3-month-old Regina baby died from 'blunt force trauma' to head, autopsy report says
A forensic pathologist offered her expert opinion on how Catlin Goodwill’s three-month-old son died suddenly in October 2017, during testimony on the second day of trial.
Dr. Andreea Nistor, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, concluded that the infant died of blunt force trauma to the head. However, she could not determine if it was accidental or not.
Goodwill is charged with manslaughter in the death of his infant son, who unexpectedly stopped breathing at the family home in Regina on Oct. 14, 2017.
EMS responded to the scene. Paramedics performed life-saving measures, but the baby boy was pronounced dead at hospital.
During Nistor's external examination on the body, she found bruising on the boy’s scalp and groin, but there were no other signs of injuries, Nistor testified.
CT results showed “significant” brain bleeds inside the baby’s head, however the skull was not fractured. She did not find any other abnormalities in the infant’s organs.
“He was a well nourished baby of good size,” she said. “There’s no evidence of disease that may have caused death”
Nistor said the bruising on the brain would have happened recently and prior to the baby’s death.
Dr. Nistor sent the brain among other tissues to Dr. David Ramsey, a neuropathologist in Ontario, who performed more tests and examinations.
Ramsey concluded that the boy died from cardio respiratory arrest.
While testifying in court on Tuesday, Ramsey said the cardio respiratory arrest could have be a result of two different scenarios: a head and brain injury that took place a few hours before the infant’s death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
“It is very hard to believe that this was a natural event that just happened to appear just after the child was put to bed,” Ramsey said, adding it is difficult to understand how the bruising and brain bleeds appeared with no explanation from the boy’s parents.
“It’s hard to say what force of impact causes what sort of events in the head.”
The neuropathologist told court that the baby’s injuries are similar to those that occur in Shaken Baby Syndrome. However, that cannot be confirmed.
During cross-examination, Nistor told court “it is possible, but not probable” that the bruising on the scalp and bleeding in the brain were a result of paramedics performing CPR and chest compressions.
“We can’t exclude it,” she said.
Defence lawyer Bruce Campbell confronted Nistor with two other reports that came to different conclusions regarding the cause of death.
A neuropathologist based out of Saskatoon concluded that the baby died from cardio pulmonary arrest as a result of serious respiratory viruses.
Nistor told court that the Saskatoon neuropathologist was commenting on something out of his area of expertise. She said he is not trained in anatomical or general pathology, only neuropathology.
“I am standing behind my opinion that the lungs did not have disease that caused death,” she said.
Another doctor who specializes in pediatrics at the Regina General Hospital could not determine the cause of death based on the findings.
Nistor ruled out Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which she described as an umbrella term for when pathologists cannot determine how a child under one year old died unexpectedly.
She sees more than five SIDS patients each year. She said the brain bleed rules out the possibility of SIDS.
The baby’s mother, Jodeci Spencer, previously testified to leaving her son home alone with Goodwill both the day before and day of his death.
She said when she returned home, the baby was napping and things seemed “ordinary.”
Spencer told court she heard him cry a couple of times throughout the evening before Goodwill eventually found the baby unresponsive and the couple called 911.
Goodwill was arrested and charged with manslaughter nearly two years after his son’s death.
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