Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Background: The inquiry focused largely on the flawed work of Dr. Smith — formerly the province's chief pediatric pathologist — whose errors led to innocent people being branded as child murderers. The 1,000-page report by Justice Stephen Goudge slammed Dr. Smith, along with Ontario's former chief coroner and his deputy, for their roles in wrongful prosecutions and asked the province to consider compensation. The provincial coroner's office found evidence of errors in 20 of 45 autopsies Dr. Smith did over a 10-year period starting in the early 1990s. Thirteen resulted in criminal charges. William Mullins-Johnson, who was among those cases, spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of his four-year-old niece, whose death was later attributed to natural causes. In another case, Dr. Smith concluded a mother had stabbed her seven-year-old girl to death when it turned out to have been a dog mauling. The inquiry heard that Dr. Smith's failings included hanging on to crucial evidence, chronic tardiness, and the catastrophic misinterpretation of findings. The cases, along with other heart-rending stories of wrongful prosecutions based in part on Smith's testimony, also raised a host of issues about the pathology system and the reliance of the courts on expert evidence."



"The flawed work of pathologist Charles Smith led to serious questions about the cases of 19 children who died in unusual circumstances.

In 2008, Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge concluded that Charles Smith was an arrogant, unqualified pathologist whose biased, inconsistent and unprofessional testimony precipitated a string of wrongful murder charges and convictions.

Judge Goudge recommended that the Ontario government look into providing swift redress for people who “through no fault of their own … suffered tragic and devastating consequences.”

Here are some of the people were charged in the deaths of children based on Dr. Smith’s findings.

Richard Brant in Moncton in 2009.

Richard Brant

Richard Brant was convicted of aggravated assault in 1995 for the death of his two-month-old son, Dustin.

Mr. Brant was taking Dustin for a walk when he noticed red foam around the baby’s nose. Dustin died two days later, on Nov. 18, 1992.

Dr. Smith concluded Dustin had been shaken to death, despite the fact that the baby’s brain had rotted away after morgue staff mistakenly left it in a container of water. His findings contradicted the findings of a neuropathologist who had examined the child’s brain and concluded he had likely died of pneumonia.

Mr. Brant said he felt compelled to plead guilty to aggravated assault to avoid a possible manslaughter conviction. He conceded he had accidentally jostled Dustin during a physical struggle with his wife.

In January, 2009, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Mr. Brant permission to reopen the case and fight his conviction.

Maureen Laidley, and her lawyer John Struthers, during a small press conference at his Bay St. office in 2001.

Maureen Laidley

Maureen Laidley was charged with second-degree murder in the death of her boyfriend’s four-year-old son, Tyrell Salmon.

Tyrell fell and hit his head on a marble coffee table while jumping on the couch on Jan. 18, 1998. The next morning, Ms. Laidley brought him to the hospital, where he died four days later.

Dr. Smith performed an autopsy and concluded Tyrell had died of a head injury, but found the injury was too severe to have been caused by a household accident.

Almost a year later, police charged Ms. Laidley with second-degree murder. The charge was withdrawn on the eve of her trial after three other pathologists concluded the bump was likely caused by falling on the coffee table.

Tammy Marquardt at Grand Valley detention centre in 2009.

Tammy Marquardt

In 1995, Tammy Marquardt was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the death of her two-year-old son, Kenneth. After spending 14 years in jail, she was freed on bail in March, 2009.

Kenneth died on Oct. 9, 1993, after Ms. Marquardt called 911 in a panic to report that she had emerged from the shower to find the boy tangled in his bedclothes, struggling for breath and calling, “Mommy.” The boy had a history of epileptic seizures.

Dr. Smith concluded Kenneth had been asphyxiated as a result of smothering or neck compression. Two other pathologists, however, later found that the cause of death was undetermined.

Ms. Marquardt’s two other sons – one born while she was awaiting trial, the other shortly after she was sent to prison – were seized by child-welfare authorities.

In April, 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada sent the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal to weigh fresh evidence and whether Ms. Marquardt’s conviction constituted a miscarriage of justice.

William Mullins-Johnson takes a moment before speaking to reporters in front of Osgoode Hall. Mr. Mullins-Johnson was acquitted by the provincial Court of Appeal after 12 years in prison for the 1993 death of his four-year-old niece.

William Mullins-Johnson

William Mullins-Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and served 12 years in prison in the death of his four-year-old niece, Valin.

Mr. Mullins-Johnson babysat Valin and her brother at the home near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on the night of June 26, 1993. The next morning, their mother found the girl dead in bed.

Dr. Smith was one of three pathologists who concluded Valin had been asphyxiated and sexually assaulted. The cause of her death is undetermined.

Mr. Mullins-Johnson was released in 2005 when it was discovered that Dr. Smith had lost tissue samples that could have proved Valin had died of natural causes.

