The police said they had information on Nathaniel’s death. Instead, they separated his parents and warned: ‘We are pursuing a manslaughter charge’

Part three of a five-part series. Recap of the story so far: As the investigation deepens, police notes record comments from London hospital staff of “bizarre” behaviour by Nathaniel’s mother. Strathroy police detectives conduct interviews of the three McLellan children in a family member’s basement. One child later said he felt police were “pushing” him to say something that would help their probe.Nathaniel had been in the ground five days when the Strathroy police called his parents. “We have some information for you,” the detective said.Kent looked at Rose-Anne across the kitchen table. Their three boys were at school, and breakfast dishes sat untouched on the counter. Neither parent was sleeping much and work for now was out of the question. When Rose-Anne cried, all Kent could think to do was hold her. “Would you mind coming to the house?” Kent asked the detective on the phone, Staff Sgt. Gilles Philion, who had interviewed them at the hospital that first day. “No,” came the reply. “If you want the information you have to come to the station. We need you here by 11 a.m.”Kent and Rose-Anne were not up to driving. Kent called his dad, Wayne, to take them into Strathroy. A few minutes after Grandpa Wayne’s car turned onto the main road and headed to town with Kent and Rose-Anne, three police cruisers and a forensics van pulled into the McLellan driveway. The officers, search warrant in hand this time, for their third search, entered their home.At the Strathroy-Caradoc police station, Nathaniel’s parents were met by OPP detectives Connie Buckmuller and Todd Amlin, who announced they were now in charge of the case. What follows is a reconstruction of the McLellan couple’s conversations with police, and the formal interviews, based on the officers’ notes contained in search warrant applications, and Kent and Rose-Anne’s recollections. Strathroy police and the OPP have refused to release audio and transcripts of their interviews and all the officers involved have declined to speak to the Star. “We’ll talk to you first,” Buckmuller said, leading Kent to an interview room. After the door closed behind them, the other OPP detective, Amlin, told Rose-Anne it would be better if they spoke to her at the OPP detachment on the other side of Strathroy. Grandpa Wayne drove his daughter-in-law and waited outside, confused. He, like his son and Rose-Anne, had no experience with police.In the small, windowless room at Strathroy police headquarters, Kent settled into one of two chairs. Buckmuller sat across from him. The scene would be familiar to anyone who watched television police dramas, but at the time, the parents rarely watched TV and if they did, it was never crime-related. That would change.Buckmuller shuffled some papers on the table. “Kent, I want you to understand that we are pursuing a manslaughter charge. You need to be aware that anything you say here you could be charged with. You have a right to a lawyer,” Buckmuller said.Kent’s eyes widened. He had been told only to expect an update on their son’s case. “Do I need a lawyer?” “Well, Kent, your son had a nine-centimetre fracture on the back of his head,” she replied. Then she softened her tone. “Tell me about that day,” she said, referring to the Tuesday that Nathaniel went to hospital.Kent said it was a regular morning. Breakfast with the kids and Rose-Anne, then the older three boys got on the bus to school and Rose-Anne, a teacher, took Nathaniel to the new daycare she had found and headed to her school up the street. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Buckmuller asked Kent.Running his hand through his hair, Kent said there was something they had thought of as he and Rose-Anne tried to piece together the timeline.“Well, I don’t know if this means anything, but the day before Nate got bumped by the backroom door and fell,” Kent said, explaining that Rose-Anne told him what happened when he got home from work that night. “Rose-Anne said, ‘oh, we had a few tears’ when I asked her how the afternoon went.”Buckmuller leaned forward across the desk. She pushed a notebook and a pen towards Kent. “Draw me a picture. Tell me about the stairs on the opposite side of the door that hit Nathaniel. Is it possible Nathaniel fell down those stairs?”The stairs she was referring to, which police likely saw during their first two searches (detectives and forensic officers were currently at the McLellan house for the third search), were a set of eight steep wooden stairs that ended on the concrete basement floor, unchanged from when the house was built in the late 1930s. The door to the stairs was about 1.5 metres from the door that bumped Nathaniel. The basement was a bit dungeon-like, used only for storage, and they always kept the door closed.In what may have been a case of broken telephone, one of the paramedics who transferred Nathaniel to the London hospital wrote in his official notes: “Patient brought to (hospital) by his mother following incident at the p

The police said they had information on Nathaniel’s death. Instead, they separated his parents and warned: ‘We are pursuing a manslaughter charge’

Part three of a five-part series. Recap of the story so far: As the investigation deepens, police notes record comments from London hospital staff of “bizarre” behaviour by Nathaniel’s mother. Strathroy police detectives conduct interviews of the three McLellan children in a family member’s basement. One child later said he felt police were “pushing” him to say something that would help their probe.

