Calgary

Father found not guilty of murdering 4-year-old daughter who was 'victim of child abuse': judge

The father of a four-year-old girl who suffered 25 blows to her small body before dying of a spinal injury consistent with being "slammed to the ground" has been found not guilty by a Calgary judge.

Oluwatosin Oluwafemi was on trial for 2nd-degree murder in 2014 death of daughter Rebekah

Oluwatosin Oluwafemi was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his four-year-old daughter, Olive Rebekah Oluwafemi, who died in Calgary in 2014. On Wednesday, he was found not guilty. (Global Calgary/Calgary Police Service)

The father of a four-year-old girl who suffered 25 blows to her small body before dying of a spinal injury consistent with being "slammed to the ground" has been found not guilty by a Calgary judge.

Oluwatosin Oluwafemi, 44, was charged with second-degree murder in the 2014 death of his daughter, Olive Rebekah Oluwafemi. 

The trial took place earlier this year in Calgary before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Suzanne Bensler. 

When he found out Wednesday that he had been acquitted, Oluwafemi put his hands up in a praying motion.

Bensler found that although "Rebekah was the victim of child abuse," the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the father had caused Rebekah's fatal injury.

Photos taken by police of Rebekah's injuries show bruising covered her entire body from her ears to her feet.

"There is no doubt Rebekah was physically abused," said Bensler. 

Bensler said the fatal injury happened when Rebekah was home alone with her father — but the medical experts left room for the possibility that it could have been accidental.

The judge also pointed out that although Rebekah's mother admitted she'd been violent with her daughter in the past, nobody had ever seen the father be physically violent toward his daughter.

On Dec. 19, 2014, Rebekah's mother, Itunu Oluwafemi, left for work around 8:30 a.m. Oluwatosin Oluwafemi had been laid off about two weeks earlier and was home, caring for his daughter.

Around noon, a furnace repairman showed up at the Oluwafemi home and testified he'd observed Rebekah in the family room playing quietly.

At 3:01, Oluwatosin called his wife, who then left work and arrived home within about 20 minutes.

Oluwatosin also called a family friend who worked as a nurse. Olutayo Awotesu arrived at the home around 3 p.m. and began CPR on Rebekah, who was unconscious.

Awotesu told Rebekah's parents to call 911.

At 3:34 p.m., a 911 call was made, reporting an unconscious, unresponsive child.

By 3:40 p.m., paramedics arrived at the house. They found the girl unconscious, not breathing and in cardiac arrest. 

Rebekah was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead at 4:43 p.m.

Oluwafemi told hospital staff he found Rebekah on the floor and that she had vomited.

"He provided no explanation as to what caused her condition," said Bensler in reading her decision.

Mother initially charged

In their closing arguments, defence lawyers Rebecca Snukal and Michael Bates argued Rebekah's mother was to blame for the fatal injuries saying she was known to "violently discipline" her daughter.

Itunu Oluwafemi testified, describing her daughter as "cunning." 

Itunu said her daughter would "fall everywhere" and testified she physically disciplined Rebekah, pulling and twisting her ears, smacked her, hit her with flip flops.

Initially charged with Rebekah's death, Itunu said the charges were ultimately dropped.

Oluwafemi moved to Ontario and was arrested a year after the death.

Before she acquitted Oluwafemi, Bensler commented on the abuse Rebekah had suffered in her short life.

"Parents are supposed to look after their child and are supposed to protect their child."

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.

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