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Mother of dead child speaks after closing arguments in Goodwill manslaughter trial

Jodeci Spencer says she has mourned the loss of her son, Keenan Spencer, in the five years since his death.  (CBC - photo credit)

Jodeci Spencer says she has mourned the loss of her son, Keenan Spencer, in the five years since his death. (CBC – photo credit)

A mother whose three-month-old son died in October 2017 says she will begin recovery once the judge overseeing her former partner’s manslaughter trial makes his decision.

Catlin Wade Goodwill is charged with manslaughter in the death of his young son, Keenan Spencer.

On Monday, Keenan’s mother, Jodeci Spencer, spoke to the media after she concluded arguments in King’s Bench court in Regina. She described the past five years as painful and full of grief.

The process, which lasted all of last week and Monday morning, was particularly tough, she said.

“It just breaks my heart to have to relive it all — to have to relive the night my son died,” Spencer said.

“Onus is always on the crown”

In the closing arguments, Defense Attorney Bruce Campbell and Attorney General Chris White offered opposing versions of what happened the night Keenan died.

On Monday, the defense repeatedly stressed that Goodwill is presumed innocent and that it is up to the Crown to prove Goodwill committed an unlawful act that caused his son’s death.

“The responsibility always rests with the crown,” said Campbell.

The timeline for the incident comes from the testimony of Jodeci Spencer, Keenan’s mother,

Submitted by the Regina Police Department

Submitted by the Regina Police Department

Jodeci has said that she and Goodwill had an on-and-off relationship. She has two other sons with Goodwill, including one born after Keenan’s death.

Although they are no longer together, on the day of Keenan’s death they had recently reconciled and moved in together.

Jodeci testified that on the evening of October 14, 2017, she was reading to her older son at her home on the 3700 block of Regency Crescent when Goodwill told her from another room that Keenan was not breathing.

She called 911 after paramedics performed CPR. Paramedics took the baby to Regina General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Bruce Campbell, Jodeci confirmed that she told police on October 14 that she had never seen Goodwill be violent towards her children.

She also confirmed in her statement that Goodwill was the only one who touched Keenan that day.

A case based on circumstantial evidence

Both sides have acknowledged that the case is almost entirely circumstantial.

Although Crown’s senior prosecutor Chris White said child abuse rarely occurs with witnesses, he said Goodwill was the only one with the “exclusivity of opportunity” to hurt Keenan.

“This is not a criminal police force. A criminal investigation department, sure, but not a criminal investigation department,” White said Monday.

Testimonies from Dr. Andreea Nistor, a forensic pathologist, and Dr. David Ramsey, a Crown Appointed Neuropathologist, have detailed how an autopsy of the three-month-old man revealed bruising on the back of Keenan’s skull as well as bleeding inside the skull.

The bruise, which could only have been inflicted while Keenan was still breathing, corresponded to the bleeding in the skull. They said the bleeding was caused by blunt force trauma and was the cause of death.

However, they were unable to determine the mechanism that caused the trauma and said it could possibly have been a hit to the head or the three-month-old shaking.

On cross-examination, Ramsey said he could not dismiss the bruise caused by the forceful CPR that paramedics performed on the child as they responded to the scene.

However, he said, the child should have been able to breathe and circulate blood. EMS testified their efforts failed to resuscitate Keenan.

Nistor and Ramses could not say how hard the force would have been, but said that a child’s skull was very soft.

Clinical research is lacking

The pathologists cited the lack of clinical research as the reason for their uncertainty. They explained that no one is willing to shake children or hit their heads to collect data.

The Crown also called Dr. Juliet Soper, a pediatrician who works in the field of child abuse. She testified that the boy had not developed the muscles necessary to harm himself.

The defense called only one witness, neuropathologist Dr. Roland Auer, who provided an alternative explanation for Keenan’s death.

He dismissed the bruising on the back of the boy’s head, saying it could have been the result of CPR performed by paramedics.

Auer also dismissed the whole concept of shaken baby syndrome. He doesn’t think there is enough scientific evidence to confirm its existence.

He also said that the bleeding in the skull could be explained by the normal process after death.

Instead, he testified that he believed pneumonia was the explanation for Keenan’s death.

However, Nistor testified that although viruses were found in Keenan’s airway, they were not enough to have caused illness.

It is now up to Judge Keith Kilback to decide which of the arguments to give more weight to. He has reserved his decision until March 16, 2023.

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