Nathaniel had been in the ground five days when the Strathroy police called his parents.

“We have some information for you,” the detective said.

Kent looked at Rose-Anne across the kitchen table. Their three boys were at school, and breakfast dishes sat untouched on the counter. Neither parent was sleeping much and work for now was out of the question. When Rose-Anne cried, all Kent could think to do was hold her. “Would you mind coming to the house?” Kent asked the detective on the phone, Staff Sgt. Gilles Philion, who had interviewed them at the hospital that first day.

“No,” came the reply. “If you want the information you have to come to the station. We need you here by 11 a.m.”

Kent and Rose-Anne were not up to driving. Kent called his dad, Wayne, to take them into Strathroy. A few minutes after Grandpa Wayne’s car turned onto the main road and headed to town with Kent and Rose-Anne, three police cruisers and a forensics van pulled into the McLellan driveway. The officers, search warrant in hand this time, for their third search, entered their home.

At the Strathroy-Caradoc police station, Nathaniel’s parents were met by OPP detectives Connie Buckmuller and Todd Amlin, who announced they were now in charge of the case. What follows is a reconstruction of the McLellan couple’s conversations with police, and the formal interviews, based on the officers’ notes contained in search warrant applications, and Kent and Rose-Anne’s recollections. Strathroy police and the OPP have refused to release audio and transcripts of their interviews and all the officers involved have declined to speak to the Star.

“We’ll talk to you first,” Buckmuller said, leading Kent to an interview room. After the door closed behind them, the other OPP detective, Amlin, told Rose-Anne it would be better if they spoke to her at the OPP detachment on the other side of Strathroy. Grandpa Wayne drove his daughter-in-law and waited outside, confused. He, like his son and Rose-Anne, had no experience with police.

In the small, windowless room at Strathroy police headquarters, Kent settled into one of two chairs. Buckmuller sat across from him. The scene would be familiar to anyone who watched television police dramas, but at the time, the parents rarely watched TV and if they did, it was never crime-related. That would change.

Buckmuller shuffled some papers on the table. “Kent, I want you to understand that we are pursuing a manslaughter charge. You need to be aware that anything you say here you could be charged with. You have a right to a lawyer,” Buckmuller said.

Kent’s eyes widened. He had been told only to expect an update on their son’s case. “Do I need a lawyer?”

“Well, Kent, your son had a nine-centimetre fracture on the back of his head,” she replied. Then she softened her tone. “Tell me about that day,” she said, referring to the Tuesday that Nathaniel went to hospital.

Kent said it was a regular morning. Breakfast with the kids and Rose-Anne, then the older three boys got on the bus to school and Rose-Anne, a teacher, took Nathaniel to the new daycare she had found and headed to her school up the street.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Buckmuller asked Kent.

Running his hand through his hair, Kent said there was something they had thought of as he and Rose-Anne tried to piece together the timeline.

“Well, I don’t know if this means anything, but the day before Nate got bumped by the backroom door and fell,” Kent said, explaining that Rose-Anne told him what happened when he got home from work that night. “Rose-Anne said, ‘oh, we had a few tears’ when I asked her how the afternoon went.”

Buckmuller leaned forward across the desk. She pushed a notebook and a pen towards Kent. “Draw me a picture. Tell me about the stairs on the opposite side of the door that hit Nathaniel. Is it possible Nathaniel fell down those stairs?”

The stairs she was referring to, which police likely saw during their first two searches (detectives and forensic officers were currently at the McLellan house for the third search), were a set of eight steep wooden stairs that ended on the concrete basement floor, unchanged from when the house was built in the late 1930s. The door to the stairs was about 1.5 metres from the door that bumped Nathaniel. The basement was a bit dungeon-like, used only for storage, and they always kept the door closed.

In what may have been a case of broken telephone, one of the paramedics who transferred Nathaniel to the London hospital wrote in his official notes: “Patient brought to (hospital) by his mother following incident at the parent’s home where the babysitter accidentally dropped the patient down 1 flight (approx 15 steps) of stairs.” To this day, nobody has been able to explain where the paramedic got this information and the paramedic would not speak to the Star. Beyond the injury to Nathaniel’s head, doctors found no bruising or other injuries to his body.

Kent told the detective Nathaniel’s minor “door bump” happened while he was at work but there was no way his son fell down those stairs.

