Toddler could have suffered brain injuries by falling down stairs, medical expert testifies

Harry Sullivan
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TRURO - Scientific evidence shows a toddler who died of massive brain damage in March 2005 could have sustained her injuries by falling downstairs, a medical expert testified Friday.
At least that was the partial evidence offered by Ontario forensic pathologist Michael Pollanen during the fifth day of testimony in the manslaughter trial against Terry Dean Allen.
Allen, 27, is accused of inflicting massive brain damage to Samantha Marie Mercer on the evening of March 1, 2005 in their Brunswick Street home.
Samantha, who was three-and-a-half, died two days later after being removed from life support at the IWK children's hospital. In addition to severe brain damage, the toddler had received compression fractures to six of 12 spinal vertebrae, a broken arm and numerous bruises from head to toe.
"... it's not entirely clear, bio-mechanically, which of the three tests represent the true nature of the injury," Pollanen said, speaking specifically about the head injuries.
Pollanen's comments came regarding information contained in a bio-mechanical study conducted for the defence in which a "model" fashioned in the size and weight of Samantha was allowed to topple down a flight of stairs, was slammed into a wall and
was dropped on its head from an eight foot
elevation.
Pollanen said he agreed with other medical reports regarding the injuries that caused Samantha's death but he would not rule a stairway fall as a potential cause.
But as with statements made by previous medical experts that her injuries were likely caused by colliding with a "firm structure," Pollanen also said the other injuries cannot be isolated when looking for a cause.
"There are other injuries present on
the body (that have to be considered)," he said.
Factors such as a dent in the girl's bedroom wall - which testimony has revealed broke through to rip the paper on the back of the drywall and which human hairs were found, have to also be taken into consideration, Pollanen suggested.
"The point here is that you have an impact of a body part onto a firm surface," which he said could have been a wall.
The Crown is attempting to prove that Allen deliberately inflicted the injuries, which caused Samantha's death, by slamming her head-first into her bedroom wall.
The defense, meanwhile, has been building a case around Allen's assertion that the girl was injured while falling down a flight of stairs on the evening of March 1, 2005, potentially as she tumbled down the steps along with his 150-pound Rottweiler.
Allen, who had lived with the girl's mother, Aleisha Mercer, for about a week, was caring for the toddler while Mercer was at work.
Earlier testimony has heard that after the girl received her injuries, Allen left the child alone in her bed and went downstairs with friends to smoke marijuana before discovering that she had lapsed into a coma.
Previous medical testimony has also indicated that because of the extent of Samantha's brain damage, she likely would have been unconscious immediately or shortly after being injured.
The Crown Attorney's office has one witness left to help bolster its case against Allen when another medical expert is scheduled to take the stand late Monday morning.
On Tuesday, the defence is scheduled to begin calling its witnesses.

Geographic location: Ontario, Brunswick Street

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