Matthew Reid Inquest
February 2, 2010
Testimony has started in the inquest into the death of Matthew Reid, smothered to death by a fourteen-year-old foster girl in 2005. It may be more of a cover-up than public disclosure, since publication of names has been banned. The first day’s testimony showed that Reid had been molested earlier by a different foster girl.
Foster mom relives tragedy
SOCIAL SERVICES: Inquest opens into smothering death of boy in foster home
Posted By TIFFANY MAYER, STANDARD STAFF, Posted February 2 2010
The three-year-old boy signed the word across the dinner table to the daughter of his Welland foster mom.
He did it to show he understood the young woman’s message to him — also said with sign language to quiet the talkative tot — that the 14-year-old girl joining them at the table, who arrived that mid-December day in 2005 to stay with them, was a friend.
The next morning, foster mom Margaret Hamilton found the gregarious boy lying on his bedroom floor, cold and grey.
He had been smothered by his friend, a Crown ward in the care of Family and Children’s Services Niagara, who confessed her crime in a note left near the boy’s body and calmly brushed her freshly washed hair in her bedroom as Hamilton and her daughter frantically called for help.
The girl, who cannot be identified, was given a seven-year sentence in November 2007 for second-degree murder.
On Monday, during the first day of a coroner’s inquest that will examine the events surrounding the tragedy, Hamilton relived the events leading to the Dec. 15, 2005 death of the boy, who was in the care of the Haldimand-Norfolk Children’s Aid Society.
Due to a publication ban, the boy can’t be named.
The inquest, presided over by Dr. James Edwards, is being held at the Quality Hotel Parkway Convention Centre on Ontario Street. It is expected to take three weeks.
A five-person jury will hear from about 30 witnesses, including police, a forensic pathologist, social workers, educators who worked with the girl, foster families and, possibly, the perpetrator herself.
At the end of the proceedings, the jury can choose to make recommendations that can be used to prevent similar deaths.
The circumstances surrounding the death “cry out for some kind of examination,” coroner counsel Eric Siebenmorgen said.
As she answered Siebenmorgen’s questions, Hamilton talked about the notes she took when she got the call that FACS Niagara would like to make use of a bed in her Welland home. It was a bed that she decided to reserve for the agency after moving to Niagara from neighbouring Haldimand County a year earlier.
She had been a foster parent with Haldimand-Norfolk CAS for more than four years when the 14-year-old girl, who had recently been raped and was arrested for stealing a van, would be coming to stay with her.
The list of issues plaguing the teen was long and troublesome to anyone unfamiliar with caring for foster children, Siebenmorgen noted.
But fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disruptive, hostile and threatening behaviour — behaviour that escalated before her period and required antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication to quell — and functioning at the level of a child half the girl’s age didn’t faze Hamilton.
“I fostered a lot of teenage girls, a lot of runners, and almost always seemed to have good rapport with them,” she said.
What she did question, though, was how the girl was with young children, Hamilton told the inquest.
The boy, who had recently been returned to Hamilton’s home after time with his biological mother, had been roughed up by an eight-yearold girl who had stayed briefly with Hamilton a couple weeks earlier.
“I wanted him to get settled and feel comfortable,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t want anything upsetting him …. The response to that was, ‘No, she likes little kids.’ ”
But looking back, as Siebenmorgen asked her to do, Hamilton said she felt the half-hour that the girl’s caseworker spent at her home when dropping off the teen seemed short and rushed.
That evening, as dinner was eaten, TV was watched and everyone called it a night, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until she went to rouse the boy the next morning and get him ready for a pre-school Christmas party.
In hindsight, Hamilton said she would have liked to have seen some of the notes in the girl’s file with FACS, written between 2000 and 2003, before agreeing to accept her. The teen was the first foster child from FACS Niagara that Hamilton welcomed into her home.
Two incidents in particular concerned Hamilton: a report of the girl allegedly putting another child’s head through a window and another accusation of her pushing a child down stairs.
“I believe if I had those notes, I wouldn’t have chosen to have someone with that background in the home, just because there was a small child in my home,” Hamilton said.
The inquest continues Tuesday with cross-examination by counsel for the boy’s biological family.
Source: St Catharines Standard
Addendum: A report on Tuesday’s testimony.
Inquest into child death continues
Posted By KARENA WALTER, QMI AGENCY, Updated February 3, 2010
The foster mother who raised a three-year-old boy at the centre of a coroner’s inquest recalled an easy-going, likeable child Tuesday who enjoyed cuddling.
