Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing.
A Toronto detective investigating the brutal murder of Caitlin Sampson says that when she heard a 911 call informing her of her death, she immediately knew nothing had been added.
Seven-year-old Caitlin Sampson was beaten and murdered by her parents in 2008, but no one bothered to investigate the girl when there were clear signs of abuse.
CP24 crime analyst Steve Ryan was the lead homicide detective on the case at the time.
“It was one of the worst murder cases I’ve had in 15 years,” Ryan said on this week’s episode of The Detective.
Ryan was called to the Parkdale apartment after a 911 call from a woman named Donna Irving. She told the operator that the seven-year-old had suffocated on chicken soup and bread and had died.
“[Paramedics] “There are professionals who are trained and they can detect child abuse. I think they suspected from the start that this kid didn’t die because of chicken soup,” Ryan said.
A year and a half before her tragic death, Caitlin’s mother gave her daughter to Irving to care for her while she battled a severe cocaine addiction.
“I had a serious problem, so I let her go to Donna,” Beatrice Sampson told reporters after her daughter’s murder. “I thought we were friends. We were friends for about 10 years.”
The courts and child services agreed that Irving would be Caitlin’s permanent guardian, never checking that Irving had a criminal record and that two of his four children had been confiscated by child support.
“Her injuries were some of the worst I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “Let’s start with his hair. He had his head shaved and we found out later that it was a result of punishment. He had beautiful long hair in some of his photos. He was cut, he looked like an army recruit was.”
Ryan said sentencing was going on in the second-floor Toronto apartment where they lived.
Investigators found a notebook on which this line was written 62 times: “I’m a terrible girl, so no one wants me.”
Ryan says the autopsy revealed that the child’s liver had severed from his body after being severely hit. He said that he has only seen that in traffic collisions, never in case of child abuse.
Katelynn’s eyes were swollen, a swollen closure.
“She was underweight,” Ryan said. “She had not been fed, and she must have been in excruciating pain, according to the pathologist, and her finger was amputated. It was not bitten, it was cut in an odd spot. At the base, almost at the web of the finger and When you see that hurt in itself, you can’t help but think it was done as punishment because it was a strange place to be hurt.
The cause of death was determined as complications from a variety of different injuries, mostly blunt force trauma.
“Basically how it was explained to me is that his body just said ‘we’ve had enough, we’re investigating, there are too many serious injuries for him to continue’.
The call to 911 came at 2:30 with Irving crying on the line.
“My daughter, we were in the bedroom, I was in the bedroom and she was eating bread and she suffocated and she died.”
Ryan later learns that Irving had showered and had a beer before dialing the emergency number. Her actions led investigators to think that something was not happening.
“As with most murder investigations, what I try to do is access 911 tapes as quickly as possible so we can listen to it to get some idea or feel for the investigation.”
This investigation would be no different and immediately worried Ryan that it wasn’t a genuine cry for help.
“On that tape she’s crying, I hesitate to use that word because it was all fabricated, but she’s pretending like she’s crying. Now in fairness she’ll be crying for her own protection.” Because she’s trapped now this body is in her apartment and they have a story that’s not believable,” Ryan said.
Irving’s common-law partner, Warren Johnson, claimed he was not in the apartment when Irving made the call, but Ryan says he found a security video from the building showing Johnson called 911 shortly after. The latter is shown leaving with his two children. This could allow investigators to charge both with second-degree murder.
For this week’s episode of The Detective, Ryan went back to the crime scene. He said that he has come back for the first time since 2008.
“There are some matters that you never forget. Obviously, this is one of them, it has a tremendous impact on your life in general, the after-effects of doing these kinds of things. So it’s hard to be here again Because all those feelings come back, all those bruises on that kid’s body, all the things we were worried about in the context of this investigation, they all come back when you walk through these doors again.”
After removing Katelynn’s body, investigators obtained a search warrant for the apartment. It would take only a few minutes to conclude that it was not an accident, it was murder.
“So when we executed a search warrant on that apartment, there was blood in the bathroom,” Ryan said.
It didn’t make sense that Irving had told the police that he had taken a shower and yet there was blood on the floor.
“That’s where I believe she died in that bathroom. In the bedroom, there was a hockey net and a bowl of chicken soup,” Ryan said.
And it will be even worse for the seasoned cop as he learns more about the terrifying world in which this helpless girl was living.
“If you look at the extent of his injuries, you’ll understand why no one has seen him.”
Her school was across the street from her building, but for the months before Caitlin was murdered, she didn’t attend class.
Nobody examined him.
“And it’s ironic, and I think about it to this day. You see how close the school is to where she lived. Donna will call the school to say that Kelly isn’t feeling well today, she Fell off her bike, there were all kinds of excuses and that was it, it’s a 30 second walk to bang on her door. If someone knocked on Caitlin’s door she’d be alive today. Somebody on my mind No doubt, but no one has checked him at all.”
Irving and Johnson both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and are serving life sentences. But after her conviction, an investigation into how Caitlin went through the cracks, her case jumped between Children’s Aid and Native Child and Family Services.
The former director of the latter says a lot has changed.
“It has improved so far because there is a lot more formality in the exchange of information, the duty to report is clearer, there is technology to share information, there is integration in databases regarding child welfare agencies,” said Ken Richard .
He said the biggest change is that different agencies now communicate better with each other.
“At the time of Caitlin’s death, there were three different child welfare operations involved and not necessarily communicating very well with respect to what they were seeing, so there have been technical improvements. I think all With regard to reporting the duty to a professional with children, seeing children in distress, is more understated and vigorous, so we have a tighter, tighter safety net. That being said, it’s never tight enough.”
Right next to the front door of Parkdale Public Junior and Senior School, there is a monument to Caitlin.
She can be seen in a large picture, smiling with long hair in a pony tail. When Ryan visited the area, someone at the door had wished him a happy birthday. It reminds anyone entering the building that they have a duty to follow up and report suspected child abuse.
“Because Irving and Johnson allowed spanking like this kid, it was the fact that nobody checked in on him. None of these were teachers, headmasters, janitors, I don’t care who it was, Anyone in this school found out that we haven’t seen her for months and she always gets unusual injuries and that’s why she’s not in school, she would be alive if someone went across the street.”