Missed Opportunities & The Death of Jeffrey Baldwin

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20th May 2020  •  7 min read

In 2002, Jeffrey Baldwin, 5, was found dead in his grandparent's home. He weighed the same as a 1-year-old. He had been systematically starved and abused by his grandparents who had gained custody of him after his own parents had abused him.


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In 1998, Jeffrey Baldwin and his three siblings were removed from their mother’s care after the Catholic Children’s Aid Society investigated allegations of child abuse. Their grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were granted custody of the grandchildren by CCAS.

On the 30th of November, 2002, police and paramedics were alerted to the family’s home where they discovered Jeffrey, wrapped in a towel on the kitchen counter. Paramedics found no pulse but rushed him to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He went alone; neither of his grandparents asked to go with him. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter and his cause of death was listed as pneumonia. Jeffrey was just 5-years-old.

However, it was evident that Jeffrey had suffered prolonged starvation and abuse. Jeffrey had sunken eyes and chest as well as loose skin around the buttocks and penis and an extended belly. His emaciated body weighed just 21 pounds – one pound less than he weighed when he was 12-months-old. Because of the years of starvation, Jeffrey had stopped growing and was only as tall as a typical 2-year-old. According to those who saw his body, his arms and legs looked like sticks. “You didn’t need to do an autopsy to know there were major issues,” said Ontario deputy coroner Jim Cairns. “As soon as I saw this, homicide were called in. It certainly would have been a terrible existence for this child, for a considerable length of time.”1

An investigation into the family uncovered that in addition to the children, six other adults had been living at the cramped home at 354 Woodfield Road, Toronto. Jeffrey was confined to an unheated upstairs bedroom and was forbidden from leaving. He was forced to defecate and urinate on his own bedroom floor, causing the home to have a putrid stench. In fact, according to one CCAS worker, the mattress in the bedroom was “spattered with dried faeces.” While Jeffrey was forbidden from using the bathroom, he would be beaten when defecating in the bedroom.

Jeffrey had never attended school and had not seen a doctor “for a considerable length of time.”2 In addition to being forbidden from using the bathroom, Jeffrey was forced to drink out of the toilet. Over time, as he became more malnourished, he struggled to even walk up the stairs to his bedroom and crawled slowly, one step at a time. In addition, one of Jeffrey’s sisters was treated the same way. She too was locked in the same bedroom as Jeffrey. Jeffrey and his sister would be beaten with spoons and were pulled by their hair. They were washed with cold water from a hose and were forced to eat their own vomit. Elva and Norman referred to Jeffrey and his sister as “little pigs.”3

Elva and Norman were arrested on charges of first-degree murder and forcible confinement. They both announced that they would be intending to fight the charges. “She was devastated when her grandchild died last year and she’s devastated she’d been accused of being charged with that death,” said Elva’s defence lawyer, Nicholas Xynis.

It was soon enough discovered that Elva and Norman both had criminal records for child abuse from the 1970s. In 1970, Elva was sentenced to one-year probation for assaulting her 5-year-old daughter, Eva, who had died of pneumonia. While the death was initially believed to be an accident, an autopsy showed that Eva had suffered from fractures of the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Then in 1978, Norman was convicted of assaulting two of Elva’s children from a previous relationship and was sentenced to two years’ probation.  

Following the revelation, CCAS announced that they had some involvement with the family in the past but were unaware the grandparents had criminal records when they were granted custody. However, it would later be shown that CCAS noted the convictions on their files. Spokesman Fernando Saldanha subsequently announced that they regretted not checking their files before granting custody of Jeffrey and his siblings to the couple. “If the records had been properly checked by the workers involved at the time, then the situation would have been very different.”4

Toronto homicide detectives were called in to investigate CCAS and an unspecified number of case workers to determine whether there was any criminal negligence in the death of Jeffrey. “I’m looking at the agency and its workers with the possibility of criminal wrongdoings, vis a vis, criminal negligence causing the death of Jeffrey Baldwin, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm involving the other children,” announced Detective Sgt. Mike Davis.5

The trial for Elva and Norman opened in September of 2005. During opening statements, Crown Attorney Bev Richards described how Jeffrey had been systematically starved to death in what a prominent doctor called “one of the most severe cases of malnutrition” that he had ever seen. She went on to describe how Jeffrey’s life was “like something straight out of a horror movie.”

Jeffrey in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

James Mills, one of the adults living in the home, testified that Elva had told him that she wouldn’t get help for Jeffrey because it “would ruin her cheque,” adding that “those two kids are $600 a month.”6 According to Mills, Elva and Norman were afraid that somebody would report them to CPS and they would lose their source of income. When asked why he didn’t report the abuse, Mills said that he didn’t want to get kicked out of the house. Seemingly, like the rest of the adults in the house, Mills just looked right through Jeffrey and pretended he didn’t exist. In fact, when paramedics were attempting to resuscitate Jeffrey, none of the adults inquired about his well being and none accompanied him to the hospital. He died alone just like he had lived alone.

Next to testify was pathologist Dr. Gregory Wilson, who reported that when Jeffrey died, he had no body fat, was around 3.1 feet long and weighed 21.3 pounds. He described how his face was bruised and he had abrasions around his left eye and neck, parts of his abdomen, inner thighs and his legs were encrusted with a dry, scaly rash. Additionally, he had ulcers on his genitals.7 He went on to describe how Jeffrey developed pneumonia a few days before his death. Fecal bacteria had gotten into his bloodstream, causing septic shock that would have made it difficult to breathe. Jeffrey had most likely placed his fingers into his mouth, transferring the bacteria into his lungs.