“He liked almost every-body. He was easy to get along with,” said Margaret Hamilton. “He liked cars. He liked Dora (the Explorer).”
She recalled one humorous moment when the boy, whose name is under a publication ban, was moving on the floor in an attempt at dancing.
“I said to my daughter, what is he doing? She said ‘He’s break-dancing.’ He liked to dance.”
The boy’s body was found on Dec. 15, 2005 on his bedroom floor in Hamilton’s house. He had been smothered by a 14-year-old girl who arrived in the foster home less than 24 hours before.
The girl, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was handed a seven-year sentence in November 2007 for second-degree murder.
The coroner’s inquest began Monday at Quality Hotel Parkway Convention Centre on Ontario Street and is expected to last three weeks.
Ten parties have standing in the inquest, including Family and Children’s Services Niagara, under whose care the girl was, and Haldimand and Norfolk Children’s Aid Society, which was responsible for the boy.
The five-member jury heard Tuesday that Hamilton was an experienced foster parent under Haldimand-Norfolk CAS, fostering 46 children before moving to Welland.
Sheila Newbatt, a resources worker form the Haldimand- Norfolk CAS testified Hamilton decided to stay with the agency and they discussed sharing her home with the Niagara agency.
They decided to let Niagara FACS use a bed in Hamilton’s home for a child in her area.
Newbatt said on Dec. 9, a request came from Niagara FACS for a bed at Hamilton’s home for a girl who was a Crown ward, with fetal alcohol syndrome and was developmentally challenged.
Newbatt said she told Niagara FACS a bed was available but there was a toddler in the home.
Newbatt said Hamilton called her on the morning of Dec. 14 to say the child may be coming. Newbatt said Hamilton told her she asked the person who called her and she was told the only time the girl was rough was with schoolchildren who would bug her.
Later that morning Newbatt told her supervisor the girl was in jail for stealing a car so they weren’t sure if she’d be out that day. She later got a call from Hamilton saying the child was on her way, and Newbatt notified other people in her department that one of Hamilton’s beds had been filled.
The next morning, she received a call from another foster parent at 8:30 a.m. telling her Hamilton sounded like she was in distress.
“Before I could call Margaret I was called into the supervisor’s office to be told (the boy) had died,” she said.
The inquest continues Wednesday.
Source: Simcoe Reformer
Wednesday’s report gets back to calling the dead boy Matthew Reid.
Another foster home was an option for child killer
Posted February 3, 2010
The former foster mother of a 14-year-old girl was willing to take the teen back two days before she killed a boy in another home, an inquest jury heard Wednesday.
Resources worker Vesna Stec of Family and Children’s Services Niagara said she called foster mom Violet McArthur to see if it was an option to return the girl to her Niagara Falls home. McArthur didn’t hesitate.
“(The girl) had been in the home for two years and she absolutely, without question, would have taken her back,” Stec told a coroner’s inquest.
But despite the offer, the girl was placed in a Welland foster home, where, in less than 24 hours, she suffocated three-year-old Matthew Reid.
Matthew, who can be identified with permission from his family, was found smothered on the floor of his bedroom on Dec. 15, 2005.
His death is the subject of the inquest that began this week in St. Catharines at the Quality Hotel Parkway Convention Centre.
The teen girl, whose identity is protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was found guilty of second-degree murder and given a seven-year sentence in 2007.
Stec worked in the placement department of FACS Niagara and picked up the girl’s file on Dec. 12, 2005. She was advised by a co-worker the week before that FACS Niagara could speak directly to Margaret Hamilton, a highly recommended foster mother with the Haldimand-Norfolk Children’s Aid Society who had moved to Welland.
Stec spoke with Hamilton and was confident Hamilton would take care of the girl.
But because Stec wasn’t clear if the girl was being placed in a new foster home at the request of her most recent foster parent, she called Violet McArthur, learning she was willing to take her back.
Stec said McArthur told her the girl’s negative behaviour was confined to 5% of the time. The teen participated in volunteer work at a soup kitchen, with scouts and in dance classes. The next day, Stec said the girl’s care worker called her and said it wasn’t an option for the teen to return to McArthur’s home.
She said the worker said the girl was threatening to run away if she returned to the house.
Stec said she indicated to the worker that McArthur had already gone to some extreme measures to deal with that by sleeping on the couch, offering to sleep on the floor and having family members search for the girl. “She was very committed,” Stec said.
