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Victim's father speaks in murder trial

Father phoned Social Services after seeing bruises.

REGINA – Witness testimony continued on the fourth day of a second-degree murder trial in Regina King’s Bench Court.

Riley Jolly, father of Emerson William Bryan Whitby, took the stand and was the sole witness of the proceedings today. Jolly and Chelsea Rae Whitby - who stands accused of the charge -  were not in a relationship at the time when Emerson died tragically on June 10, 2020. The cause of death was found to be blunt force trauma to the head.

Crown attorney Adam Breker asked Jolly about the last day he spent with Emerson, the day before the toddler’s death.

“It was a regular pick up,” Jolly said of the June 9, 2020 afternoon that he picked up Emerson from Whitby’s apartment in Regina. He added that Emerson seemed “cranky, whiny” during trip back to Balgonie, consistent with his mood when hungry.

Jolly spoke of a typical day with Emerson, including naps, play time, having a bath, then returning to Regina at around 8:30 p.m.

Breker then led Jolly through quite a different pick up from Whtiby’s apartment on May 26, 2020, one where Emerson’s father would be shocked by his son’s appearance.

While Whitby said that Emerson had black eyes after falling out of his crib, Jolly didn’t know the extent of the injury. After picking up his son, Jolly then visited his mother at work, where she took photos of Emerson’s appearance.

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Jolly, in reply to Breker’s question of why he went to his mother’s workplace. Jolly then decided to take Emerson to see a doctor in White City, who advised if the swelling or black eyes become worse, to take the toddler to hospital.

The father and son returned to Balgonie, with Jolly describing Emerson as being “very cuddly, he didn’t want to lift his head up.” When his mother returned from work, the idea of visiting the hospital was formed. Jolly then phoned Whitby, stating his desire that Emerson visit the hospital.

“I told Chelsea that it was a good idea for Emerson to go to the hospital, because his eyes were getting worse,” Jolly said. The two argued back and forth, with Whitby not in favour of Emerson seeking further treatment.

“She said that have you ever had a black eye before? They have to get worse before they get better,” Jolly said, describing the conversation with Whitby.

Breker asked Jolly why he didn’t take Emerson to the hospital.

“I still wanted to be able to see him,” Jolly replied. “I felt that if I would’ve taken him there, she would’ve held him from me.”

The following day, Jolly contacted the Ministry of Social Services, providing them with images of concern.

When cross-examined by defence lawyer Darren Kraushaar, the reason for Whitby’s reluctance became clear. As this was the spring of 2020 - in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic - Whitby was cautious about sending Emerson to the hospital.

When asked by Breker if Jolly had ever observed anything physical or violent toward Emerson, he was able to recall an incident with Whitby.

“I dropped him off, she had confronted me, stating that I had to help out more,” Jolly said of the interaction with Whitby. “Do more from my end.” He said Whitby also told him “it’s not all tulips and daises over here - he doesn’t just go to bed for me.”

At one point in that conversation, Whitby - who was seated on her couch along with Emerson - placed his head into a pillow and held it there for “four or five seconds,” before lifting her hand off.

“I was shocked,” Jolly described of his reaction to witnessing the event from his viewpoint in the doorway of Whitby’s apartment.

Under cross-examination, Kraushaar confirmed from Jolly that his client did not injure Emerson during the event.

Questioning also led Jolly to recall events of June 10, 2020, in particular about the differences in Emerson’s face as compared to what he knew from the previous day.

“There was a bruise on centre of his forehead that was immediately noticeable,” he said, describing the black and blue spot as being about an inch in diameter.

Holding back tears, he used a pointer stick to refer on the television screen behind him of the areas of facial bruising.

In later testimony, Kraushaar questioned Jolly about when he first noticed the bruise on Emerson’s forehead. Some confusion arose as initially Jolly referred to a small v-shaped mark along Emerson’s hairline. He responded to Kraushaar’s question as the mark was there on June 9, 2020, but not as dark.

Breker sought to clarify whether the mark Jolly had observed was the same as a prominent bruise also nearby. After returning to the onscreen image, Jolly again pointed to the area he noticed the v-shaped mark. Kraushaar introduced another image, which could better clarify the ambiguity. Once again, Jolly pointed and described to a point just above the bruise on the forehead where the v-shaped mark was.

Testimony from Crown witnesses will continue tomorrow.

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