CALGARY — A judge has ruled that a four-year-old girl who died was clearly a victim of child abuse but there’s not enough evidence to convict her father of second-degree murder.
Oluwatosin Oluwafemi, 44, had pleaded not guilty in the 2014 death of four-year-old Olive Rebekah Oluwafemi.
The Calgary man put his face in his hands, smiled and sighed deeply as Justice Suzanne Bensler acquitted him on Wednesday.
“I find that the Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Oluwafemi committed an unlawful act that caused the death of Rebekah,” said Bensler.
“Using common sense and reasonable inferences from all of the evidence in this case, I am sure that Rebekah was a victim of child abuse.”
The trial heard Oluwafemi was unemployed and was the only one looking after the child on the day she died, Dec. 19, 2014. He called his wife at work and she rushed home to find him performing CPR on their daughter.
A paramedic testified he arrived 20 minutes later and found the girl unconscious, not breathing and in cardiac arrest. He said he received no explanation from the people in the home about what happened. Rebekah died of multiple blunt trauma which led to damage to her spinal cord.
Medical evidence introduced in court suggested a simple fall would not have caused the severity of her injuries, which were equivalent to jumping head first into a swimming pool and hitting her head.
Bensler said the evidence showed that there were several injuries on the little girl that predated the day of her death. Although some could be attributed to regular play, many others could not, she said.
“Clearly Rebekah was harmed by someone,” the judge said. ”I’m not sure that the accused, Rebekah’s mother, or both parents caused the bruising … (but) the parents are supposed to look after the child and supposed to protect their child.”
The girl’s mother testified that she would sometimes discipline her daughter by pulling her ears, hitting the palm of her hand with a flip-flop, smacking her or yelling.
“Do I believe the accused when he said that she died from a fall off the stairs? I do not know,” Bensler said.
“Mr. Oluwafemi was never seen to physically injure his child. Am I unsure whether to believe him? Does his evidence raise a reasonable doubt? I’m unsure whether to believe him.”
The prosecution had argued that although there was only circumstantial evidence, common sense made it clear that Oluwafemi killed his child.
Oluwafemi’s lawyer said there was no proof her client did anything to the little girl, who was an active child and got bumps and bruises from her rough play.
Oluwafemi was arrested in Ontario a year after his daughter died. He had moved to the community of Keswick to be closer to his family.
He is originally from Nigeria and was working as a mining engineer for NorWest Corp. until October 2014 when he was laid off.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2020
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Bill Graveand, The Canadian Press