The worker said they needed something more secure, Stec said.
“We have kids that run all the time,” Stec said during questioning. “As much as we put things in place and try to accommodate their issues, they still run.”
She said in cross-examination that the decision on placing the girl ultimately came from the worker and supervisor.
Dr, Kathryn Hunter, a child psychiatrist who worked with the girl from age 11 to 18, was asked if the girl wanted to go back to McArthur’s house.
“She always had a very strong connection with Violet,” Hunter said. “(The girl) would be angry at different people at different times depending on the situation.”
Hunter made a note in September 2003 that the girl was hit by a car when running away and that she agreed that running could have consequences.
The inquest will continue Thursday.
Source: St Catharines Standard
Violet McArthur, the foster mother of Matthew’s killer up until a week before his death testified about her ward.
First outbursts, then remorse
Posted By Karena Walter, Posted February 4, 2010
The words of self-hate were like a mantra.
The teenage girl would chant them over and over in a crumpled heap, sobbing on the floor. She was worthless. She was useless. She needed to be flushed away.
“I used to sit on the floor and cry with her,” Violet McArthur, the 14-year-old girl’s former foster mother, said at a coroner’s inquest Thursday.
The mantra of self-abuse would inevitably follow an outburst in which the girl threw her own items around the room. But those tantrums seemed to happen less frequently over time, McArthur said.
McArthur gave the jury at the inquest into the death of three-year-old Matthew Reid an intimate look at the foster girl who came to call her mommy.
The girl, who cannot be identified, was given a seven-year sentence in 2007 for the second-degree murder of Matthew at a Welland foster home.
The boy was found on his bedroom floor on Dec. 15, 2005, smothered with his pillow.
The inquest jury heard Thursday that the girl lived with McArthur for almost two years, up until the week before the death, when she was arrested for stealing McArthur’s van.
McArthur believed and desired that the girl would be returned to her house after being released from jail, but instead she was placed in the Welland foster home of Matthew on Dec. 14, 2005.
McArthur testified when the girl first arrived at her door, she was frightened and shy, dressed inappropriately for the cold weather. That first night, the family dog curled up next to her in bed. During the first few months, she seemed to really enjoy school, and McArthur said getting her to go was never a problem. She enjoyed learning.
The girl got along with McArthur’s 10 grandchildren, one of whom was only two years old and lived next door. She also played with other teenaged children in the foster home and looked after her pet cockatiel.
The angry outbursts, in which the girl threw objects, would last 20 minutes to an hour, McArthur said.
“It was easiest just to let it run its course,” she said. “If you tried to interfere, it seemed to go on longer.”
A child psychiatrist put the girl on medication, and McArthur said over time the outbursts seem to lessen. By fall of 2004, after a summer of camp, boating and climbing trees, McArthur said the girl didn’t repeat the mantra of blame anymore. “It eventually died away.”
But by December 2004, as Christmas approached, the girl became anxious. McArthur said the girl’s stepfather died around that time. As well, she was concerned about not seeing her brother, was upset a friend in the foster home left and worried about not having presents.
The girl was assigned a child youth worker to look into the outbursts and to give her some one-on-one time.
The worker noted McArthur said the girl had difficulty controlling her anger and the outbursts increased. It got to a point where McArthur couldn’t leave the girl alone.
In January 2005, McArthur was shocked when she was presented with a report by a psychometrist that said the girl functioned at the level of a six- or seven-year-old and would never progress beyond that. McArthur thought the girl was doing well and moving towards independence.
The episodes continued, including breaking branches off a neighbour’s tree, slamming a radio on a street and dumping a bowl of cereal on a three-year-old’s head because he repeatedly kicked her. Police were called another time to settle the girl down. McArthur said the girl was always very remorseful after she’d done those things and was very hard on herself.
The girl asked if she could stay at the home forever and if she could call McArthur Mommy.
The plan for the fall was for the teen to go to a special class at a different high school, something McArthur said the girl was excited about. “I think (she) struggled desperately, she wanted to be like normal teenagers and probably didn’t understand she didn’t have the capacity,” McArthur said.
“She just wanted to be normal.”
But by October 2005, the girl was suspended from school twice, once for swearing at an administrator after being accused of hitting a girl with a book, another time for running away. She was asked not to return.
McArthur said her behaviour changed after that and she started running away again.
In early December, she met a man who sexually assaulted her. The next night, she snuck McArthur’s keys out of her purse, climbed out a window and took off in the van.
The inquest continues Monday.