Jury to decide fate of Sask. couple accused of killing 4-year-old, neglecting sister

REGINA -- A jury will have to decide whether a couple accused of killing a four-year-old girl and neglecting her younger sister purposely hurt them and denied them food.

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The defence and Crown gave closing arguments Thursday at the trial of Tammy and Kevin Goforth, who face charges of second-degree murder and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Lawyers for the couple told the jury that the Crown hasn't proven the pair intended to harm the children.

Tammy Goforth's lawyer said the couple threw birthday parties for the girls and took them to the park, museums and church.

"They didn't hide these girls," Jeff Deagle told the jury. "They weren't harming these girls. They were making them part of their lives."

The girls, who can't be identified because of a publication ban, were placed in the Goforths' Regina home in November 2011.

Shortly before midnight on July 31, 2012, the four-year-old was brought to Regina General Hospital "in crisis," court heard. She was taken off life support a couple of days later. An agreed statement of facts says she died of a brain injury after suffering cardiac arrest. She was also malnourished and dehydrated.

Her two-year-old sister survived.

Deagle acknowledged that the girls had lost weight, but said that can happen when someone is sick with the flu and doesn't eat much.

He said his client was trying to nurse the girls back to health. He pointed to evidence photos showing soup bowls on the kitchen counter the day the older sister was rushed to hospital.

"The real issue is not whether they were prevented from having food or deprived of having liquids," Deagle said. "Really, the issue is when should they have taken them to the doctor."

Kevin Goforth testified earlier this week that the children were never denied food. He said supper time at the family's home was important and the girls, who were big eaters, were always part of it.

Crown prosecutor Kim Jones said the girls weren't given enough food "for a prolonged period of time."

"This did not happen overnight," Jones told the jury.

"Physically, the girls were wasting away and that would have been readily apparent to anybody. Their faces became gaunt and their arms and legs were skin and bones."

Jones also said the girls were kept in poor conditions and sometimes restrained.

Court heard from Dr. Sharon Leibel with the child abuse unit at Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region. Leibel testified there were bruises, skin abrasions, open skin and scrapes across the four-year-old's body.

A forensic identification expert testified that he found duct tape in the Goforth home with hair stuck to it.

Const. Garth Fleece said he also found a large amount of dark hair in a knot on a piece of pink fabric, as well as cardboard with blood and feces in the girls' bedroom. The officer testified that he was looking for items such as rope or string that could be used as binding.

Defence lawyer Noah Evanchuk, who is representing Kevin Goforth, said police "had tunnel vision."

"They wanted to find evidence that would fit a theory. It's called confirmation basis -- find things that fit a theory, not find evidence and arrive at a theory," said Evanchuk.

Tammy Goforth testified bruises on the girls' ankles were caused by wearing high-cut shoes without socks, while contusions on their wrists were from mittens taped over their hands to stop them from scratching themselves.

Deliberations could begin Friday after the judge gives instructions to the jury.


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