WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of a child's death that some readers may find disturbing.
As testimony got underway Monday in the trial of a Quebec woman accused of killing her seven-year-old stepdaughter, the first police officer on the scene shared macabre details of what he saw while trying desperately to resuscitate the little girl.
The 38-year-old woman is charged with premeditated murder and forcible confinement in connection with the death of the child in the spring of 2019 — a death that sent shockwaves through the province, sparking public outcry and prompting an inquiry into Quebec's youth protection system.
Though the incident occurred about 80 kilometres east of Montreal in Granby, Que., the trial is being held in Trois-Rivières — 140 kilometres north of Granby — at the request of the defence.
At the start of the hearing Monday, Crown attorney Jean-Sébastien Bussières said the woman allegedly wrapped the seven-year-old girl in duct tape.
He said resuscitation was performed on the child, but she was later declared brain dead in hospital and artificial life support was stopped the next day.
Jurors were also able to hear the 911 call made from the home where the girl was found. The recording stirred emotions in both the jurors and relatives in the courtroom.
Officer stayed with girl all the way to hospital
During proceedings, Martin Noël, a police officer with the city of Granby, took the witness box to describe what he saw when he first arrived on the scene.
Noël said he received a call around 11:30 a.m. on April 29, 2019, telling him to go to the family's home.
That's where he found the naked girl lying on the floor of a room. He said her body was hot and there was furniture stacked against the walls.
He began resuscitation efforts, noting scissors near the girl and injuries to her body.
When questioned by the Crown, the police officer said he noticed the presence of what appeared to be urine and vomit near the child.
In cross-examination, defence lawyer Alexandre Biron asked Noël to clarify those remarks. The officer said he could not say with certainty that the liquid he saw was urine or vomit.
Noël continued his efforts to resuscitate the girl in the ambulance as she was rushed to hospital.
Photos show stacked furniture
Photos taken at the scene and shown to the jury corroborated what Noël had said about the furniture stacked against the walls, the scissors and the marks on the victim's body.
The photos also showed what appeared to be a pile of duct tape.
Linda Harpin, the second Granby officer on the scene, was emotional as she described the girl as being unusually thin.
She said it was very dark, that there was a TV cabinet obstructing the door as well as a child's potty with urine in it.
She said the items stacked against the wall were blocking windows.
Harpin took photos of the scene to document the event. She described the scene as abnormal, noting there were two other children in the house when she arrived.
20 witnesses will be called
In addition to the 911 call and the photos taken at the scene, jurors were shown images taken at the hospital as well as calls and texts made by the accused.
In all, 20 witnesses will be called to the witness box, whether by the Crown or defence.
Seven police officers, nine civilian witnesses and four experts will give their version of the facts or their analysis of the situation.
Only part of the evidence and testimony during this trial can be reported as a partial publication ban was issued Friday by Quebec Superior Court.
The girl's father is also facing charges, including criminal negligence causing death, child abandonment and failure to provide the necessaries of life.
Their trials are separate, although some of the same witnesses could be called to testify. The father's trial could take place as late as next year.
The couple's identities are subject to a publication ban to protect the child's identity.