Mr. Mullins-Johnson was exonerated in October, 2007, after the Ontario Court of Appeal called his conviction a “terrible miscarriage of justice.”

Louise Reynolds, outside the Kingston Courthouse where the Crown Counsel withdrew the homicide charges against her in the death of her daughter Sharon.

Louise Reynolds

Louise Reynolds was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her seven-year-old daughter, Sharon. She spent two years in jail.

Sharon’s body was found in the basement of her Kingston, Ont., home on June 12, 1997.

Dr. Smith concluded that 80 cuts on Sharon’s body had been caused by scissors or a knife. Despite knowing that a pit bull lived in the basement, Dr. Smith ruled out an animal as the cause of her injuries.

Ms. Reynolds was exonerated after Sharon’s body was exhumed, revealing at least some of her injuries were bites from a pit bull. She later launched a lawsuit.

Maria Shepherd

Maria Shepherd spent two years less a day in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of her three-year-old stepdaughter, Kasandra.

Kasandra was found unconscious on April 9, 1991. She died two days later.

The Filipina immigrant acknowledged she had hit the child in a moment of frustration, but claimed it was a minor blow that she couldn’t have imagined would have led to the child having seizures and dying.

Dr. Smith concluded Kasandra died from a blow to the head. However, another pathologist later found evidence to suggest she died of natural causes, such as epilepsy.

Ms. Shepherd said her lawyer had warned her against trying to plead not guilty, saying Dr. Smith “was a force to be reckoned with.”

In May, 2009, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Ms. Shepherd’s request to reopen her case and seek exoneration.

Sherry Sherrett-Robinson was acquitted of killing her baby boy a decade after she served eight months in jail for infanticide.

Sherry Sherrett-Robinson

Sherry Sherrett-Robinson was convicted of infanticide in 1999 for the death of her four-month-old son after Dr. Smith testified that he found signs consistent with homicide on the body of Joshua Sherrett. She spent a year in jail.

Last December, Ms. Sherrett-Robinson was acquitted of infanticide by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The court told Ms. Sherrett-Robinson it was “profoundly regrettable” she was wrongly convicted based on errors by Dr. Smith. The court heard it was possible that Joshua suffocated in his crib after becoming entangled in bedclothes.

“The tragedy of this four-month-old child's death is compounded by the fact that his mother was wrongly convicted of infanticide, served a year in jail and she lost her other child,’ Mr. Justice Marc Rosenberg said at the time.

After Ms. Sherrett-Robinson was charged, her eldest son was seized and put up for adoption. She is not permitted to seek him out until he is 18.

Marco Trotta leaves the Fenbrook Institute outside Gravenhurst with the help of his wife Anisa.

Marco and Anisa Trotta

Marco Trotta was convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to life in prison for the death of his eight-month-old son, Paolo. His wife, Anisa, was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life and sentenced to five years in prison.

Paolo was found dead in his crib on May 29, 1993. A pathologist initially ruled he died from sudden infant death syndrome. But the investigation into his death was reopened a year later when Mr. and Ms. Trotta brought their newborn to hospital with a fractured femur.

The baby’s body was exhumed and Dr. Smith found the cause of death was undetermined, but found multiple fractures and suspected foul play. Police charged Mr. and Ms. Trotta. However, two pathologists later discredited Dr. Smith’s botched autopsy and testimony. Among other discredited findings, Dr. Smith mistook an old, partly healed skull fracture for a recent injury.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Mr. and Ms. Trotta, citing Dr. Smith’s mistakes.

Brenda Waudby leaves an inquiry hearing in Toronto in 2007.

Brenda Waudby

Brenda Waudby was charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 21-month-old daughter, Jenna Mellor.

Ms. Waudby left Jenna in the care of a 14-year-old babysitter on Jan. 22, 1997. That night, the toddler died in hospital. A pubic hair was found in her groin area.

Dr. Smith performed an autopsy and concluded the girl had died of blunt abdominal trauma. Ms. Waudby was charged in September, 1997, based, in part, because Dr. Smith determine the girl likely died at a time when she was with her mother. The Crown withdrew the charge after experts suggested the girl had suffered fatal injuries when she was not in Ms. Waudby’s care.

Five years after the murder charge against Ms. Waudby had been withdrawn, and after Dr. Smith had testified that he knew nothing about the pubic hair, he found the hair in an envelope in his desk.

Jenna’s babysitter pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2006 and confessed he had punched, poked and burned the girl to the point of death. Charges of sexual assault were withdrawn because of insufficient evidence. He cannot be named because he was a minor at the time.

With a report from Stephanie Chambers

The compilation can be found at:



PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be accessed at:


For a breakdown of some of the cases, issues and controversies this Blog is currently following, please turn to:


Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; hlevy15@gmail.com;