A relative of a slain 10-year-old boy broke down in tears in court as she recalled seeing warning signs of violence in the home he shared with his father and stepmother.
Felicia Chambers sobbed that she "should have done something" to save Shakeil Boothe while she visited the family in the fall of 2010.
Less than a year later, Shakeil was found dead in his bed, his frail body covered in bruises, lacerations and scars of various ages.
Prosecutors allege the boy was beaten, deprived of food and kept chained to his bed in the months before his death on May 27, 2011.
Court has heard autopsy results showed widespread internal bleeding that overwhelmed Shakeil's body, already weakened by malnutrition and severe infection.
The boy's father Garfield Boothe and stepmother Nichelle Boothe-Rowe are both charged with second-degree murder.
Chambers, who is Boothe-Rowe's mother, stayed at the family's Brampton, Ont., home that September to help her pregnant daughter prepare for the baby. She visited again after the baby — Shakeil's half-brother — was born.
Shakeil had a close bond with Boothe-Rowe, and even sent her Mother's Day card thanking her for her help and attention, Chambers said.
Boy was 'terrified' of father, court told
The boy had a fraught relationship with his father, however, and seemed to fear him, she said under cross-examination.
"Shakeil was really terrified of Garfield," and acted "like a little wimp" around him, she said.
She recalled intervening on Shakeil's behalf after seeing Boothe chain the boy to his bed during her second stay.
In another incident, she testified seeing Boothe brandish a belt while his son cowered in the corner, though she did not see him hit anyone.
Chambers described her son-in-law as the head of the household, who rationed out food for his wife and child, hurled threats and insults at them and listened in on their conversations.
She said she would sneak snacks to Shakeil and even "pinky swore" to keep his secret after he "stole" rice from the fridge.
Boothe, meanwhile, would spend his evenings in his "man cave," smoking marijuana and drinking alone or with friends, she said.
'Like a prison'
"The truth is Garfield ran that house like a prison, didn't he?" asked defence lawyer Brian Ross, who represents Chambers' daughter.
"Yes, sir," the mother replied.
Chambers was living in Jamaica when she heard of Shakeil's death, she said.
"You felt a little guilt because you knew you had seen some things in that house," Ross told Chambers, who agreed.
"And you didn't tell anybody," he added.
"I didn't," she said.
Court has heard Shakeil was seriously ill in the weeks before his death, and had open, infected sores on his shins as well as countless scars consistent with whipping wounds.
Ontario's top forensic pathologist testified Wednesday that Shakeil had been hit "heavily and repeatedly" on the head, face, shoulders, chest and limbs in the moments before his death.
Dr. Michael Pollanen said those injuries, along with malnutrition and infection, caused Shakeil's death.
Under cross-examination Thursday, he said the boy likely did not die immediately after the attack, though it's impossible to pinpoint the time of death.