WARNING: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing for some readers
An attempted drowning might have been the cause of some of the brain injuries seen in a seven-year-old Langley girl who died two years ago, a murder trial in New Westminster Supreme Court heard on Wednesday.
KerryAnn Lewis is on trial in a courtroom in New Westminster Supreme Court, facing a first-degree murder charge for the July 22, 2018 death of seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa.
The Crown’s contention throughout the trial has been that Lewis, frustrated over her limited custody of Aaliyah, who lived mostly with her father, sedated and drowned the young girl in the bathtub of Lewis’s Langley apartment.
The defence has brought in Dr. Christopher Dunham, a pediatric neuropathologist at B.C. Children’s Hospital, to testify.
Dunham’s testimony has suggested that Aaliyah suffered from an undiagnosed brain condition, arrested hydrocephalus, that could have contributed to her death. Hydrocephalus is essentially swelling in the brain, and Dunham testified that a blow to the head – which the autopsy showed Aaliyah suffered sometime shortly before her death – could have increased that brain swelling, leading to death.
But under questioning by Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson, Dunham acknowledged that a non-fatal drowning could have caused some of the injuries he observed in Aaliyah’s brain.
Someone who is drowned and dies immediately does not have time to develop edema – swelling – in the brain, Dunham testified.
“A fatal drowning episode is probably outside the realm of possibility in this case,” he said.
But edema can result from a non-fatal but damaging lack of oxygen, such as an attempted drowning.
“There is edema in this case, and there was a history of potential drowning episode,” Dunham said.
Earlier witnesses who found Aaliyah’s body testified they found her lying on the floor of the master bathroom, in a damp pink bathrobe, next to a full tub.
McPherson also asked about the toxicology report that showed prescription and over-the-counter medications, Ativan and Benadryl, were in Aaliyah’s system.
“It would be difficult to know if any of the drugs had an effect on the congestion and the edema,” Dunham said.
The trial could see testimony from duelling expert witnesses.
This week, Crown prosecutors Kristen LeNoble and Christopher McPherson told Justice Martha Devlin that they want to bring in a rebuttal witness after Dunham’s testimony is finished.
Defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford said she will oppose that.
“There are a whole bunch of new issues,” Sandford told Devlin on Wednesday morning.
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