Matchim guilty of shaking baby

Sentencing hearing set for July

Rosie Mullaley
Published on June 1, 2011
Colin James Matchim is handcuffed by a sheriff’s officer after being found guilty of aggravated assault in Supreme Court Tuesday. A request by his lawyer that he be allowed to remain free until his sentencing in July was denied and he was immediately taken into custody. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

He had denied it, then confessed to it, recanted the confession and even blamed the mother of his child.

In the end, Colin James Matchim’s ever-changing story about what caused his infant daughter’s brain damage two years ago ended with his conviction Tuesday.

The 25-year-old was found guilty of aggravated assault for shaking

3 1/2-month-old August Matchim in March 2009.

“I believe the accused could not accept what he had done to his child and was unable to tell (the child’s mother) Kate Coombs, Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS) or the police what actually took place (until days later),” Justice Wayne Dymond stated in his written decision, copies of which were distributed to lawyers and reporters.

Moments after Dymond gave his shortened verbal decision, Matchim was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

From the other side of the courtroom at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s, Coombs watched, showing no reaction.

Matchim’s lawyer, Scott Hurley, had objected to Crown prosecutor Phil LeFeuvre’s recommendation to put Matchim in jail before sentencing.

He pointed out Matchim has not missed a court date and would not pose a risk to anyone if he was released.

But Dymond disagreed, pointing to problems with Matchim’s ability to adhere to certain conditions and his emotional stability.

During the trial, Matchim and Coombs admitted to seeing each other, and to Matchim seeing the baby, after he had been charged. Matchim had been ordered to have no contact with either of them.

“Under unique circumstances, it’s safer for everyone that Mr. Matchim (be taken) into custody,” Dymond said.

A sentencing hearing is set for July 25.

Evidence from the 17-day trial revealed that on March 17, 2009, Matchim was home alone with the baby while Coombs was out running errands. She said the baby appeared fine and was sleeping in her swing when she left.

But when she got home about an hour later, she noticed the child was unresponsive, cold and pale.

The baby was taken to the Janeway children’ hospital, where doctors immediately suspected shaken baby syndrome.

According to medical reports, the child still cannot walk on her own and has difficulty with movement on her right side. The damage is permanent.

Police arrested and charged Matchim in April 2009. He was released on strict conditions shortly afterwards.

Matchim had originally denied he did anything wrong.

But 10 days after the incident, he confessed to police and to a social worker that he did shake the child.

He made the admission to police after having an MSN online conversation with Coombs, who had moved out of their apartment.

During the conversation, Coombs was upset with Matchim and demanded he tell her what happened to the baby.

He initially denied he hurt her, but later told her, “I will tell you … It was an accident.” He goes on to say the baby had been crying and was holding her breath.”

He then went to police and confessed to shaking her. The next day, he admitted the same to a CYFS social worker.

During the trial, the defence had objected to allowing Matchim’s confessions, but after arguments on the subject, Dymond found it was voluntary and admissible.

When he took the stand, Matchim recanted the confessions, stating he gave false information because he feared August would end up in foster care. However, he later said he confessed because he was sick of all the interviews with social workers and police.

At one point to police, Matchim even blamed Coombs for causing the baby’s injuries, but at trial, changed his story to say he did not believe Coombs was responsible.

In the end, the judge said there were too many inconsistencies in Matchim’s stories and concluded he lacked credibility.

“It is clear Mr. Matchim lied to the police, as he has given two completely different versions, both convincing and detailed,” Dymond said the main reason Matchim confessed at all was because he was afraid Coombs would leave him for good.

The judge said Matchim’s explanation for the baby’s injuries was inconsistent with medical evidence, “which clearly establishes that the child was shaken.”

Dymond also pointed out Matchim chose to ignore court orders to stay away from Coombs and the baby.

“It is clear that the recognizance meant absolutely nothing to him,” Dymond said.

Matchim is due in provincial court July 26 to answer to those charges.

As for Coombs, the judge said while she also lied on the stand about having no contact with Matchim, he didn’t believe she was responsible for the baby’s injuries.

Not only did she demand that Matchim tell her what happened during their MSN conversation, but she later admitted she lied because was concerned about CYFS finding out she had been with Matchim.

“This does not excuse her lying on this issue,” Dymond said, “but it does explain why she did.”

Coombs chose not to speak to reporters after proceedings.

Lawyers also opted not to comment as they review sentencing options.