PETERBOROUGH, Ont. - A woman who confessed to child abuse 11 years ago in exchange for the withdrawal of a murder charge laid based on the faulty evidence of disgraced pathologist Charles Smith says authorities bullied her into falsely confessing that she abused her daughter.
In a sworn affidavit filed in Superior Court, Brenda Waudby says she was bullied into the false confession, and is seeking an appeal extension to have her conviction thrown out.
Waudby was first charged with murder in the 1997 death of her 21-month-old daughter, Jenna Mellor, based on Smith’s erroneous findings.
She was later charged with one count of child abuse, to which she pleaded guilty on June 11, 1999. Days later, the murder charge against her was dropped.
“I am not a perfect mother, and I have had some great challenges in my life, but I have loved all my children deeply and I did not beat Jenna before she died,” Waudby says in her affidavit.
Waudby was charged with Jenna’s murder based on the erroneous findings of pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.
In his report, Smith not only wrongly pinpointed the time of Jenna’s injuries as 24 to 48 hours before her death, but said that there were “older rib injuries” that predated Jenna’s death by five to seven days.
The affidavit states that the pathological evidence doesn’t support Smith’s findings, and that Smith himself later retracted that statement.
“I cannot continue to be labelled as a convicted child abuser. I am grateful for the fact that I have not had to live as a mother wrongfully convicted of murder, but the fact is that I should never have been in a situation where I had to choose a substitute label in order to preserve my family,” Waudby says in the affidavit.
“It causes me great pain every time I am characterized as a child abuser, a child beater, and a mother who made a terrible mistake. I am none of these things, save and except for the last, and that mistake was leaving my daughter with a babysitter who sexually assaulted and killed her in my home, while his mother was upstairs.”
The babysitter, who was 14 at the time of Jenna’s death and cannot be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, confessed and pleaded guilty to the murder in late 2006. Sexual assault charges against him were dropped at the time.
But immediately after Jenna’s death, authorities were focussed on Waudby.
“During the eight months between Jenna’s death and my arrest I was subjected to aggressive police tactics, undercover surveillance and wiretap surveillance, coordinated at times between the police and the CAS and explicitly designed to obtained a confession from me,” Waudby states.
Waudby says in her affidavit that an undercover police officer befriended her in order to get a confession from her,
Between the police interrogations and the suggestions by her “friend,” Waudby says she began to wonder if she was suffering from memory lapses, and couldn’t remember an eight-hour period during which Smith said Jenna was injured.
The affidavit shows that there were several other reports stating that Jenna sustained neglect and a number of inflicted injuries from Waudby.
Waudby said she was aware that any criminal trial for the child abuse charge wouldn’t take place until well into 2000.
By then, her daughter Justine would have been in foster care beyond the statutory time limits and the CAS indicated they would seek to make Justine a Crown ward.
Waudby states that she felt she had no choice but to enter the plea.
In court, on the day of Waudby’s plea, her lawyer, James Hauraney, would not confirm that the facts read aloud were substantially correct when asked.
“We are prepared to accept the explanation,” he replied.
Waudby was sentenced to two years of probation.
The CAS immediately started using the proceeding against her, Waudby states, in an attempt to keep her newborn son and Justine away from her.
Justine was eventually returned to her, though the CAS appealed that decision.
A CAS worker would tell a family court judge that Waudby had confessed to hitting Jenna in a statement to police, the affidavit states, though this was wrong.
QMI Agency has been seeking a copy of the affidavit since Waudby’s lawyer, Julie Kirkpatrick, initiated the process.
The Ministry of the Attorney General’s office repeatedly denied the request, saying the document couldn’t be released because it dealt with issues normally addressed in family court.
Kirkpatrick has since posted portions of the affidavit on her website.