TORONTO – A Toronto woman and her husband who starved their five-year-old grandson to death had subjected two of the woman’s children to “eerily similar” abuse more than two decades earlier, an inquest heard Wednesday.
A coroner’s inquest into the death of Jeffrey Baldwin has heard that his grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were granted custody of him and his three siblings in 1998. The Catholic Children’s Aid Society and York Children’s Aid Society were unaware the pair each had previous child abuse convictions.
Bottineau had her first child in December 1969, but the infant died a month later, the inquest heard. The baby girl’s cause of death was pneumonia, but multiple fractures were discovered in her body and Bottineau was convicted of assault causing bodily harm.
She then had two more children with her first partner, then three more children with Kidman. In 1978 Kidman was convicted of assault causing bodily harm for assaults on Bottineau’s two children from a previous relationship. He was fined $300, the inquest heard.
Those two children were apprehended by the authorities, and were made Crown wards, but the other three children remained with Bottineau and Kidman.
It was only when police were investigating Jeffrey’s chronic starvation death, 24 years later, that they learned the extent of what those two children had endured.
“The treatment of these two kids in many ways is eerily similar,” to that of Jeffrey and one of his sisters, said Freya Kristjanson, a lawyer for Jeffrey’s surviving siblings.
The inquest has heard that Jeffrey and one of his sisters, age 6, were confined for long periods of time in their unheated bedroom that was soaked with urine and strewn with dirty diapers, were referred to as “the pigs” and were not toilet trained. The other two siblings were relatively well cared for, the inquest has heard.
When Jeffrey died, he weighed 21 pounds — about the same as he did on his first birthday.
Investigators in Jeffrey’s case went back to speak with the two children Kidman was convicted of assaulting and were told horrifying details, former Toronto homicide Det.-Sgt. Mike Davis told the inquest.
The grown children, who by then were 31 and 30 years old, said they were confined in their room, often in dog cages and sometimes with dog collars around their necks. They were forced to go to the bathroom in a potty in the corner of the room. When the potty was full they would go on the floor, the inquest heard. When they complained of being cold, Bottineau would smack them and say “too bad,” Kristjanson told the inquest.
The kids were sometimes forced to drink their own urine and were poorly fed while Bottineau and Kidman ate well, the inquest heard. They were made to stand in the corner for hours at a time, day and night.
A criminal records check would have turned up at least Kidman’s convictions. Children’s aid society records for Bottineau contained different spellings of her first and last names and there is evidence she went by other names, though the inquest has heard that a thorough search still should have turned up past files.
A pathologist and pediatric nutritionist were scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon.