Kidman are currently serving life sentences for second-degree murder in Jeffrey’s death 11 years ago.
The inquest has heard that both had a history of child abuse, including separate convictions and various dealings with the children’s aid society — something children’s aid workers only discovered after Jeffrey’s death.
Bottineau hasn’t formally filed an application for standing yet, but should she go ahead, the inquest will consider her request on Nov. 12.
Lawyers for Jeffrey’s surviving siblings and the office of Ontario’s advocate for children and youth wasted no time in expressing their objections.
They argued that allowing Bottineau to participate would only delay the inquest and give a convicted killer another chance to defend her actions after having exhausted all other legal avenues.
Freya Kristjanson, who represents Jeffrey’s siblings, said any attempt by Bottineau to minimize her responsibility for Jeffrey’s death would be an abuse of process.
“There are many things we still do not know about Jeffrey’s death and many things we must inquire into. What we do know — and what there can be no reasonable dispute about — is who killed Jeffrey and how he died,” she told the inquest.
“Elva Bottineau is a killer who tortured Jeffrey and his siblings while starving him to death,” she said.
This is an inquest into Jeffrey’s death, she said, “not a soapbox for his killer.”
Much hinges on whether Bottineau will be able to retain counsel. Lawyer Owen Wigderson said his firm would meet with her Monday to see if it will represent her in the proceedings.
He asked the inquest to postpone further testimony by Jeffrey’s children’s aid worker until the matter was dealt with because whoever represents Bottineau would have to cross-examine the caseworker.
The coroner agreed to hold off any further questioning of Margarita Quintana until at least Tuesday, instead calling the caseworker’s then-supervisor, Lorraine McNamara.
McNamara testified she had only a “vague recollection” of having met the family in 1995 and remembered little of the case as a whole.
At the time, Bottineau was acting as temporary caregiver for Jeffrey’s sibling and wished to make the arrangement permanent, even as the child’s parents sought to regain custody, documents show.
A lack of records checks meant children’s aid workers didn’t look through their own files to discover disturbing details of the pair’s past until after Jeffrey’s death.
The issue has taken centre stage at the inquest.
Asked whether the agency would have checked the records of any prospective caregiver, McNamara said “there were no regulations or standards.”
It would be unlikely in the case of a temporary caregiver, but once there was a possibility of a permanent placement, best practices would likely call for an internal records check, she said.
“It was discretionary… There was nothing to guide us in terms of what we should or shouldn’t be doing,” she said.
Jeffrey was just 21 pounds when he died — about what he weighed when he was first sent to his grandparents four years earlier.
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