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Catlin Goodwill found not guilty of manslaughter in death of 3-month-old son

Catlin Goodwill embraces his mother, Nadine Goodwill, after being found not guilty in the death of his three-month-old son, Keenan Spencer.  (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)
Catlin Goodwill embraces his mother, Nadine Goodwill, after being found not guilty in the death of his three-month-old son, Keenan Spencer. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

Catlin Wade Goodwill walked out of court a free man on Thursday after being found not guilty in the 2017 death of his infant son, Keenan Spencer.

Goodwill burst into tears as Justice Keith Kilback handed down his decision at Regina's Court of King's Bench.

Kilback determined that in a case largely based around circumstantial evidence, he was left with reasonable doubt about the three-month-old's cause of death as a result of testimony from defence witness neuropathologist Dr. Roland Auer.

Rather than a blow to the head, as theorized by the Crown, Auer raised the possibility Keenan's death was the result of an accident or pneumonia.

Kilback said the other theories were not negated by the Crown's evidence, and that he therefore had no choice but to rule not guilty.

Goodwill walked out of the courthouse and embraced his mother, Nadine Goodwill.

They both declined to speak to media, but Goodwill could be heard cheering and whooping as he walked to a car, climbed in and was driven away.

Goodwill has been in custody since he was arrested in 2019.

Emotional day for all in court

Defence attorney Bruce Campbell told media he had always believed reasonable doubt would play a role in this case.

"We're very relieved about what just happened," he said.

Campbell said the trial was emotional for everyone who took part, including his client, who cried throughout testimony in the week-long trial.

"Catlin can't control it himself. You've seen that, obviously," he said. "Anybody who's suffered a loss would be feeling pretty bad."

Crown prosecutor Chris White said he was disappointed, adding that the Crown would review the decision before making a decision on a possible appeal.

Jodeci Spencer, the child's mother, declined to speak to media. She testified during the trial that she and Goodwill had an on-and-off relationship. She has two other sons with Goodwill, including one born after Keenan's death.

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While they are no longer together, on the day of Keenan's death they had recently reconciled and moved in together.

Jodeci testified that on the evening of Oct. 14, 2017, she was reading to her older son at their home in the 3700 block of Regency Crescent when Goodwill told her, from another room, that Keenan was no longer breathing.

She called 911. Paramedics administered CPR and rushed the baby to the Regina General Hospital, where he was declared dead.

Under cross-examination by defence attorney Bruce Campbell, Jodeci confirmed that she told police on Oct. 14 that she had never seen Goodwill be violent with their children.

She also confirmed in her testimony that during that day, Goodwill was the only one who touched Keenan.

Circumstantial case

When handing down his decision, Kilback said much of the evidence presented during trial was circumstantial.

Both White and Campbell acknowledged that in their closing arguments last month.

Testimony from Dr. Andreea Nistor, a forensic pathologist, and Dr. David Ramsay, a neuropatholgist called by the Crown, detailed how an autopsy of the three-month-old found bruising on the back of Keenan's head as well as bleeding inside the skull.

The bruise, which could have only been caused while Keenan was still breathing, corresponded with the bleeding inside the skull. The pathologists both said the bleeding was caused by blunt force trauma and it was the cause of death.

However, they were unable to determine the mechanism that caused the trauma, saying it could have possibly been a blow to the head or the shaking of the three-month-old.

On cross examination, Ramsay said he could not dismiss the bruise being caused by the forceful CPR performed on the child by EMS when they responded to the scene.

Ramsay said that would have required the child to be breathing and have blood circulating. EMS testified their efforts did not revive Keenan.

Nistor and Ramsay were unable to say how hard the force that caused the bruise would have been.

The Crown also called Dr. Juliet Soper, a pediatrician who works in the area of child maltreatment. She testified that the boy would not have developed the muscles necessary to cause the damage to himself.

Auer, the other neuropathologist, was the only witness called by the defence.

He dismissed the bruising on the back of the boy's head, saying it could have been the result of CPR performed by the paramedics.

Auer was also dismissive of the entire concept of shaken baby syndrome, saying there is enough scientific proof to confirm its existence. He also said the bleeding in the skull could be explained by the normal post-death process.

Instead, he testified he believes pneumonia or an accident were possible explanations for Keenan's death.

However, Nistor testified that although viruses were found in Keenan's airways, they were not enough to have caused illness.