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Dead Boy is Matthew Reid

December 19, 2005 permalink

The Welland Tribune has named the murdered Welland boy as Matthew Reid. A reader comment follows the story.



Three-year-old smothered

Matthew Reid foster home
Police forensics examiners, after doffing their white coveralls Friday, leave a downtown Welland foster home after gathering evidence in the death of a three-year-old boy Friday. A 14-year-old girl charged with first-degree murder will next appear in court Dec. 23.
Photo: Staff photo Greg Furminger

- WELLAND - A 14-year-old girl charged in Thursday's murder of a three-year-old boy at a downtown foster home was moved there from an open youth custody facility less than 24 hours earlier, The Tribune has learned.

Niagara Regional Police spokesman Const. Sal Basilone said Friday that results of an autopsy conducted at Hamilton General Hospital concluded the child died of suffocation.

Police still aren't releasing details about how the toddler died, but a source told The Tribune the boy was smothered with a pillow.

After speaking with both the boy's foster parents and birth mother, Sgt. Jim Armstrong said Niagara's 13th homicide victim of 2005 can now be identified as Matthew Reid.

Matthew had lived in a foster home on Welland's Frazer Street for more than two years, The Tribune's source said.

The children's aid society responsible for Matthew would only say he was well known by his foster family.

The girl charged with his murder had been a resident at David S. Horne Home.

She first arrived at the open custody and open detention facility on Highway 20 on Dec. 9, said its executive director, Mark Patus.

She moved out of the facility and into foster care Dec. 14.

Matthew was found lifeless at 8:20 a.m. Dec. 15.

It's a pretty sad case, Patus said.

It's absolutely shocking not just for us, but the whole system.

The girl, whose identity is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, appeared Friday in Ontario court of justice in St. Catharines for a bail hearing.

Dressed in a pink V-neck sweater, the girl tucked behind her right ear the very dark brown hair that falls straight just past her shoulders.

Asked if she understood the first-degree murder charge before her, she said Yes and immediately flashed a smile.

What was said in court by the Crown and defense counsels is automatically protected by a publication ban.

The girl was remanded into custody to await her next court appearance, two days before Christmas, at 9 a.m.

In the meantime, children's aid societies in neighbouring regions continue to co-operate with police investigators, as they also review their own procedures.

As an agency that strives to care for and protect children in need, this is absolutely the worst news we can receive, Family and Children's Service Niagara executive director Bill Charron said in a prepared statement.

The girl charged with Matthew's murder is a Crown ward of FACS, meaning all ties between her and her family have been severed.

We share with the community a tremendous shock, sadness and grief, Charron said of what he called a tragic situation.

We are reviewing every aspect of the case and will co-operate with the police with regard to the investigation, he said.

FACS is reporting this is the first time it has experienced a tragedy of this nature.

There are now about 650 children in the care of the Niagara child welfare agency. Children are placed in foster care every day.

Placement is based on a number of factors, including the needs of a particular child, the history of a foster home and the level of care it offers, said spokeswoman Ann Godfrey.

She wouldn't go into details about the case at hand, nor say how long the foster home had been running.

However, Godfrey did say, It's my understanding they were well regarded foster parents and experienced foster parents.

Last year FACS responded to 5,700 child protection concerns and conducted 43,400 investigations of possible abuse and neglect.

Matthew, who still had contact with his mother, was in care of The Children's Aid Society of Haldimand and Norfolk.

The mother said she had hoped to get custody of her son back and was devastated by his death.

She said the Haldimand-Norfolk Children's Aid Society took the child from her because she was considered an unfit mother.

They also took her four-year-old daughter who is now in the care of her paternal grandmother in London, Ont.

They told me I can't have them because, Your house isn't clean and you have a history of depression', she told the Hamilton Spectator.

She said she was angry at the children's aid society for failing to protect her son.

Where were they? They have to be responsible too, she said.

News of the homicide has devastated our place, executive director Brian Hillier said of the small rural agency.

Our staff are very intimately connected with our kids, our families, our foster parents, he said.

We saw pockets of our people standing around in tears.

Hillier, too, spoke highly of the foster family trying to come to grips with what has happened.

This is a terrific foster home. This is nothing but tragic for them, he said.

Because of the issues involved, Welland's only homicide of 2005 has captured the attention of the national media.

It is also drawing intense scrutiny from Ontario's Ministry of Child and Youth Services.

Anybody who believes this will not fall under a microscope does not know how government works, Hillier said.

The girl's lawyer said there was no decision yet on how to plead.

Based on the evidence that is out so far it's difficult to think of anything more tragic than a three-year-old that's deceased and a 14-year-old who is charged with first-degree murder, said lawyer John Lefurgey.

Police forensics investigators completed their examination of the Welland foster home mid-afternoon Friday.

The homicide investigation is being headed up by the St. Catharines-based major crime unit.

They are being assisted by officers from the Welland district criminal investigations bureau, street crime unit and uniform patrol, and the child abuse unit.

With files from CP

Source: Welland Tribune

An anonymous Dufferin VOCA reader comments:



Here are a few facts pieced together from different sources.

The Welland Tribune and CTV carried photos of the residence that Bill Charron (Executive Director of FACS) described as an excellent foster home - it looks like the type of property CAS would remove children from on the pretext of being dirty or dilapidated. To me, Charron's comments appeared calculated to distinguish the quality of Matthew's care from the house of horrors run by Eva Bottineau. How comforting to know he died in such excellent surroundings. While proclaiming his confidence in the foster home, Charron seems unaware that public confidence in CAS is the issue.

The girl charged with murder was also a crown ward in the care of FACS for the past two years. On December 9, she was placed in open custody at the David S. Horne Home. (Charron was a founding board member of that facility and an OACAS board member for 8 years). Subsequently, she was relocated to the foster home where the murder occurred less than 24 hours later.

Matthew had lived in this foster home since October and had been in CAS custody for at least two years - which means he was taken from his (now) 23 year-old mother at a very young age. According to CAS, her house was dirty and she had a history of depression.

The mother was herself a CAS ward, lives in Tillsonburg. A second child was placed with a paternal grandparent, but Matthew was not allowed to remain within the family - a custody application involving the woman's stepfather was pending at the time of Matthew's death.

If one were to accept CAS' viewpoint, this could be seen as one more indication these agencies produce unfit parents - the more likely explanation is that Matthew was abducted on a pretext. Not surprisingly, the mother blames CAS for the boy's death.

What I found frightening is that CAS stated that it was now the accused girl's family and was arranging her legal counsel. Consequently, if she acted in retaliation to CAS abuse it's unlikely to ever come out. Also, the Niagara CAS conducts 43,000 investigations annually - a figure that must be astronomical in relation to the area's population. There are 650 kids in its custody.