Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Foster dad on trial for murder

Tells police boy found unresponsive in bed

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Shortly before a northern Manitoba man was charged with killing his foster child, he told police the baby liked to tumble backwards and hit his head on the floor.

"He liked to fall back like this," Roderick Blacksmith told an RCMP officer in a videotaped interview that was played Monday on the opening day of his second-degree murder trial.

Tragic deaths

SOME high-profile deaths of children involved in Manitoba’s child-welfare system: 2005 — Phoenix Sinclair is killed by her mother and her common-law husband after social workers closed her file. The release of a report from a public inquiry is expected soon.
2007 — Gage Guimond, 2, is given to his great-aunt, Shirley Guimond, even though she had a criminal record. The boy is beaten frequently and dies after falling down stairs.2008 — Thirteen-month-old Cameron Ouskan is rushed to hospital after being found unresponsive in his room. His foster dad, Roderick Blacksmith, is currently on trial for second-degree murder.2009 — Twenty-one-month-old Jaylene Redhead is smothered by her mother, Nicole, at a treatment centre while under child-welfare supervision.

— The Canadian Press

Blacksmith is then seen jerking his neck forward, demonstrating the way his 13-month-old foster son, Cameron Ouskan, would react to falling backward.

"But he wouldn't cry. He'd just roll over and crawl around."

As the video was played in court, Blacksmith, dressed in a black suit, covered his face and wiped away tears. The 33-year-old spent much of the time looking down, holding his head in his hands, with his legs shaking.

Cameron was rushed to hospital from the family home in Gillam, about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, on the night of Nov. 12, 2008, and died several hours later. Medical experts will testify the baby suffered head injuries, Crown attorney Mark Kantor said in his opening statement.

Blacksmith told police in two interviews he came home from work around 4 p.m. that day and ran some errands. At suppertime, he fed Cameron a jar of baby food and Cameron threw it up -- something that was not unusual.

"He had a bad gag reflex," Blacksmith said during the police interview.

Blacksmith then told police he fed the baby a jar of dessert, bathed him and put him to bed while tending to his other children. He soon went back to check on Cameron.

"He was laying there... and I gave a quick flick of the light.

"His eyes aren't opening. He isn't moving."

Blacksmith said he noticed vomit in Cameron's mouth and tried to scoop it out. He said he then performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, CPR and called the hospital.

Toward the end of the interview, he told police he wished he knew what caused Cameron's death.

"I can't say. I don't know what happened."

The case against Blacksmith is expected to be based on circumstantial evidence. Many of the Crown witnesses are medical experts who will testify about what kinds of injuries Cameron suffered and the time frame during which the injuries occurred, Kantor said.

The timing may be critical. Blacksmith worked all day and Cameron was usually left with a babysitter, including on the day of his death. Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds pointed out the babysitter was initially arrested, but never charged.

Simmonds also had an RCMP officer admit under cross-examination four other children in the home -- all biological daughters of Blacksmith and his wife, Brenda Blacksmith -- were not looked at as potentially having injured the baby, and Blacksmith was always co-operative with police.

"He went through this with you as many times as you wanted to pose the questions to him, correct?" Simmonds asked RCMP Const. Darrell Catellier, who conducted the videotaped interview.

"Correct," Catellier replied.

The trial is slated to run for five weeks and Blacksmith's wife is expected to testify today. She was attending school the evening Cameron died, leaving her husband as the lone adult in the house.

The baby's death was one of several high-profile deaths of children involved in Manitoba's child welfare system.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 A5


Updated on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:12 AM CST: adds fact box

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