James Turpin begged unconscious toddler to wake up at Fredericton ER, nurse testifies

·6 min read
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Hospital in Halifax. (Court exhibit - image credit)
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Hospital in Halifax. (Court exhibit - image credit)

As medical staff at a Fredericton hospital tried to figure out why two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan was unresponsive, the man later accused of killing her fell to his knees on the floor of the trauma room in just a T-shirt and underwear.

"It just reminded me of Risky Business with Tom Cruise," Dorothy Hall, a registered nurse who was working in the emergency department on April, 2, 2004, said Wednesday. "It was very strange."

Testifying at James Turpin's manslaughter trial, Hall said he was screaming, crying and moaning and eventually had to be ushered out of the room.

"We couldn't have him in the trauma room because he was causing too much of a commotion."

She just looked like a little angel. - Nancy Lee, registered nurse

Kennedy died April 9, 2004, after suffering a severe brain injury at her home in Central Blissville, about 30 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

Turpin, who has already been found guilty once for Kennedy's death and successfully appealed the verdict, has claimed since 2004 that the toddler died after falling and hitting her head in the bathtub.

On Wednesday, registered Nurse Nancy Lee also described Turpin as being hysterical inside the trauma room.

"Mucus and tears were dripping onto his face, down onto the floor," Lee said.

Nancy Lee was one of the nurses who cared for Kennedy when she was rushed to hospital unconscious. Lee recalls Kennedy showing symptoms of a significant head injury at the time.
Nancy Lee was one of the nurses who cared for Kennedy when she was rushed to hospital unconscious. Lee recalls Kennedy showing symptoms of a significant head injury at the time. (CBC News)

She remembers Kennedy's mother, Connie Corrigan, trying to comfort him at the time by rubbing his back with her hand.

Lee couldn't understand most of what Turpin was saying, except he was begging Kennedy to wake up and told her he would take her to the park.

She also remembers Kennedy showing signs of a significant head injury, which were later confirmed in a CT scan.

She said the child's eyes were open just a bit, her breathing was slowed, her legs were stiff, but shaking at times. There were no marks on her body.

"She just looked like a little angel," Lee said.

'She was unresponsive and we didn't know why'

When Kennedy arrived unresponsive at the emergency room at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, all three nurses who testified Wednesday noticed the pink panties the toddler was wearing were dry.

Lee recalls removing the toddler's underwear to put in a catheter, noticing several urine stains.

"When somebody pees once and it dries, and then they pee again," she said.

A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, a new trial was ordered. This time he's on trial for manslaughter.
A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, a new trial was ordered. This time he's on trial for manslaughter.(CBC News)

Hall said she also noticed that the child had previously wet herself.

"I thought it was odd because the urine looked dry," she testified. "It hadn't been fresh."

Hall also noticed Kennedy's legs were twitching when she came into the hospital, which could mean the toddler was having a seizure. She asked one of the doctors in charge if she could start an IV on Kennedy so staff could give her medication if necessary.

"There wasn't a lot of action at that time," Hall said. "She was unresponsive and we didn't know why."

Once doctors decided to send Kennedy to the IWK hospital, Hall rode with Kennedy in the ambulance to the airport, where she was airlifted to Halifax.

"She didn't move or talk. There was no response," Hall said. "She was just very still."

The last time Hall was involved with Kennedy was when she called the IWK a few days later to see how the child was making out.

Resident doctor recalls Turpin was agitated

Dr. Amber Swan was working as a resident at the Chalmers hospital in April 2004 and had to interview Turpin while the other physicians and medical staff cared for Kennedy.

The interview lasted between 15 and 20 minutes. The information Swan had written down was then provided to the toddler's pediatrician.

During the interview, Swan was told Kennedy had been sick and threw up three times the night before.

Dr. Amber Swan was working as a resident doctor when Kennedy was rushed to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton 17 years ago. She interviewed Turpin at the time and remembers he was agitated at the time.
Dr. Amber Swan was working as a resident doctor when Kennedy was rushed to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton 17 years ago. She interviewed Turpin at the time and remembers he was agitated at the time.(CBC News)

She had written in her notes that Turpin noticed vomit in her hair the next morning, so he decided to give her a bath. That's when, according to Turpin, Kennedy fell and hit the back of her head.

Turpin told Swan he was in the process of chasing after his own three-year-old daughter, who ran out of the bathroom, when he turned around and saw Kennedy fall.

Initially, Turpin told her both Kennedy and his daughter were in the bathtub at the same time. He quickly corrected himself and said Kennedy was the only one in the bathtub.

Defence lawyer Nathan Gorham questioned Swan several times about her recollection of the interview, and whether she misinterpreted what Turpin said. This led to an extensive back-and-forth until the Crown objected.

"Obviously it resonated enough I felt I needed to include it in my notes," Swan finally said.

Swan said she also buried clues in her statement to police about the interview she had with Turpin — a technique she learned in medical school so she could report his behaviour objectively while in hospital.

Swan wrote that she sat down and offered Turpin a chance to sit, but he declined. This means he was agitated.

"I only do that in situations where I need to diffuse the tension in the air at the time," she said.

'This isn't about you'

Marianne Carr, a retired nurse, was the second person to testify Wednesday. Carr was an administrative director at the hospital at the time. Some of the areas she was responsible for was patient care and what happened inside the emergency room.

Carr recalls Kennedy's mother, Connie Corrigan, asking to be left alone with Turpin at the hospital shortly after Kennedy arrived. Carr escorted them to a quiet room, where she could still see them from a window in the hallway.

"He had his head down between his knees. … She was yelling at him to calm down [she said], 'This isn't about you. This is about Kennedy.'"

Turpin wasn't charged with Kennedy's death until 2015, when he was living in Charlo. In 2016, he was found guilty of second-degree murder but three years later and appealed the conviction.

The Court of Appeal found there wasn't enough evidence of murder but ordered a new trial on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The trial is in its second week and is being heard by judge alone.