Dr. Charles Smith


Dr. Charles SmithPreviously published in PYSIH.com

When Bill Mullins-Johnson went to bed on June 26, 1993, he never dreamed that in a few hours his life would become a nightmare. He awoke to his sister-in-law’s screams and, racing upstairs to his little niece’s bedroom, he found four-year-old Valin’s lifeless body in her bed. He and his brother tried to revive her but it was too late. Little Valin was dead.

The police arrived and began asking questions. Bill told them truthfully he lived with his brother’s family and that he had babysat Valin the night before. This made him Suspect #1, and within 12 hours of finding his niece’s body Bill was charged with first-degree murder.

Bill was hysterical, crying and protesting his innocence. It did no good. He was accused not only of murdering the little girl but also raping her. After fourteen months in custody Bill went to trial in September 1994. He was certain he would be exonerated for he had done nothing wrong. He hadn’t counted on the testimony of Dr. Charles Smith, the top pediatric pathologist in Ontario.

Dr. Charles Smith, the darling of Ontario prosecutors, testified that Valin had been strangled to death while being sodomized. He couldn’t produce the autopsy exhibits — they were lost, but without a doubt, beyond any question, Valin had been sodomized and strangled. Not surprisingly the jury found Bill guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Bill was sent to Warkworth Penitentiary, an Ontario prison known to house killers, rapists and pedophiles — the absolute dregs of society. For the next decade Bill lived in an eleven-by-seven foot cell, beset by depression. He maintained his innocence but only his mother believed him.

“We cried, cried all the time. Rehashed that stupid trial every time we got together.”

Finally in 2001 David Bayliss, a lawyer with the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted, listened to Bill and believed him.

“There was not a shred of forensic evidence linking Bill to the crime scene,” Bayliss said. “This was an alleged sex-homicide. There was no semen. There was no blood. There was no saliva, no hair, no biological material whatsoever connected Billy to Valin or the bed where she was found dead.”

Dr. Charles Smith

Could this be true? No evidence at all of a sex-homicide yet Bill was convicted of this horrible crime? After nearly two years of bureaucratic nonsense, the Ontario chief coroner’s office finally ordered a search of Dr. Charles Smith’s office. And what did they find? The missing autopsy exhibits. Right on Dr. Smith’s desk.

Two expert pathologists examined the medical exhibits and determined that the bruises on Valin’s body were not evidence of strangulation or sexual assault. The marks had been caused by the gravitational pooling of blood that occurs after death. Valin had succumbed to a “sudden natural death.” No sodomy. No murder. Said Bayliss:

“Valin … was not killed by anyone.”

And yet Bill had spent 12 years in prison amongst killers, pedophiles and rapists. He’d been convicted solely on the testimony of Dr. Charles Smith. And he would have been exonerated by the “missing” evidence Smith kept in his office.

Okay, people make mistakes and obviously Dr. Charles Smith f*cked up. But how many mistakes before it becomes a pattern of intentional malice? How many incidents of “lost” evidence and “misinterpreted” autopsy findings should a prominent pathologist be allowed?

Bill Mullins-Johnson was not the only one wrongfully imprisoned because of Dr. Charles Smith.

In 1997 Louise Reynolds was charged with killing her seven-year-old daughter, Sharon.

Sharon was missing for several hours before police found her bloodied body under the stairs in the basement of the family’s Kingston, Ontario home. It was a horrible, heartrending sight, this little girl’s body covered with blood and gashes and punctures.

Two weeks later the grieving Louise was charged with murder. “They said they know that I did it, they said they have the evidence that I did it,” said Louise. “It was like I was in another world really because I just couldn’t believe they were sitting there telling me that.”

And what evidence did they have? Why, Dr. Charles Smith had told them that the girl had been stabbed with scissors more than 80 times. And that would make Louise Reynolds an absolute monster!

But there was a pit bull living in the house seen with red staining around its mouth on the day Sharon’s body was found. Couldn’t maybe, possibly …? But no, Dr. Smith testified there “was absolutely no way in the world a dog could have caused that pattern of injury.”

“Dr. Smith was at my preliminary hearing and testified that you know he had no doubt that my daughter was stabbed to death. I’m just sitting there thinking: he’s not right, he’s wrong.”

