Regina mother stands trial for 2nd-degree murder in death of 18-month-old son
Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing
A Regina woman accused of killing her 18-month-old son sat holding a small teddy bear in the prisoner’s box as she listened to prosecutors outline the evidence against her on the first day of trial at the Court of King's Bench.
Chelsea Whitby, 27, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her son, Emerson.
Autopsy results show the boy died from a brain bleed as a result of head trauma, according to the Crown’s opening statement. Emerson died June 10, 2020 from his injuries.
Whitby denies any trauma ever happened. She has pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried by judge alone.
During his opening remarks, co-Crown prosecutor Adam Breker argued Whitby killed Emerson “in an act of frustration and aggression” in her apartment on the 3200 block of East Arens Road.
“[The injuries] did not spontaneously occur, they were not self-inflicted, they were not caused by someone else,” Breker told court.
“They were inflicted by Chelsea Whitby.”
Court heard a recording of the 911 call placed by Whitby the morning of June 10 after she discovered her son was unresponsive. The accused sat crying while listening to the call play back in the courtroom.
Whitby was heard frantically asking first responders to “please hurry” as her son was “not breathing.”
“Oh my God, he’s like blue,” she told the 911 operator.
The operator walked through the steps of CPR over the phone as Whitby’s then-boyfriend, Taylor Stewart performed mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions until first responders arrived and took over.
At the scene, first responders noticed bruising on Emerson’s face, jawline, upper chest and shoulders, according to Crown witness and firefighter paramedic Spencer Larocque. The bruising matched bruises photographed on the boy’s body during the autopsy.
EMS transported Emerson to Regina General Hospital and he was pronounced brain dead later that afternoon.
Breker said further examination at the hospital revealed Emerson had a fractured clavicle and showed signs of healing rib fractures and a healing skull fracture.
During cross-examination, the defence asked if CPR could result in bruising and broken bones.
“I wouldn’t say it would cause immediate bruising,” Larocque testified.
Larocque admitted that CPR can cause broken ribs and a broken sternum in some cases, but he could not say for certain if it could result in a broken clavicle.
Court heard Emerson had not been feeling well in the day leading up to his death.
Phone records show Whitby called to book a doctor’s appointment for her son the morning he died. The concern listed was vomiting, according to the doctor’s office.
Whitby told EMS on scene that her son had thrown up the night before his death, but had not suffered any recent falls or injuries.
Advanced care paramedic Sarah Erickson responded to the scene. She testified in court that vomiting can be caused by a number of things, but it did not explain the bruising she witnessed nor did that information change the course of treatment for Emerson.
Over the course of the trial, court will hear evidence about previous bruises and injuries found on Emerson after being in his mother’s care, according to Breker.
A few weeks before Emerson’s death, his biological father as well as a doctor contacted the Ministry of Social Services with suspicions of child abuse, the Crown said. They had noticed Emerson sustained “serious visible injuries” while in the care of his mother.
Social services set up a week-long safety plan that placed the boy in the care of Whitby’s mother. Eventually, Emerson was able to return home to live with Whitby. However, her mother had to check in on them daily.
Whitby was arrested and initially charged with manslaughter on Aug. 4, 2020. The charge was upgraded to second-degree murder in October 2021.
She is currently out of custody.
The trial is scheduled for three weeks.
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