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Court hears from police; family member in murder trial

Accused asked RPS officer “does that mean I’m going to jail for hurting my child?”

REGINA – More evidence was introduced in Day Two of a second-degree murder trial in Regina Court of King’s Bench.

Chelsea Rae Whitby, 26, faces that charge after the death of her 18-month-old son on June 10, 2020.

Morning testimony continued with witnesses from RPS, detailing their roles surrounding the day Emerson William Bryan Whitby died.

The Court heard from Cpl. Jennifer Ferris, a member of RPS for 20 years, who was also in the Identification Unit. A large part of her work was collecting photographs of the residence where Chelsea and Emerson Whitby lived. Ferris collected images on June 11, 2020, and assisted with executing a search warrant in the process. She listed some of the items of interest seized from the search, including a notebook labelled “Emerson’s Accident Book,” grey toddler pyjamas, a soother with a beaded lanyard, medication, and electronic devices.

The Crown led Ferris through a number of images she collected that day, asking to describe for the Court the what was contained in the images. She was also presented with three different soothers attached to beaded lanyards and asked to describe them.

“The soother has a dried substance on it, and some in the bag,” Ferris explained of the first item, stored in a plastic bag. In general, each soother was attached to a clip via a string with silicone-like, pliable beads; “like a ju-jube” Ferris said of the beads’ consistency.

Earlier in the trial, other witnesses described bruising on Emerson’s face as having a pattern including small circular shapes. This led to the idea that some of the bruises could have been caused from sleeping on the soother.

Next to take the stand was S/Sgt. Pierre Beauschesne, who was working in the RPS Major Crimes Unit at the time of Emerson’s death, and the main contact with Whitby in the days after meeting with her at the hospital. He was also present during a meeting with the coroner at the hospital on the day Emerson died.

Crown prosecutor Aly Sparks asked Beauschesne about a particular conversation after that meeting where the RPS officer explained to Whitby that a search warrant would be executed at her apartment. Beauschesne said Whitby replied, “does that mean I’m going to jail for hurting my child?” He advised Sparks that nothing was mentioned up to that point about jail or prison, but a previous conversation with a doctor at the Regina General Hospital noted that the injuries Emerson sustained were done by somebody.

“We had no indication as to who would’ve been involved with any type of assault on Emerson,” Beauschesne said.

He also spoke of an outburst later that evening when Whitby returned to her apartment to retrieve clothing. Beauschesne was at the residence, and when told that Whitby could not take a cell phone from inside the apartment, he described an immediate outburst. Beauschesne testified that Whitby became upset, ultimately pounding on the bed in the master bedroom of the residence and shouting. The outburst lasted around 30 seconds, and Whitby gathered some clothing, medication, and a stuffed bear similar to the one she has been holding on to during present-day court proceedings.

When asked by Sparks what Whitby was shouting, Beauschesne replied, “just that she didn't want police there, she wanted police to go away.”

A video from a meeting between Beauschesne and Whitby at RPS headquarters was also presented as evidence. In the video, Beauschesne tells Whitby about a second media release about to be broadcast, explaining that police are continuing the investigation as a suspicious death, and entering into a criminal investigation. Whitby was visibly upset in the video upon hearing the news, sobbing and clutching the teddy bear - a reflection of her reaction in the courtroom while watching the footage.

In the afternoon, Court heard testimony from Travis Jolly, Emerson’s paternal grandfather. When asked by Crown attorney Adam Breker to describe the young boy’s personality, Jolly spoke of a vibrant “busy” toddler.

“He was adventurous, he couldn’t sit still,” Jolly said. “Unless he was eating in the highchair, he wanted to get out of the high chair. He was always moving around…always busy.”

Jolly described his final visit with Emerson, a typical afternoon that included making some macaroni for a snack before he had to leave for work.

“I kissed him on the forehead four times, and I told him that his grandpa loved him so much,” Jolly said, fighting back tears. “Right at that time, I felt he was getting better from his previous injury.”

Breker inquired about Emerson’s demeanour in late May, when the young boy displayed bruises on his face.

“He physically was not as active,” Jolly said. “He wasn’t as vocal, but yet more active and vocal than he was the first time I saw him after the black eyes.”

Testimony then turned to the last minutes of Emerson’s life, with Breker asking Jolly to describe several events beginning with the trip to the hospital. Travis and Darla Jolly eventually prepared to travel to Saskatoon, as plans were being made to transport Emerson in order to be a possible organ donor.

Jolly explained how they were asked but his son Riley to turn around by Chamberlain, that plans had changed as Emerson could not be a donor due to receiving a vaccination the weekend prior. Darla was asked to assist other family members in removing the intubation tube in Emerson, but she did not feel comfortable doing so.

“So I did it,” Jolly said. “I went with my son into the room, and watched him watch his son have the intubation tube pulled out.”

Testimony from at least one family member will continue tomorrow.

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