So off of prison the supposedly murdering mother went, for 22 months. Twenty-two months sitting in solitary confinement grieving the death of her little girl. Finally a bonafide expert forensic pathologist, Dr. James Ferris (of the Australian dingo-baby case) looked at the case and publicly challenged Dr. Smith’s findings.

“They were absolutely classic of a dog bite,” Dr. Ferris said of Sharon’s wounds. “In my view there was never any other reasonable opinion.”

Eventually Dr. Smith “deferred to the other expert opinions” and the Crown dropped its case against Louise and released her.

Okay, so that’s two mistakes made by Dr. Charles Smith. Is that hellworthy yet?

In 1995 eleven-month-old Nicholas Gagnon of Sudbury bumped his head on a table and died. Accident, plain and simple. But Dr. Charles Smith disagreed with the findings of the first pathologist and ordered a second autopsy. He determined the baby’s death was non-accidental, blunt-force trauma. The parents were never charged but authorities seized their second child. They not only lost Nicolas but were robbed of his sibling as well.

In 1998 three-year-old Tyrell Salmon of Toronto died. His father’s girlfriend Maureen Laidley was charged with murder based on Dr. Charles Smith’s conclusions.

On the eve of her trial three other pathologists concluded that Tyrell’s head injury was caused by falling on a coffee table. The charge of murder against Maureen Laidley was withdrawn.

Dr. Charles Smith

Can you imagine what it was like for her? The little boy falls and bumps his head the wrong way, he dies and everyone grieves. And Maureen had to live with the condemnation of the entire community, and face the fear and anxiety of going to trial.

So that’s four “mistakes” — hellworthy yet?

Brenda Waudby was another “mistake.” She was accused of murdering her 21-month-old daughter Jenna in 1997. A pubic hair found on the baby’s body “disappeared” during Dr. Smith’s investigation. Five years later the police found it in his office. Charges against Brenda Waudby were rightly dropped and Jenna’s babysitter was subsequently convicted of her murder.

Dr. Charles Smith

We’re up to five “mistakes” now, and still counting.

In 1999 Sherry Sherret-Robinson found her four-month-old baby Joshua cold and blue in his crib.

“I will never forget the terror I felt when I reached down to pick him up and discovered that he was blue and his little body was completely stiff,” Sherry said. At the hospital, “eventually the doctors came and told me he had died, and let me hold him to say goodbye. I sang him a lullaby and refused to let go of him. Even to this day, I cannot get the image out of my head.”

Dr. Charles Smith

Sherry was accused and convicted of murdering her infant boy. Dr. Charles Smith had concluded and testified that Joshua had died of asphyxia, and cited a skull fracture and neck hemorrhages.

Although Sherry had initially pleaded not guilty to infanticide, her lawyer and the Crown drafted an agreed statement of fact that said she smothered Joshua. She spent a year in prison (which I have to say is 24 years too little for someone who murders a baby, but one year too much for someone who didn’t).

In December 2009 Sherry was acquitted of charges after Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Pollanen told the Ontario Court of Appeal that he did not find any skull fracture and the neck hemorrhages were caused during the autopsy process. In other words, Dr. Charles Smith caused the neck hemorrhages himself.

Baby Joshua had died of accidental asphyxia caused by too many blankets under, around and on top of him. Out of love Sherry had swaddled her baby too much.

What compounds this tragedy is that Sherry’s other son, Austin, was taken from her by the Children’s Aid Society and given up for adoption. He is now 15, and she cannot legally see him until he turns 18, and then only if he agrees.

“I hope he will know the truth, but that isn’t up to me; it is up to his adoptive parents. I would give anything to get him back.”

That’s six “mistakes” Dr. Charles Smith committed. Hellworthy yet? Hell yes!

Questions were being raised about Dr. Charles Smith’s performance as a leading pediatric pathologist and star prosecution witness since 1991. Finally, in June 2005 an Ontario coroner’s inquiry reviewed 45 child autopsies in which Dr. Smith had concluded were homicides or criminally suspicious. This inquiry covered the years 1991 to 2002. FYI Dr. Smith had started conducting child autopsies in 1981.

“I am very surprised with the overall results of the review, and concerned,” chief coroner Dr. Barry McLellan said after the coroner’s inquiry. “In a number of cases, the reviewers felt that Dr. Smith had provided an opinion regarding the cause of death that was not reasonably supported by the materials available for review.”

