On Our Radar: Checking on the status of the Child Death Review Committee

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The Telegram has been following this story for 10 years

Aug. 18, 2003

    Shirley Turner — a doctor raised in Daniel’s Harbour and facing extradition to the United States to stand trial for killing her former lover — is found dead on a Conception Bay beach along with her 13-month-old son, Zachary. The deaths are later deemed a murder-suicide. Turner claimed Zachary was the son of the man she was accused of murdering — Dr. Andrew Bagby. Bagby’s body had been discovered in Keystone State Park, about 55 kilometres east of Pittsburgh, on Nov. 6, 2001. He had been shot five times. Police claimed Turner shot Bagby because he had broken off their relationship. Authorities asserted she was a danger to herself and the community, was a flight risk and unstable, because she had tried to kill herself in 1999 after another failed relationship. Turner had three older children from two previous marriages.

October 2006

    A report released into the deaths of Turner and Zachary by Winnipeg medical examiner Dr. Peter Markesteyn contains several excerpts from a diary Turner began during her pregnancy. Less than a month before Bagby was shot, Turner admitted to purchasing a semi-automatic handgun and taking firearms lessons. In her diary, she claims innocence. The report tells of a troubled and volatile life, several failed relationships and questionable behaviour, including past instances of threatening ex-partners and the 1999 suicide attempt. Also in Markesteyn’s report, a social worker said she was told by an RNC constable that Turner’s children were all she had left to keep her from being extradited to the U.S. and she could harm herself or her unborn child if she was at risk of losing him. David and Kate Bagby, Zachary’s grandparents, had unsuccessfully applied for custody of Zachary and had feared for his safety all along. Markesteyn’s report discloses that Zachary had high levels of Ativan in his blood before he drowned. Turner had filled a prescription for 30 Ativan tablets for herself a day earlier and police found the container empty. Markesteyn speculates in his report that Turner likely mixed some or all of the pills with baby formula. Investigators who located a partially filled baby bottle in the vehicle Turner was driving prior to her death emptied the bottle before recording it in an exhibit report.

June 2012

     Bill 33 passes a second reading in the House of Assembly, amending the Fatalities Investigation Act for the purposes of creating a Child Death Review Committee (CDRC).

       The review process is meant to help the province gain an understanding of child deaths with an aim of preventing further deaths.

       The committee is to include the chief medical examiner and people with relevant backgrounds and expertise and will present the justice minister and the child and youth advocate with reports that offer recommendations to prevent child deaths.

       It comes almost six years after the release of a three-part report with recommendations to prevent unexpected child deaths and nine years after Zachary’s death.

       Bill 33 is expected to cover youth under the age of 19.

       Zachary’s grandparents commend the passing of Bill 33.

February 2013

    The Child Death Review Committee (CDRC) is said to be just months away, though according to a Department of Justice spokesman the CDRC has not yet been struck.

       An internal working committee has been struck, with representatives from the departments of Justice, Child Youth and Family Services, and Health and Community Services. That committee is seeking suitable candidates for appointment to the CDRC and is also working on policies and regulations that will govern the work of the CDRC under the Fatalities Investigation Act.

       The CDRC will only deal with future cases and not review any deaths prior to its creation.

Aug. 16, 2013

    At the request for an update from The Telegram, the Department of Justice says the process of forming the CDRC is in its final stages. An internal working committee of representatives from the departments of Justice, Child Youth and Family Services, and Health and Community Services has identified qualified candidates to participate. The departments says it has looked to similar committees across Canada and the U.S. for guidance. The final step is for the appointments to be formally established, after which the inaugural CDRC will get to work. The department says this will take place in the near future, but does not give a specific timeframe.

 

For information on the Child Death Review Committee, contact:

The Department of Justice

4th Floor, East Block

Confederation Building

P.O. Box 8700

St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6

Tel: (709) 729-2869

Fax: (709) 729-0469

justice@gov.nl.ca

Organizations: The Child Death Review Committee, Department of Justice, Child Youth and Family Services Health and Community Services Department of Justice4th

Geographic location: United States, Conception Bay, Keystone State Park Pittsburgh Winnipeg Canada BlockConfederation BuildingP.O.

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  • David Bagby
    August 19, 2013 - 12:56

    After a CDR is completed and some or all of its recommendations have been implemented, does anyone ever go back and look at data to see if the recommendations actually made a difference in outcomes; i.e., are there fewer dead children as a result of implementing the recommendations? Perhaps there is a masters thesis in Sociology buried in this question.