Ottawa

Despite dropping charges, police think mom had role in girl's death, inquiry hears

The case of a Kingston woman cleared in the murder of her 7-year-old daughter should have gone to trial, a police investigator told a public inquiry Thursday.

The case of a Kingston, Ont., woman cleared in the murder of her 7-year-old daughter should have gone to trial, a police investigator told a public inquiry Thursday.

A charge of second-degree murder against Louise Reynolds in the 1997 death of her seven-year-old daughter Sharon was dropped after pathologists concluded that the girl had been mauled by a pit bull.

Reynolds was initially charged after former Toronto pathologist Charles Smith concluded in an earlier autopsy that the girl had been stabbed with a sharp object.

At a provincial inquiry examining Smith's work, Kingston police Insp. Brian Begbie said Thursday he believes the trial should have gone ahead.

"We felt that the mother and the dog took part in that attack of the little girl in the basement," Begbie said. "We felt quite strong the dog couldn't have done the cut marks."

He also told the inquiry he had obtained more than one confession and said there were clearly efforts made at the death scene to clean up blood before police arrived.

Earlier in the week, Begbie's version of events was supported by the testimony of another forensic expert, Dr. Robert Wood, who told the inquiry that the injuries on Sharon's head could have been stab wounds.

Louise Reynolds is suing both Wood and Smith for wrongfully accusing her of murdering her daughter.

Innocence established: lawyer

Her lawyer Peter Wardle told the inquiry he believes his client's innocence has long been established. He suggested that Kingston Police had tunnel vision from the start, and that police spent so much time and effort building a case against Reynolds that they won't admit they were wrong, despite the evidence.

The body of Sharon Reynolds was found under the basement stairs of the family's home on June 12, 1997.

Smith's autopsy concluded that Reynolds died of stab wounds to her head.

Reynolds spent two years in jail and two years in a halfway house awaiting trial.

However, in 2001, the charge against Reynolds was dropped after other pathologists concluded the child was mauled by a pit bull and some evidence in the case was lost.

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Ontario would hold a public inquiry into pediatric forensic pathology in the province after a coroner's review of Smith's cases dating back to 1991 raised concerns about his conclusions in 20 of 45 child autopsies.

Commissioner Stephen Goudge, an Ontario Court of Appeal justice, is presiding over the inquiry.

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