Wounds suffered by a Calgary girl while under the care of her stepdad, including a life-threatening head injury, could have been accidental, a judge ruled Thursday in acquitting a city man of aggravated assault.
Provincial court Judge Terry Semenuk accepted submissions by defence lawyers Matt Deshaye and Yoav Niv that the child’s multiple injuries, which left her with permanent brain damage, weren’t intentionally inflicted.
Semenuk accepted Tyler Eugene LaBerge’s version of events, in which he denied assaulting the child and said her traumatic brain injury was the result of her falling in a bathtub while he fed his own, younger daughter.
“I don’t agree with Crown counsel’s submission made in argument that the evidence given by the accused is implausible, internally inconsistent and inconsistent with other evidence at trial,” Semenuk said in an 81-page written ruling.
“I expressly reject the Crown submission that the accused tailored his evidence, as the events and injuries suffered by (the child), to fit the injuries later observed by medical personnel,” he said in rejecting prosecutor Pam McCluskey’s arguments.
“After considering the totality of the admissible evidence . . . I believe the accused.”
LaBerge, 34, was charged with aggravated assault in connection with injuries the child suffered before she was taken first to the Rockyview General Hospital and then Alberta Children’s Hospital on March 11, 2018.
It was the Crown’s theory LaBerge intentionally applied force to the four-year-old victim while her mother was away from home at work.
A pathologist testified that the child’s near-deadly brain injury, which accompanied multiple head injuries and other wounds to her body, weren’t consistent with a fall.
But Semenuk said LaBerge’s version of a fall in the bathtub coupled with other events led him to conclude he could not find any of them involved an intentional infliction of force.
“The head injuries suffered by (the girl) can be explained by her fall in the bathtub,” he said.
He said bruising to her buttocks and lower back “can be explained by a previous fall.”
Additionally, a bruise to her hip was consistent with LaBerge’s explanation that he found the girl face down in the tub and forcefully pulled her from the water.
“His description is consistent with the placement, size and shape of the hip bruising,” Semenuk said.
And bruising to her chest could have been the result of LaBerge attempting CPR after pulling her from the bath.