Doctor says being slammed into wall likely caused N.S. toddlers death

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TRURO, N.S. - Being swung horizontally and impacting a wall with her head is more likely to have been behind a toddler's fatal injuries than a fall down a flight of stairs, court was told Thursday.
Dr. Steven Bellemare, an expert in child neglect and injury interpretation, made the conclusion during testimony at the manslaughter trial of Terry Dean Allen.
Allen is accused in the March 2005 death of three-year-old Samantha Marie Mercer.
Bellemare said if the child "were being held horizontally by the seat of her pants" and was slammed head-first into the wall with significant force, it would have caused massive brain injuries and ultimately death.
Bellemare, of the Child Protection Unit at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, was the sole witness Thursday.
Mercer died at the IWK after being taken off life support two days after being rushed to hospital.
Allen and Samantha's mother, Aleisha Mercer, had been living together in an apartment for about a week when the incident occurred. The girl had been left in Allen's care after dropping Mercer off at work earlier that afternoon.
Allen claims the child was injured by falling down a set of stairs.
Bellemare said the head injuries the toddler suffered led to bleeding and swelling that essentially cut off the blood flow to her brain, essentially leaving her brain dead.
He testified she also had a "buckle" fracture on her left arm just below the shoulder and from six vertebrae compression fractures of her spine between her shoulders and the middle of her back. As well, some 57 bruises were recorded from Samantha's scalp to her toes.
While a number of those marks could be accounted for through the day-to-day activities of an active young girl, Bellemare said, one of the most alarming aspects of her case was "the sheer number of bruises on her body."
But Samantha did not have a crushed skull as indicated in earlier testimony in the trial, defence attorney Don Murray elicited from Bellemare during cross-examination.
And while Bellemare said children who fall down stairs don't typically receive the number and severity of injuries experienced by Mercer, he did acknowledge under cross-examination that it could not be ruled out, depending on whether "someone or something" else was also involved.
Bellemare said the version of events he initially received from Samantha's mother, as told by Allen, was that both the girl and his Rottweiler dog tumbled down the stairs together.

Organizations: IWK Health Centre, Child Protection Unit

Geographic location: Halifax

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