Mother of Kennedy Corrigan testifies it was obvious toddler suffered more than a fall

·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 Health Centre in Halifax.  (Catherine Harrop/CBC - image credit)
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. (Catherine Harrop/CBC - image credit)

When Connie Corrigan received a call at work about her two-year-old daughter's fall in the bathtub, she assumed the child would need a few stitches at most.

But when Corrigan arrived at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, her daughter Kennedy was in a room surrounded by medical staff.

"It was obvious at that time it was more than just a simple fall in the tub," Corrigan testified Monday.

James Turpin of Charlo is on trial for manslaughter in Kennedy Corrigan's death on April 2, 2004, at her home in Central Blissville, about 30 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

The morning of Kennedy's injury

Turpin was Corrigan's partner at the time and had been living with her on and off. He had been left alone with Kennedy 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 night before the injury, Turpin's visiting three-year-old daughter and Kennedy watched a movie in Corrigan's bed. Turpin's daughter had been brought down from northern New Brunswick because Kennedy celebrated her second birthday a week earlier.

That night, Corrigan said, she slept downstairs so she wouldn't disturb anyone when she got ready for work in the morning. She did try to check in on Kennedy before she left the house but said Turpin kept stepping in front of her when she tried to get past him.

"I thought we were staying in the same path."

So between 7 and 7:30 that morning, Corrigan left for work in Fredericton.

"I look like an idiot through all of this, for placing my daughter with her murderer," she said under cross-examination. "That's how I feel about it, and I carry that with me."

A retrial on lesser charge

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 Monday, defence lawyer Nathan Gorham put Corrigan through a cross-examination that lasted several hours. Judge Terrence Morrison had to interrupt a few times because Gorham and Corrigan were talking over each other.

Gorham asked her why, at this trial, she made mention of Turpin trying to step in front of her when she was going to see Kennedy but didn't raise it at his first trial. Gorham suggested she was trying to make Turpin look worse and worse.

"I don't need to make him look worse and worse," Corrigan said. "I think the evidence speaks for itself."

He also asked why Corrigan vouched for Turpin in her initial statements to police after Kennedy's injury and described him as a good father.

Corrigan told the court she wanted to believe Turpin was innocent.

"That's something I have to deal with every day, thank you," she said.

Corrigan also agreed that just over a month after the fatal incident, she received a call from a woman Turpin had previously been in a relationship with, informing her that Turpin had been cheating on her.

Corrigan said that's when she started to wonder whether Turpin had told her the truth about what happened to Kennedy.

"It came to light I was being lied to," she said.

Toddler flown to Halifax

Corrigan testified about leaving Kennedy's hospital room in Fredericton to be with Turpin in another area and finding him incoherent and rambling about what happened.

He told her Kennedy fell in the tub and also hit her head on the bathroom doorknob. He couldn't stop crying, Corrigan told the court, and she asked herself why he was being so incoherent.

"I wasn't getting anywhere with him," she said. "It was just making me really mad."

Then Kennedy was flown to the IWK Health Centre, and Corrigan drove to Halifax to be with her. Turpin had to return to northern New Brunswick to drop off his daughter.

Living in a fog

When Corrigan arrived at the IWK, medical staff were adamant Turpin needed to be there to provide a full explanation about what happened inside the bathroom where Kennedy allegedly fell.

When Turpin got to the hospital, he and Corrigan spoke with a social worker, who said if Kennedy woke up, she might not be allowed to return home.

"She said … the story's not consistent with her injuries," Corrigan said.

During the week Kennedy was in hospital in Halifax, Corrigan said she lived in a fog. Her sole focus was on Kennedy, and she hardly paid attention to Turpin.

She did remember he seemed paranoid, telling her "they're going to pin this on me, they're going to get me, they're going to trick me," Corrigan 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)

"I was confused because if you're telling the truth, there's nothing they can trick you on."

At one point, the couple were sitting separately in the chapel at the IWK, and Turpin came over to tell Corrigan he had asked Jesus to forgive his sins, which struck her as odd.

"Hindsight, I should've reacted differently at that very moment."

When asked what Kennedy did during the last morning before her injury, and whether she drank her milk, part of the toddler's morning routine, Turpin begged Corrigan to stop asking so he wouldn't have to relive it, she said.

She also testified he told her not to pay any attention if he started talking in his sleep about what happened.

'Basically a vegetable'

Corrigan said her daughter was a bright little girl. She spoke well, was being potty-trained and didn't give her mom any trouble. Kennedy enjoyed playing with her dolls and her beloved Pooh bear.

"She was very motherly," Corrigan said. "She liked to pretend she was mom."

Kennedy died on April. 9, seven days after suffered the head injury.

"I laid there with my daughter and she died."

Corrigan said she was told by medical staff at the IWK that all four hemispheres of her brain had died. Kennedy could live out her life at a special care home or be taken off life support.

"She was basically a vegetable, she was two years old," she said. "They didn't believe that she was ever going to come out of it.

Returning home where Kennedy died

When Corrigan returned to her home in Central Blissville after Kennedy's death, she described herself as being "in a state."

She examined different parts of the house, and Turpin followed her wherever she went, she said.

She also returned to the bathroom where Kennedy had allegedly fallen, with Turpin not too far behind. She asked him why nothing was out of place.

"He told me he cleaned up. He didn't want me to come home and see whatever was to be seen."