TORONTO — A coroner’s inquest into the death of a seven-year-old girl listened Monday to the 911 call that led paramedics to find her small, beaten body in a Toronto apartment in 2008.
Katelynn Sampson’s guardian, Donna Irving, could be heard sobbing as she told the operator she believed the girl was already dead.
“It’s really an emergency. My daughter choked and I think she died,” Irving said on the recording. “I was so scared, I didn’t know what to do.”
Irving and Katelynn’s other guardian, Warren Johnson, were convicted of second-degree murder in the girl’s death and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.
The pair beat Katelynn for months until her body went into septic shock.
Her mother, Bernice Sampson, looked shaken as the recording was played in court. Sampson’s lawyer said outside court it was the first time her client had heard it.
“I think that we’re extremely skeptical of any emotion … by Ms. Irving,” Suzan Fraser said. “She knew that Katelynn was dead, it was pretty clear from the call — we question whether the tears were real and right now we consider it more of a performance.”
Fraser said nobody can truly understand what Sampson is going through.
“Ms. Sampson has been through a tremendous ordeal, first a death in the most horrific of circumstances, the most brutal thing that shocked our community. I don’t think I fully appreciated…the scope of Katelynn’s suffering and as we come to return to this death, and we look at the injuries that she sustained on every part of her body, we just are shocked all over again.”
Sampson said she hopes the inquest will ensure no other child will suffer the same fate as her daughter.
“At least when this is all done, Katelynn will rest, she’ll be at peace, and then hopefully I will get some peace,” she said outside court.
Sampson was addicted to crack and gave her daughter to Johnson and Irving in a misguided attempt to save Katelynn.
It was later revealed that a judge granted custody to Irving despite her criminal convictions for prostitution, drugs and violence.
Irving and Johnson also called the Children’s Aid Society saying they no longer wanted the child, but their call was transferred to Native Child and Family Services because Katelynn was half-Anishinabe.
It took a case worker 16 days to contact Irving, but by then she said she was getting help from Katelynn’s school, which wasn’t true.
The inquest is expected to take four weeks and will hear from about 30 witnesses, including police officers and Katelynn’s teachers.