Man on trial in toddler's death blamed her injuries on paramedics

·5 min read
A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, Turpin is now being tried in Fredericton on a manslaughter charge (CBC News - image credit)
A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, Turpin is now being tried in Fredericton on a manslaughter charge (CBC News - image credit)

James Turpin claimed he had "good instincts" when he turned around to see two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan about to fall in the bathtub at her home in Central Blissville.

That's what he said in one of his statements to police after Kennedy died. The statement was read back to him during an interrogation interview with RCMP in November 2004.

The interrogation was shown by video to the Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton on Wednesday.

Was looking after child

"Aren't you the saviour?" the officer says to Turpin.

"You expect people to believe that? 'I had good instincts.' James, do you not have any face?"

Turpin, now 41, is on trial for manslaughter in the April 2004 death of the toddler at the home where she lived with her mother about 30 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

Turpin was dating Kennedy's mother, Connie Corrigan, at the time.

The toddler was alone with Turpin when she suffered a major brain injury. She died at the IWK Hospital in Halifax a week later after being taken off life support.

The court has spent the last three days watching hours of recorded videos showing three RCMP officers grill Turpin.

One officer said medical records show Kennedy experienced more than just a fall in the bathtub. And doctors were "bawling their eyes out" when they saw the damage to the toddler's head.

The officer said a doctor compared it to "grabbing a child by the feet and hitting her head against a telephone pole."

She peed on you. Is that why you slam dunked her? - Police interrogator

Turpin mostly remains quiet in the videos, with his head down or leaning against the wall, even when he is called "a baby killer" by one officer.

But in one of his statements to police, read to him during the interrogation, Turpin claimed Kennedy was seizing in the bathtub, so he dried her off, put on a pair of underwear and rushed her next door for help.

In another statement, Turpin said Kennedy had vomit in her hair at the time. But the officer tells him nurses at the hospital said she wasn't covered in vomit and her hair was dry.

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.
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)

"That's crap," the officer says. "You were pissed off and lost your temper."

Turpin also said Kennedy peed on him the day of her death.

"She peed on you," the officer says. "Is that why you slam dunked her?"

In one statement, Turpin said Kennedy and his three-year-old daughter were in the tub at the same time. And he cleaned up the area so his girlfriend wouldn't find water all over the floor.

He couldn't recall if the tub was plugged or unplugged.

"Personally, I don't think the tub's ever involved," the officer says during the interrogation.

'I never did this crime'

After hours of interrogation, Turpin complains he's tired and needs to speak to a lawyer.

"I'm not going to talk to a police officer who's trying to convict me. …you're trying to convict me … that's your job. That's what you get paid to do."

In another interrogation video from earlier that day, Turpin is crying. He asks for his mother but was later told by police she was in no shape to come.

That's when Turpin started yelling, "I need you mom."

At one point he tells police he would never hurt a child.

"I never did this crime."

Second trial for Turpin

This is the second time Turpin has been tried for Kennedy's death. He wasn't charged until 2015, when he was living in Charlo. In 2016, Turpin was found guilty of second-degree murder but three years later, he successfully appealed his conviction.

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

On Wednesday, the police interrogators in one video say paramedics weren't called for 51 minutes after Kennedy was injured.

An officer reads statements from Turpin, including one where he blamed the paramedics for her condition and said he told them Kennedy wasn't breathing and had "faint breath."

"Fifty-one minutes earlier she had faint breath … you're not a hero there by saying that," the officer says.

The officer asked what happened in the 51 minutes before paramedics were called. It wasn't clear from the video how the officer knows about the unaccounted for 51 minutes.

"You waited 51 minutes before you take action," the officer tells Turpin. "Are you still a hero James?"

Says toddler always listened

In another statement to police before the videotaped interrogation, Turpin said Kennedy was always obedient and listened to him.

But he admitted to once spraying Gatorade in Kennedy's face because she wasn't listening.

The officer said Connie Corrigan also recalled Turpin telling her he spanked Kennedy one day. He left his fingerprints on her.

"That's a pretty hard hit," the officer said.

Turpin also told police he didn't do drugs, and claimed the drugs inside the home belonged to Connie.

"This friggin' masterpiece here," the officer says, referring to Turpin's statement, "is full of lies."

Retrial under voir dire

Turpin sat in court behind his lawyer, Nathan Gorham, on Wednesday with his hands folded in front of him.

The trial, which started Monday, has been under a voir dire while the court is shown the interrogation videos. A voir dire is like a trial within a trial and is typically under a publication ban if a jury were present. But Turpin's trial is being heard by judge alone.

Justice Terrence Morrisson is watching the videos to determine whether they should be put into evidence.

The trial is expected to last four weeks.