Inquest opens into boy's killing
Posted By TIFFANY MAYER Standard Staff
The three-year-old boy signed the word across the dinner table to the daughter of his Welland foster mom.
He did it to show he understood the young woman's message to him also said with sign language to quiet the talkative tot that the 14-year-old girl joining them at the table, who arrived that mid-December day in 2005 to stay with them, was a friend.
The next morning, foster mom Margaret Hamilton found the gregarious boy lying on his bedroom floor, cold and grey.
He had been smothered by his friend, a Crown ward in the care of Family and Children's Services Niagara, who confessed her crime in a note left near the boy's body and calmly brushed her freshly washed hair in her bedroom as Hamilton and her daughter frantically called for help.
The girl, who cannot be identified, was given a seven-year sentence in November 2007 for second-degree murder.
On Monday, during the first day of a coroner's inquest that will examine the events surrounding the tragedy, Hamilton relived the events leading to the Dec. 15, 2005 death of the boy, who was in the care of the Haldimand-Norfolk Children's Aid Society.
Due to a publication ban, the boy can't be named.
The inquest, presided over by Dr. James Edwards, is being held at the Quality Hotel Parkway Convention Centre on Ontario Street. It is expected to take three weeks.
A five-person jury will hear from about 30 witnesses, including police, a forensic pathologist, social workers, educators who worked with the girl, foster families and, possibly, the perpetrator herself.
The circumstances surrounding the death "cry out for some kind of examination," coroner counsel Eric Siebenmorgen said.
As she answered Siebenmorgen's questions, Hamilton talked about the notes she took when she got the call that FACS Niagara would like to make use of a bed in her Welland home. It was a bed that she decided to reserve for the agency after moving to Niagara from neighbouring Haldimand County a year earlier.
She had been a foster parent with Haldimand-Norfolk CAS for more than four years when the 14-year-old girl, who had recently been raped and was arrested for stealing a van, would be coming to stay with her.
The list of issues plaguing the teen was long and troublesome to anyone unfamiliar with caring for foster children, Siebenmorgen noted.
But fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disruptive, hostile and threatening behaviour behaviour that escalated before her period and required anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication to quell and functioning at the level of a child half the girl's age didn't faze Hamilton.
"I fostered a lot of teenage girls, a lot of runners, and almost always seemed to have good rapport with them," she said.
What she did question, though, was how the girl was with young children, Hamilton told the inquest.
The boy, who had recently been returned to Hamilton's home after time with his biological mother, had been roughed up by an eight-year-old girl who had stayed briefly with Hamilton a couple weeks earlier.
"I wanted him to get settled and feel comfortable," Hamilton said. "I didn't want anything upsetting him …. The response to that was, 'No, she likes little kids.' "
But looking back, as Siebenmorgen asked her to do, Hamilton said she felt the half-hour that the girl's caseworker spent at her home when dropping off the teen seemed short and rushed.
That evening, as dinner was eaten, TV was watched and everyone called it a night, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until she went to rouse the boy the next morning and get him ready for a pre-school Christmas party.
In hindsight, Hamilton said she would have liked to have seen some of the notes in the girl's file with FACS, written between 2000 and 2003, before agreeing to accept her. The teen was the first foster child from FACS Niagara that Hamilton welcomed into her home.
Two incidents in particular concerned Hamilton: a report of the girl allegedly putting another child's head through a window and another accusation of her pushing a child down stairs.
"I believe if I had those notes, I wouldn't have chosen to have someone with that background in the home, just because there was a small child in my home," Hamilton said.
The inquest continues Tuesday with cross-examination by counsel for the boy's biological family.
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