Skull fractures caused by violence: expert

The severe skull fractures suffered by a young boy could only have resulted from a violent action, a forensic pathologist said Friday.

The severe skull fractures suffered by a young boy could only have resulted from a violent action, a forensic pathologist said Friday.

Dr. Evan Matshes, who helped perform the autopsy the day after 18-month-old Garth Leippi of Red Deer died on Oct. 13, 2008, testified the fractures to the back of skull resembled breaks seen in children who have been run over by a car, fallen from a great height or been unrestrained and thrown around in a vehicle which has been involved in a violent crash.

Matshes, who specializes in the forensic pathology of children, told the Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench jury that fractures to the back of the skull in children are unusual.

Evan Caswell Gilmer, 33, of Red Deer is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leippi who was injured at his Red Deer home and airlifted to Calgary Children’s Hospital.

Leippi wasn’t breathing when paramedics rushed him to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre before he was airlifted to Calgary.

He suffered a severe brain injury that resulted in him being taken off life support late the next day.

Matshes told Crown prosecutor Jason Snider the injury could have been sustained by one or more impacts to the head.

He also said timing is an inexact science in determining the time when Leippi suffered the injury.

Matshes testified he was told by RCMP officers during the autopsy that the suspect told them he had been sleeping with Leippi on the couch when the child rolled off.

In an attempt to pull the boy back on the suspect is alleged to have fallen on him and in the process put his hand down to support himself but pushed it into the boy’s head.

Court heard earlier that Leippi had been waking up though the night crying in his bedroom and his mother Jennifer Gladue and Gilmer had taken turns tending to him.

Matshes also said he was told during the autopsy the boy had jumped off the couch at another point and hit his head.

“I’ve never seen this type of injury in a fall from a couch or a bed,” Matshes said at the end of the second week of the month-long trial.

However, Matshes agreed if a 104 kg man fell on a child and first put his hand out which squashed his head, the injury could possibly have occurred.

“The shape of the fractures was the application of severe forces,” Matshes said.

He also said a child’s skull is not solid bone and doesn’t become that way until a person is much older.

He also said it would have been impossible for Leippi to have been walking around for day before his death with a fractured skull.

The doctor also ruled out a stroke as the cause of the brain damage.

The Calgary medical examiner who ruled that the death wasn’t accidental, is expected to testify next week.

Snider is expected to close his case on Tuesday.

Defence lawyer Lorne Goddard is expected to call evidence.

The evidence portion could be wrapped up at the end of next week.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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