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Inquest hears Katelynn Sampson was struck so hard her liver ruptured: pathologist

A coroner's inquest into the death of Katelynn Sampson, 7, begins Monday. As Tom Hayes reports, the inquest heard the 911 call that led paramedics to find the girl’s badly beaten body in an apartment in Toronto in 2008.

TORONTO — A seven-year-old Toronto girl who died at the hands of her guardians was once struck so hard that her liver ruptured, the inquest into her death heard Tuesday.

Katelynn Sampson’s autopsy showed a piece of the organ had completely detached and migrated to her pelvic area, the forensic pathologist who examined her body said.

“I’ve done a lot of autopsies…I’ve never seen this phenomenon before. I’ve never heard of this phenomenon before,” Dr. David Chiasson testified.

READ MORE: Coroner’s inquest into death of 7-year-old girl killed by her legal guardians begins

It would take a “very, very significant amount of force” to cause such damage, he said, adding that liver injuries are sometimes seen in victims of car crashes.

Katelynn also suffered several rib fractures, bruises and lacerations on her face and limbs in the weeks and months before her death on Aug. 3, 2008, he said.

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Autopsy photos presented at the inquest showed she had a black eye, her body was swollen and she had significant pooling of blood in her lower back.

There was also scarring on her heart, which is “very unusual for a seven-year-old,” but that was probably a complication of her other injuries, the pathologist said. There was no evidence of a brain injury or sexual assault.

The bruises on her face “would have been evident” to others and it would have been clear from Katelynn’s behaviour that she was in severe – possibly excruciating – pain, particularly after the liver injury, Chiasson said.

READ MORE: Inquest set to begin into death of 7-year-old killed by her guardians

But none of her injuries would have been fatal had she received medical treatment, and it was the complications from those injuries that killed her, he said. Shock and bacterial infection, likely stemming from a deep laceration on her finger, were factors, he said.

Paramedics found Katelynn’s battered body in the Toronto apartment where she lived with her guardians after one of them called 911. One of the paramedics who attended the scene previously testified she believed Katelynn had been dead for some time.

On the early morning call, which was played at the inquest Monday, Donna Irving could be heard sobbing as she told the operator the girl had choked to death on bread.

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Irving and Katelynn’s other guardian, Warren Johnson, were convicted three years ago of second-degree murder in the girl’s death and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.

Katelynn’s mother, Bernice Sampson, was addicted to crack and gave her daughter to Johnson and Irving in a misguided attempt to save Katelynn.

It was later revealed that a judge granted custody to Irving despite her criminal convictions for prostitution, drugs and violence.