The coroner’s review found that Dr. Charles Smith’s conclusions of foul play were questionable in 20 of the 45 cases. Thirteen of these cases had resulted in criminal convictions.

Dr. Charles Smith

Can you imagine? Twenty families already upset by the sudden loss of their children were blown apart by accusations of murder and foul play. Instead of receiving community and family support during their grief many were vilified and shunned and, yes, convicted. And that, my friends, is what makes Dr. Charles Smith hellworthy.

After the coroner’s inquiry’s findings were made public in April 2007, the Ontario government ordered a public inquiry into Dr. Charles Smith’s practices. This inquiry was led by Justice Stephen Goudge.

Dr. Smith repeatedly said he was “sorry” and “ashamed” of mistakes that compounded the tragedy of the children’s deaths. He then placed the blame on his ignorance of the criminal justice system and a woefully inadequate education in pediatric forensic pathology.

A leading pediatric pathologist and star prosecution witness ignorant of the justice system and inadequately educated in pediatric pathology? How the hell did he get the job and keep it for almost 25 years? And why would he take the job if he couldn’t do it?

No, his problem wasn’t ignorance of the justice system and an inadequate education. No, his problem was he was on a crusade and was willing to “help” in the prosecution and persecution of people he considered undeserving parents.

Just speculating here, but it is known he was born in a Toronto Salvation Army hospital and given up for adoption at three months of age. He spent years tracking down his biological mother, and when he called her on her 65th birthday the woman refused to take his call. I’m thinking his life circumstances engendered in him a definite hatred toward inadequate parents. But as I say, I’m just speculating.

Back to the inquiry, Justice Goudge concluded that Dr. Charles Smith had “actively misled” his superiors, “made false and misleading statements” in court and exaggerated his expertise in trials. In other words, he lied. A lot.

“Smith was adamant that his failing were never intentional. I simply cannot accept such a sweeping attempt to escape moral responsibility,” stated Justice Goudge. He also added, “Smith lacked basic knowledge about forensic pathologist.” Ouch! A liar AND an incompetent!

The Ontario provincial government has announced compensation up to $250,000 for Dr. Charles’ Smith’s victims. Parents who had their children removed from their custody are entitled to up to $25,000, and other family members are entitled to up to $12,500. Oooh, how magnanimous!

Maurice Gagnon of Sudbury, for one, is happy to get compensation. He spent his $100,000 retirement fund to clear his daughter Lianne in the death of Nicholas, the toddler who hit his head on a table and died.

Many victims are considering suing Dr. Charles Smith himself, but he’s not a multi-millionaire so compensation that route will be more emotional satisfaction than monetary.

Dr. Charles Smith no longer has a license to practice medicine. His marriage broke up since the public inquiry. He’s 57 now, lives in Victoria but he’s not registered as a physician in British Columbia.

What he’s going to do with the rest of his life I don’t know. But after this life I’m thinking there’s a toasty little spot for him in hell.

UPDATE

A coward to the end, Dr. Charles Smith was a no-show at the disciplinary hearing that stripped the discredited pathologist of his license to practice medicine.

Disgraceful. Dishonorable. Unprofessional. Incompetent. He was labelled all of those things by the College of Physicians and Surgeons after his lawyer indicated that he was pleading no contest to their charges.

Revoking his medical license is not much of a punishment when Smith hasn’t tried to re-register since it expired in August 2008.

From a regulatory body that looked the other way for so long, it’s much too little, much too late.

CBC article
Globe and Mail article
National Post article

One Response to Dr. Charles Smith

  1. bengalpuss29 says:

    The amount of compensation is a joke how do you compensate a man that spent 11 years in jail, and being dubbed a child killer would have had a miserable existence. And mothers who’s babies died grieving for their child, then getting arrested for killing that child when all along they were innocent. I don.t believe this doctors bullshit that he was overwhelmed my arse, because he actually 2nd guessed a PostMorten after one had been performed saying the death was an accident he did the 2nd one and said no it was murder. Was he trying to be important, did he get a kick out of being a court witness. All i know is he’s fucked a lot of peoples lives up and other families have had children adopted because of him $25.000 is fuckall to give to a woman who’s child was adopted because of (Quincey) And how much money Will the guy that served 11 years get. I personally think he should get at least a million but im you dishing the dosh out, so we’ll never know. Fuck that bastard quincey pretending piece of shite doctor.

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