One Ottawa Boy’s Hell

In November 2011, an emaciated boy came to the door of one of his neighbors. This boy, covered in rug burns, told the woman a story of forced push-ups and starvation. The woman listened and gave the boy cake and a glass of milk. She also called the police. They came and took the boy home. Yet when they returned to the woman, they told her that the boy had exaggerated his tale and that there was plenty of food on his table.

Skip forward two years later and an Ottawa court has reviewed 160 photos of the boy’s scarred body after he was admitted to a hospital in 2013. The police investigating the case have called it the worst case of abuse they have seen. That is only the beginning of how much the system failed on Ottawa boy.

According to reports, the charges the parents face are:

The man faces:

-Three counts of aggravated assault.

-Three counts of assault with a weapon.

-One count of aggravated sexual assault.

-One count of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

-One count of forcible confinement.

The woman faces:

-Three counts of aggravated assault.

-Two counts of assault with a weapon.

-One count of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

One count of forcible confinement.

The father, a Mountie, later admitted during an interview that he “screwed up.” That is putting it lightly. What he and his wife did to the boy is well beyond screwed up:

The boy, who in 2013 appeared emaciated and starved when doctors examined him at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario had been fed despite doctors’ opinions to the contrary, his father assured police.

The court examined 160 photos of the then 11-year-old taken upon his admission to CHEO.

Dr. Leigh Fraser-Roberts testified the boy weighed just 50 lbs. when he was admitted, and gained about 15 lbs. after two and a half weeks of treatment.

Fraser-Roberts said the boy’s clavicle was exposed and he seemed to have no fat in his face or neck when she examined him. He also had sunken eyes, swollen knees, “far too few calories” and signs of “wasting and severe malnutrition.”

She also said there were “irregular lesions and scars” on the boy’s back, buttocks, groin and inner thigh that were deep purple and red.

“[This was] by far the worst case of inflicted injury, abuse or neglect in a child who managed to survive,” Fraser-Roberts said, referring to her 22 years as a pediatrician in Ottawa.

In short, the boy looked like a Holocaust victim, and yet just two years before when he sought help the police returned him to his father. It is astounding that anyone could see this boy in this state and think that there was nothing wrong.

The boy’s father and stepmother wasted little time trashing his character:

During the interview, which lasted more than two hours, the woman told police her stepson was stealing and getting into fights. She said he was sent to private school after being kicked out of school, but the boy began being home schooled in 2012.

She said the boy was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiant disorder and prescribed anti-psychotic medication.

She also said she worried he had sexual feelings for her after he asked her to breastfeed him.

“(He) didn’t attach to me. I love him but it was difficult to reach out to him when he’s mocking me all the time,” she said.

She also said he told his father he would “initiate sexual things with other boys” at school and camp.

Last week, the court heard the man admit he used a chain and plastic ties to confine his son in the family’s Kanata basement in his police interview video.

Apparently that behavior justified chaining the boy in the basement for weeks. Videos depicting the naked child breathing heavily as his father berated him were so disturbing that the judge covered his face:

The five videos, made one month before the couple was arrested in February 2013, were seized from the father’s cellphone.

They show the small boy, breathing heavily and looking gaunt, with his ribs sticking out. In the videos, a man is heard repeatedly taunting and humiliating the boy, who was tied to the basement wall.

In some of the videos, the boy is shivering. In others, he breaks down crying, reported the CBC’s Laurie Fagan.

Onlookers inside the courtroom were seen wiping away tears and the last video left Justice Robert Maranger shielding his face from those in court, who were left in a stunned silence, Fagan said.

Every time someone does these things to children, they always claim the child was out of control. They always claim there was no other option. And they always try to hide what they did. It is as if they know the first two things are complete nonsense.

What could a child possibly do to deserve this sort of treatment?

Unsurprisingly, the boy initially defended his father’s behavior. During the trial, which began several years after the abuse, the boy spoke more freely:

The boy told the court his father would threaten him with a revolver, and use a cross to “get demons out” of the boy.

“I was scared to death,” he testified.

