Sherry Charlie a battered child, says pathologist

Relates to:
Date: 2006-02-07
Source: cbc.ca

CBC News

A pathologist has told an inquest in Port Alberni that 19-month-old Sherry Charlie was the victim of battered-child syndrome, and had been beaten many times in her short life.

The toddler was beaten to death by her great uncle Ryan George in September 2002, three weeks after she and her brother were placed in his home by USMA – an aboriginal child-welfare agency.

George had a violent criminal record. Less than a month after she moved in, Sherry was killed by George. He told authorities that Sherrry's brother had pushed her down the stairs.

Pathologist Dr. Dan Straathof testified on Monday that Sherry had 11 broken ribs, and severe bruises in various stages of healing – and that she died from three blows to the head.

His findings support the suspicions of others who treated her on the day of her death that the little girl's injuries didn't fit her uncle's story.

His testimony was hard on the family, with some of them staying out of the courthouse to avoid hearing Straathof's testimony.

"It's just the beginning. The worst is still to come," said her grandfather Harvey Charlie.

Paramedic David Urquhart told the inquest that Sherry's body was already cold when he arrived, suggesting the 911 call was made too late and that she had not been breathing for some time.

The pediatric physician at the Port Alberni hospital says he also had suspicions. Dr. Christopher McCollister told the inquest that the explanation of a fall down stairs "didn't ring true."

But neither reported their suspicions to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

It took four months for a police investigation, despite the pathologist's finding that Sherry was a battered child. And during that time, the family lawyer says B.C's Children's Ministry left Sherry's brother in the home of a killer.

Ryan George was convicted of manslaughter two years later and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He is scheduled to testify on Thursday.

The litle girl's death has been the subject of numerous government reviews. And the opposition NDP says the Charlie case shows the Campbell government was negligent in trying to save money at the expense of child protection.

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