TORONTO — The house in which a five-year-old boy was starved to death by his grandparents seemed normal to a children’s aid worker who visited in the hours after the child died, that is, until he came upon a locked bedroom so putrid that the odour clung to his clothing.
Osiris Villalobos, an after-hours emergency worker for the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, got the call the morning of Nov. 30, 2002, when Jeffrey Baldwin was pronounced dead in hospital.
Villalobos first went to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where he saw the boy’s emaciated body.
Jeffrey weighed 21 pounds — about the same as he did on his first birthday — when he died of bacterial bronchopneumonia as a complication of chronic starvation.
Jeffrey’s grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were granted custody of the boy and his three siblings despite having previous child abuse convictions and were later convicted of second-degree murder.
Testifying Tuesday at the coroner’s inquest into Jeffrey’s death, Villalobos said his next stop that morning was to the home where Jeffrey and his siblings had been living with Bottineau and Kidman, as well as two of their adult daughters and their families.
Everyone was watching television, Villalobos said, but nothing seemed terribly amiss.
“If I had been there and not gone into that room I would not have had any concerns about that family,” he said.
The other bedrooms were well-furnished, with plenty of blankets and a normal temperature, Villalobos said, but the bedroom Jeffrey shared with one of his sisters was filthy. And this one had a lock on the outside.
“I remember the stench…the stench was quite strong,” he said. “It was so strong that you went into the bedroom and the odour stays in your clothes.”
The floor was stained with urine and Jeffrey’s mattress on his crib, which had been turned into a day bed of sorts, was soaked with human waste. Dirty diapers littered the room, he said.
When a coroner who accompanied Villalobos pressed a gloved hand onto the mattress, urine pooled on the surface, Villalobos said.
There was a latch on the outside of the door, which can be seen in photos shown to the inquest jury. Villalobos later learned that Jeffrey and his sister were not toilet trained, he said. Sometimes Jeffrey would drink out of the toilet, he was told.
The room was also “extremely cold,” he said, much colder than the rest of the house.
The inquest began on Monday and is expected to last three month.