The boy also said he was forced to complete 500 pushups each morning if he did not finish his breakfast, and would often go to school without a lunch.

The testimony came after the boy’s interviews with police from June 2013, four months after the parents were arrested, was played in court.

The boy told the court his father would lock him in the bathroom to memorize the Ten Commandments and he would be forced to pray on his knees for two hours.

The father has admitted to restraining his son in the family’s basement with chains and plastic ties. The boy told the court on Friday he would alert his father when the restraints weren’t tight enough because he feared punishment if the restraints were loose.

The boy also testified about the abuse his stepmother committed:

On Wednesday, the boy testified that his stepmother hit him twice on the palm with a wooden spoon, but “not as harsh as my dad.”

His RCMP officer father was watching while his stepmother hit him, the boy told court.

The court has previously heard testimony from the boy that his father pointed a gun at his head while he was restrained in his family’s basement. The boy told the court Wednesday that his stepmother was “going crazy” when his father pointed the gun and that she was yelling at her husband to “stop, stop.”

On another occasion, the boy testified, his stepmother cried, yelled and tried to physically restrain his father from holding a knife to his neck.

However, his stepmother could also be cold and harsh, telling him once, when he was chained in the basement, “I’m not coming back to see you,” the court heard.

The defense attorney questioned the boy about the differences in his testimony and the images a smiling boy in photos:

When asked about the discrepancy between the images and his previous testimony, the boy told Carew that “with my dad, I always faked my mood.”

“I had to go with the flow, so he doesn’t beat me,” the boy testified.

Later, Carew had the boy read a letter that he wrote to a family court judge in 2011, in which he called his maternal grandparents “devils” and accused them of mistreating him, too.

The boy testified that the accusations were lies, adding that his father “always put stuff in my head about them because he hated my grandparents, and I started believing him.”

The attorney also questioned him about his opinion of his father:

Interrogated in the witness stand over three days of intense cross-examination, a 13-year-old boy who testified he was starved, beaten and chained up by his Mountie dad tried to articulate his conflicted feelings.

“I very, very much — strong word but I really mean it — I really hate him,” the boy told defence lawyer Robert Carew.

“I miss the personality he had. I cry sometimes because I miss him.”

“You want to get back at him,” Carew suggested.

“No,” said the boy, his voice clear. “He did what he did.

“I forgive him. I still feel pain in my heart. I’m still very sad.”

It appears the trial is still ongoing. I was unable to find any articles newer than these, and none stating if the parents were convicted.

It is a tremendously horrific case, and it is one of those cases that people need to pay attention to because of how easily this child fell through the cracks. He reached out for help, but instead of helping him people delivered him back to his abusers.

While this may be an extreme case, this sort of thing happens every day. Children reach out for help and rather than help them we ignore their plea because it does not sound believable, because police would rather not be bothered, because the abuser is female so it cannot be real abuse, and a host of other moronic reasons.

This boy should never have been in this situation. Part of what made it possible is that his father taught him to lie about what happened. That certainly shielded the father from scrutiny. However, the other part is simply that we as a society do not want to get involved. Abusers can bank on this. They know that people would rather not dealt with this, so they end up getting away with terrible things for years even when it is improbable that no one would know what was going on.

People need to pay more attention to what goes on around them. This does not mean that every instance of a skinny child is abuse. It does mean, however, that when a child tells you he is being tortured, you should take it seriously, especially if you see scars on the child’s body.

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6 thoughts on “One Ottawa Boy’s Hell

  1. There’s many things I found horrific about this article. The first being that the authorities could look at a starving, abused boy and hand him right back to his parents without any serious questions being asked. maybe the dad being a fellow copper had something to do with that.

    The second is that the parents thought their methods were somehow acceptable “discipline” What the hell was wrong with them?

    I hope the kid is now somewhere warm and well fed.

  2. The first being that the authorities could look at a starving, abused boy and hand him right back to his parents without any serious questions being asked. maybe the dad being a fellow copper had something to do with that.