Dr. Stanley Zlotkin of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children testified that he had never seen a child so malnourished in his 25  years of practicing in Canada and in developing countries. Haunting photographs of Jeffrey were entered into evidence and provided a dramatic picture of a child who was severely malnourished. It was a stark difference to the photographs of Jeffrey before he went to live with his grandparents. “You’re literally seeing his patella, or knee bone, sticking out,” said Dr. Zlotkin. “One can literally see every bone in his rib cage.”8 The photographs were extremely distressing yet Elva and Norman showed no semblance of emotion.

Under cross-examination, Norman’s defence lawyer, Robert Richardson, suggested that Jeffrey had staved himself for an emotional reason. This was something Dr. Zlotkin strongly refuted, stating: “I do not believe that a child can self-impose that degree of starvation.” He went on to describe how there was an absence of iron in Jeffrey’s bone marrow which would have taken at least a year to develop.9

Osiris Villalobos, an investigator with CCAS wiped away tears as he recollected the lifeless body of Jeffrey at the hospital. Villalobos and police officers visited the home after leaving the hospital. He described how all of the rooms inside the home were heated, properly furnished and cleaned. The bedroom of Jeffrey and his sister was barren, freezing and disgusting. The mattress was soaked in urine and caked in dried faeces and blood. The floor around the mattress was urine-stained and rotten. A bag of soiled diapers lay on the floor and there were food remnants in a dog bowl. A latch was placed around 1.5 metres off the ground outside the bedroom door so that it could be locked by adults and not opened by children.

Evidence was also presented during trial that within an hour after learning that Jeffrey was dead, his mother, Yvonne Kidman, questioned whether she would receive his $50,000 life insurance policy. A conversation had been overheard between Yvonne and Elva during which Yvonne said: “I wonder if his insurance will cover him. I have insurance…” Elva replied: “That’s accidental death. I don’t know if he’s covered.”10

Michelle Kean, a neighbour of the family, testified that shortly after Jeffrey’s death, Elva had told her that Jeffrey poisoned himself by swallowing lead paint. Elva then asked Michelle to write a letter of support to help her regain custody of her grandchildren from CCAS. She went on to describe how the last time she saw Jeffrey, she didn’t even recognize him. “I couldn’t believe it was the same child. He was so sick, small, very pale.” She said she didn’t report his condition because she thought that CCAS were supervising the family.11

Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman were found guilty of second-degree murder and of forcible confinement of Jeffrey’s sister. Elva was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment and Norman was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Due to the history of abuse, Jeffrey Baldwin and his siblings should never have been placed in their grandparent’s care. Furthermore, since they had come from an abusive household, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto should have been conducting welfare checks on the family. Sadly, they failed in their duties and failed Jeffrey. They were never held to account for their failures and missed opportunities.

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Footnotes:

  1. The Toronto Sun, 20 March, 2003 – “Tot Death Charges”
  2. The Toronto Star, 23 February, 2003 – “Boy Died Horrific Death”
  3. The Toronto Sun, 29 November, 2005 – “Jeffrey, Sis, Little Pigs”
  4. The Toronto Sun, 24 March, 2003 – “No Role in Case”
  5. The Toronto Sun, 25 March, 2003 – “Society Probed in Tot’s Death”
  6. The Edmonton Sun, 9 September, 2005 – “Boy, 5, Was Kept As Dog”
  7. The Toronto Star, 9 September, 2005 – “Boy Left to Starve, Trial Told”
  8. The Sault Star, 10 September, 2005 – “Dead Boy’s Limbs Like Twigs, Photo Show”
  9. The Toronto Star, 10 September, 2005 – “Expert Rejects Idea Bot Starved Himself”
  10. The North Bay Nugget, 15 September, 2005 – “Mother of Starved Boy Asked About Life Insurance”
  11. The North Bay Nugget, 18 October, 2005 – “Woman Blamed Boy’s Death on Lead Poisoning”

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Sugs
Sugs
6 months ago

There is a type in the paragraph starting with “Osiris Villalobos”, that gave me pause. Please fix “fried” to “dried”.

Joseph
Joseph
5 months ago

Great article

Ever Rain
Ever Rain
5 months ago

This makes me sick. I can not believe they only received 20/22 years for purposely murdering a small innocent child. The system is fucked.

Jani Banani
Jani Banani
5 months ago

“the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto should have been conducting welfare checks on the family. Sadly, they failed in their duties and failed Jeffrey.”

GREAT WORK RELIGION! You failed again.

Joanna
Joanna
4 months ago

All those people who could have helped and didn’t. They didn’t bother to check his file to see the previous child abuse charges, the neighbor saw him and didn’t bother calling, 6 adults in the house didn’t call, his mother didn’t call. This boy and his siblings were failed by so many people it’s disgusting.

chloe
chloe
1 month ago

I could NEVER hurt a child that bad or even like barely yell at a child

Tailwagger
Tailwagger
1 month ago

Does anyone know the race of Jeffrey’s bio father?
Is he indigenous or mixed black/white?

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