Inquest into starvation death of five-year-old Toronto boy underway

TORONTO – A coroner’s inquest into the starvation death of a five-year-old Toronto boy is hearing that anyone who saw the boy before he died would have known something was wrong.

By the time Jeffrey Baldwin starved to death in 2002 he weighed less than he did when he was a baby.

His grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were granted custody of Jeffrey and his three siblings by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, who was unaware both had previous child abuse convictions.

Bottineau and Kidman were convicted of second-degree murder and the inquest was able to get underway once their appeals were exhausted.

In an opening statement to the jury on the first day of the inquest, coroner’s counsel Jill Witkin said Jeffrey isn’t here to tell what happened to him, but the evidence speaks to his horrific fate.

Witkin says one of the witnesses who will testify over the next three months is a medical professional who is expected to say that Jeffrey was stunted and malnourished and any reasonable person would have seen he wasn’t healthy.

Major changes have been implemented at the CCAS and children’s aid societies across Ontario since then, including increased family history, background and record checks. Relatives who become caregivers are also subjected to the same rigorous standards as foster parents and adoptive parents.

Child protection policies and practices are expected to be examined as part of the inquest.

When Jeffrey died, weeks shy of his sixth birthday, of septic shock from malnutrition and bacterial pneumonia that was caused by sleeping in his own waste, Jeffrey weighed 21 pounds — one pound less than he did on his first birthday.

A pediatric pathologist told Jeffrey’s grandparents’ trial that the boy developed pneumonia a few days before his death. Fecal bacteria got into his bloodstream, causing septic shock that would have made it difficult to breathe.

Experts at the trial likened Jeffrey’s body to that of a starving child in a third-world country.