On the night of his death, Jeffrey Baldwin was heard ‘weeping to himself’ as he ‘waited to die’
Christie Blatchford: On the night of his death, Jeffrey Baldwin was heard ‘weeping to himself’ as he ‘waited to die’
Christie Blatchford | 16/09/13 8:19 PM ET
A family photo of three-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, at his grandparents' home in east end Toronto. He died Nov. 30, 2002, when he was five years old, of a lethal combination of pneumonia and septic shock, the underlying cause profound and protracted starvation.
The enormity of what happened to Jeffrey Baldwin almost 11 years ago is beginning to emerge at an Ontario coroner’s inquest into the little boy’s death.
Monday, the jurors got the one-two punch of witnesses who essentially painted “before” and “after” pictures of those who lived in the east-end Toronto house where the little boy was so terribly abused, his three young siblings left with rage, guilt and terror.
The five-year-old died Nov. 30, 2002, of a lethal combination of pneumonia and septic shock, the underlying cause profound and protracted starvation.
Watching him suffer and die, none of them lifting a finger to help him, were six adults.
Two, his maternal grandparents Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were later convicted of second-degree murder in Jeffrey’s death and forcible confinement in the treatment given one of his sisters, who was regularly locked up in a fetid bedroom with him.
Sentenced to life with no parole for 22 and 20 years respectively, they remain in prison.
File Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman were convicted on April 7, 2006 of murdering their grandson, Jeffrey Baldwin.
Carlo Allegri/National Post Norman Kidman, left, and one his daughters, Yvette, are seen on their front porch as they yell obscienties at Post reporter Christie Blatchford on Feb. 21, 2003 after the starvation death of Jeffrey Baldwin.
The jurors heard from the first of the four other adults who lived in the house, one James Mills.
Twenty-one at the time, Mr. Mills was the boyfriend of Yvette Kidman, one of two Bottineau/Kidman adult daughters.
He didn’t testify in person.
Indeed, coroner’s counsel Jill Witkin told the jurors, police have made substantial efforts to locate Mr. Mills but can’t find him.
The videotaped statement he gave Toronto Police on the very day Jeffrey died was played for the jurors instead.
The body of the little boy, all bones and sunken cheeks and stick limbs, had been taken away by ambulance just 12 hours earlier.
Yet Mr. Mills was … unmoved.
His interview provides a galling glimpse of the deadly pathology that was at work in that house.
He knew Jeffrey was dying, he told the police. Why, he’d even said as much that very night to Yvette. “I was like, I don’t think he’s long for this world,” he told his girlfriend.
Naturally, Mr. Mills attributed this observation to “a sixth sense” he had, not to the fact that a drooling cretin would have known the same thing: Jeffrey was almost six years old, yet he weighed just 21 pounds; he was grey, so weak he couldn’t hold up his head on his own, so gaunt the smallest sweatpants fell off him; Mr. Mills had heard him drinking from the toilet, seen him being “exercised” by other family members, believed he was treated like a dog.
In the last hours of Jeffrey’s life, the night of his death, Mr. Mills told Toronto Police Detective Kim O’Toole, “I had heard him cough and cry through the night. … And he was coughing and he wasn’t crying, it was more of a silent weep or a mope. … Like he was weeping to himself.”
But, he said, he had a sinus infection and he was having trouble sleeping besides, so even when the ambulance arrived in the morn for Jeffrey and the others in the house were trying to get him up, “I stirred, I didn’t wake up,” he said.
Certainly, Mr. Mills said, he didn’t do anything about it.
It either “wasn’t really my concern” as “an outsider in the house,” or he was “too shy to say anything to Elva,” who was after all letting him stay for free, or he wasn’t “gonna risk getting kicked out” of the house.
So, though he knew Jeffrey was on “almost like a death march,” and was “waiting to die,” Mr. Mills continued to behave like a guard at a death camp.
The Canadian Press Jeffery Baldwin, second from right, is shown in a coroner's inquest photo. 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.
Family photos A family photo of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin in the kitchen of his grandparents' home, taken sometime in 2002, months before the boy died of starvation
Before his interview was played, the jurors heard from the warm, lovely woman who was foster mother to Jeffrey’s surviving two sisters and little brother.
Her identity is protected by a publication ban.
The trio of youngsters, the oldest just eight, arrived at her house three days after Jeffrey died.
They were shattered.
The two who had been treated relatively normally — and it was by no means normal, but rather what passed for it in that house — were angry at first that the sister who had been locked up with Jeffrey was allowed to eat at the table with them.
“Where’s your pig wall?” the littlest boy, just four, asked one night.
The pig wall was where Jeffrey and his sister had been forced to stand, eat scraps from a bowl with their hands, on a mat in the kitchen.
Another day, he told her he liked it in her house “because nobody got hit for pissing in their beds.”
One evening, as the sister who’d shared the bedroom with Jeffrey was brushing her teeth and foaming with all the toothpaste, the foster mom told her, “Oh honey, get a drink,” whereupon the little girl “put her face in the toilet.”
That girl named her dolls and every stuffed animal she got in her first year with the foster mom after Jeffrey.
On her first Halloween, she wanted an angel costume, so she would have the right clothes for when she went to heaven and saw her little brother again.
The oldest girl said that in the days before Jeffrey died, “if you touched him, he would cry, like it hurt.”
The foster mother, weeping, said at one point, “I couldn’t fill them up.” She wasn’t talking about food, though of course they were all empty that way too.
Jurors haven’t yet heard details about the third leg of responsibility in the case, the role of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society.
The agency had five separate opportunities to dig in its own records, or perform criminal records checks, before it supported the grandparents getting custody of Jeffrey and his siblings.
Had such checks been done, the agency would have discovered that Bottineau and Kidman were both convicted child abusers, the former in the death of her infant daughter, the latter for assaults on two of Bottineau’s girls by another man.
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I am so distraught and devastated over the loss of this innocent angel and angered by the disgusting and savage adults that shared the home him. I cannot come to grips with any of the circumstances relating to this case. I just found out about it 3 weeks ago and continue to cry for his little soul everyday. I am heartbroken over his tragic and cruel death. How do you hear a young child crying next door and continue to play video games. I read somewhere where Mr. (and I use that term loosely) has recently had a little boy. Maybe someone should deprive him of food, love and dignity for a few years. Let's see if he would still continue with his game. Every single one of the obese adults in that house should have been brought up on charges. Eating at the table while that little baby watched and starved. Disgusting!