    That is the part I found the most infuriating. How could they not see his condition? Even assuming the boy was naturally skinny, what officer would look at the scars on his body, something the untrained neighbor noticed, and not find that suspicious?

  3. Sadly, things like this happen all the time. Children do not, and will not ever, have equal rights under the law if law enforcement neglects to investigate, charge, and prosecute domestic violence against children. Most violence in society happens to children (including rape, murder, and assault) but you’d be hard-pressed to prove that based on the number of criminal convictions. Most people (sadly, especially child abuse survivors) wrongly believe that familial child abuse is not covered under criminal statute, since (at least in Ontario where this case happened) the only legal requirements to report are to Children’s Aid Societies, and they have no statutory obligation in their legislation to report criminal code offences against children to police (only to the Coroner’s Office). (See “Duty to Report” – section 72: http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90c11)

    Not that that matters, since the police, children’s aid, and various social services in Ontario seem to be supremely uninterested in investigating and prosecuting this kind of crime, even in cases of an abundance of evidence, and the courts appear even less interested in convicting and sentencing appropriately. Well, not until the children are dead in most cases (Randal Dooley, Jeffrey Baldwin, Katelynn Sampson, Niyati Jha, Jordan Heikamp, etc…)

    So everyone is required by law to report to Children’s Aid, but CAS has no legal obligation to report criminal assault to law enforcement; law enforcement can’t seem to be bothered to investigate or prosecute most domestic violence against children even in cases of obvious and extreme violence leaving scars, starvation and signs of torture, such as this one; myriad studies (including ACE) show the roots of societal violence most often lies in childhood experiences of violence; and yet the only ‘cycle of violence’ we ever seem willing to talk about publicly is the Duluth (or New York) Model.

    Dr. Barbara Knox is trying to define a new category of child abuse in the pediatric literature “Child Torture”, because most cases like this go undetected, and the children unprotected. She’s hoping to raise awareness so that caregivers and providers can detect and understand the signs earlier:
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40653-014-0009-9
    http://icher.org/blog/?p=1487

    I wish her the very best of luck, but I think that won’t happen until people start to care. And until the professionals dealing with child abuse and its after effects are held to account for their lack of willingness to acknowledge this and deal fairly with its perpetrators.

    For instance, Dr. Knox’s testimony in the Calgary torture/murder case of Meika Jordan was disallowed (apparently using Twilight Zone logic):
    “Prosecutors can’t call an expert on child torture in the murder trial of a Calgary couple charged with killing a young girl, a judge ruled Thursday.

    … Nation noted the Crown need not prove Meika was the victim of torture, or even severe child abuse, to establish if she was confined when she died. The Crown will attempt to establish the child was being unlawfully confined when she was intentionally killed — which would make it a first-degree murder.

    “If this was a trial by jury I would be concerned that the prejudicial effect would be high by the use of terms like torture,” the Court of Queen’s Bench judge said.

    “The question of forcible confinement will be a legal argument,” Nation said.” http://www.calgarysun.com/2015/02/26/calgary-judge-denies-request-to-allow-testimony-from-us-based-child-torture-expert-for-meika-jordan-murder-trial

    So, even though this was a judge only trial, and even though the victim in this case was 6 years old, and despite the testimony as to ‘child torture’ being disallowed as being prejudicial and unnecessary, the crown could not substantiate ‘forcible confinement’ of a six-year old by two adults (or, I suspect, the judge was actually disinclined to consider it), and as a result the step-mother and father were consequently convicted of 2nd degree murder instead of 1st degree murder as charged. And both have, of course, appealed.

    Apparently, the fact that children make lousy witnesses and can’t be complainents in court means we’re OK to ignore violence against them…

  4. Shades of the Fritzl case here. Nobody in authority seems to notice there how a teenage girl keeps running away from home, or that her dad was convicted rapist.

    I hope this poor kid makes a full recovery, and that his tormentors rot in prison.

  5. Pingback: One Ottawa Boy’s Hell: part 2 | Toy Soldiers

  6. Pingback: One Ottawa Boy’s Hell: father and step-mother found guilty | Toy Soldiers

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