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Falsely Accused Parent Exonerated
December 16, 2006 permalink
Here finally is exoneration for another parent falsely accused by the discredited pathologist Dr Charles Smith, who found parental homicide in many cases of blameless parents. We dealt with Dr Smith earlier on June 13, 2005, September 12, 2005, September 13, 2005, September 21, 2005 and June 1, 2006.
Justice for Jenna
A decade of emotion boils over as Brenda Waudby tightly hugs her 17-year-old daughter. Tears of closure stream down their faces as they come to terms with the dramatic events that, just moments before, unfolded in a provincial courtroom in Peterborough.
Ms Waudby has just heard a man plead guilty to manslaughter for the 1997 death of her 21-month-old daughter, Jenna Mellor.
"I just wanted to hear an admission of guilt. It's a relief. It reiterates what I've known all along," Ms Waudby says.
"It makes it concrete. Now I can just pick up the pieces and I've got a lot to pick up...Life begins now."
Ms Waudby's strength holds her family together. She grows quiet while reflecting on the past 10 years of her life -- a roller coaster ride that once landed her in jail for Jenna's murder. Over the years she's talked about her life, her feelings and her resolve to find justice.
That culminated in a disturbing admittance of guilt on Thursday by a 24-year-old man, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because he was 14 years old at the time of the murder.
The man was charged by Peterborough police this time last year with second-degree murder and two counts of sexual assault related to Jenna's death in Jan. 22, 1997 at her Mountain Ash Road home. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and had the sexual assault charges withdrawn. He was released from custody and will be sentenced on March 1.
Jenna's murder was unsolved for almost nine years before Peterborough police made an arrest last December. Their original investigation targeted Ms Waudby who was charged with the girl's murder in September 1997. Those charges were withdrawn following a difference in medical opinion. The first pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith, pinpointed the time of Jenna's death to when she was in the care of Ms Waudby. Other doctors later debunked that claim saying Jenna's injuries were sustained while she was in the care of the babysitter.
Ms Waudby was released from custody and investigators hit a wall. On Thursday, Court heard that in July 2001 Detective Sergeant Larry Charmley was assigned to the case. He re-interviewed all witnesses and called on help from outside agencies, including a child abuse specialist in Seattle.
In July 2005, court heard an undercover operation began, which eventually led to a confession by the babysitter in November 2005.
"The accused became emotional...and stated he did assault Jenna Mellor," Crown Attorney Brian Gilkinson told court.
Mr. Gilkinson said the man admitted to punching Jenna six times during the course of the night, adding the punches to the stomach area were strong enough to break ribs. Doctors said Jenna died as a result of blunt-force trauma to her abdomen.
"I f***ing jabbed her a few times and started hitting her," Mr. Gilkinson said as he read from notes taken during the man's confession.
Mr. Gilkinson explained the assaults occurred throughout the night and started shortly after Jenna was left alone with the babysitter.
Mr. Gilkinson said the boy was angry over having to look after Jenna.
As the confession was read out, Ms Waudby reached behind her and clutched her older daughter's hand. Justine Traynor, 17, was there that night when her sister was killed.
"I put them to bed and brought her [Jenna] out because she was crying," Mr. Gilkinson said as he continued to read from the confession.
"I hit her down so she would stay down."
The disturbing details were too much for some people. Two ladies walked out of the courtroom as others just shook their heads in disbelief.
The accused's lawyer, Peter Copeland, agreed the facts were accurate. The accused also agreed.
Mr. Copeland refused to comment when asked by This Week after the proceeding.
Justice Robert Graydon agreed this was a "serious violent offence" and to the guilty plea of manslaughter as presented by both the Crown and defence.
He said sentencing will be handed down on March 1, adding the man will be sentenced as a young offender.
The guilty man stood quietly in the courtroom throughout the proceedings, saying very little.
But as he left, members of Ms Waudby's family said he winked at Ms Waudby's mother-in-law, Faye Yelland. Following this there was a disturbance outside of the courtroom.
"You asshole," shouted a member of Ms Waudby's family as the two families met in the hallway.
A security guard quickly defused the situation, separating both families.
"I could have punched him right in the face," Ms Yelland later said.
Darrin Peever, a close family friend, said it appeared to family members the man showed no remorse for killing the young girl.
"Karma is a bitch. It comes back to bite people in the ass," he said.
Despite the tension, Mr. Peever admits there is some closure for the family.
Tom Waudby, Ms Waudby's brother, agrees. He said it was good to see a conviction, but doesn't think justice has been served. He said watching the suspect walk out of the courtroom proves there's a problem with the justice system and believes the time he will serve will be "a joke."
"But he has to live with it. It's on his soul for the rest of his life," said Mr. Waudby.
Jenna's father, Randy Mellor, told This Week on Thursday afternoon that he doesn't blame Jenna's killer for what happened that fatal night. He said Jenna shouldn't have been left alone with the 14-year-old boy.
Court heard Ms Waudby left Jenna with the boy to babysit while she went out on the night of Jan. 22.
Mr. Mellor said he will never find closure or relief.
"I get people saying 'When am I going to move on?' I say to them, 'Have you buried a kid lately?'"
Source: Lindsay This Week