“How do you know?” Buckmuller asked.

“Because my wife tells me everything.”

Buckmuller stood up and opened the interview room door. “Well, that may not be the case.”

As the door opened, Kent heard a woman scream. It was a jagged, high-pitched cry that sounded to him like Rose-Anne’s scream in the hospital when she learned two weeks before that Nathaniel would not make it. What had happened to make his wife scream, Kent wondered.

In reality, Rose-Anne was in an interview room at the OPP detachment three kilometres away. Across from her sat Det.-Const. Todd Amlin.

Rose-Anne’s interview began with questions about their marriage. Was it happy? Any problems at home? Rose-Anne said life was good, busy, but nice and fun. Their plan since marriage was to have five children. Nathaniel was the fourth and she was pregnant, due in the spring, with their fifth. She enjoyed teaching, interrupted though it was by maternity leaves.

Detective Amlin asked her to take him through the events of two weeks previous, acknowledging that she had already done that with Strathroy officers. Rose-Anne fumbled in her purse and took out a USB thumb drive. The photos on it dealt with something that happened the night before Nathaniel went to hospital. She said she and Kent did not think it was related but they wanted police to know everything.

Rose-Anne had come home from teaching that Monday in the late afternoon. Kathy Webster, the neighbour who looked after Nathaniel and cooked and cleaned three days a week, was there. The two women caught up and clowned around with Nathaniel. The toddler had a snack in his high chair and finished with a piece of birthday cake from Grandpa Wayne’s party from two days before. Out of his high chair and cleaned up (photos Rose-Anne gave police that day show cake on the boy’s grinning face), Nathaniel ran around the first floor.

“Kent was not home yet,” Rose-Anne began. “Kathy, our housekeeper, had just left. The older boys (Gabe, Luke and Noah) were riding their bikes from the house to the barn and back.” Rose-Anne said she was hurrying — “I don’t do anything slow.” She had gone out the side door to the unheated mud room to fetch something and when she opened the door to come back in she did not realize Nathaniel was waiting on the other side. The door was heavy steel. The top half had a glass pane, but in the mudroom Rose-Anne was down a step so she could not see Nathaniel on the other side.

“I opened the door and I heard something,” Rose-Anne said. “So I quickly closed the door and I peeked through the window, and he was flat on his back and mad that he had fallen.” She opened the door and scooped up her youngest. In an effort to further describe Nathaniel’s reaction, she told Detective Amlin, “You know when a child’s eyes are big and they are deciding if they are going to cry or not.” She said Nathaniel was “crying hard and I walked to the living room and rocked him in the chair. By the time I got to the chair he had stopped.”

Kent came home from work. “I told Kent we had a few tears,” Rose-Anne told the detective, referring to Nathaniel being bumped by the door. It was Rose-Anne’s birthday the next day, and she put her silly birthday hat on Nathaniel and another photo was taken, this one of Kent holding a smiling Nathaniel in his arms.

Nathaniel was fine the rest of the evening, Rose-Anne told Detective Amlin. And fine the next morning when she dropped him at Meggin Van Hoof’s home daycare, she said.

Rose-Anne pushed the thumb drive across the table in the interview room. She told Amlin she wanted him to see that Nathaniel was fine after the “door bump.” In the photo taken before the door bump, with Nathaniel eating a piece of birthday cake, there is no red mark. In the photo taken after the door bump, Nathaniel is in his father’s arms and wearing a silly birthday hat. In that photo, there is a slight red mark visible in the centre of his forehead from the door bump. (At the hospital, doctors would notice a different red mark, which became a dark bruise, this one on the left side of Nathaniel’s forehead.)

Looking across the interview room table at Detective Amlin, Rose-Anne said she and Kent had gone over everything and were convinced that whatever caused Nathaniel’s death did not happen while he was with them.

The detective said he had no more questions but would be in touch. Grandpa Wayne drove Rose-Anne back to the Strathroy police headquarters, where Kent was ready to leave. Toward the end of his interview, Detective Buckmuller asked Kent if he would take a lie-detector test. Kent said he would. Later, police formally asked both Kent and Rose-Anne to agree to a polygraph. Both would pass.

As they drove home in Grandpa Wayne’s truck all three had the same thought. Are the police talking to Meggin, the babysitter? They had no contact with her since Nathaniel went to hospital. Meggin had not attended the funeral.

One thing was clear to Rose-Anne, a thought she had related to Detective Amlin during the interview. Police seemed convinced she had been responsible for her son’s death. That she had bumped Nathaniel with the steel door, somehow causing an injury that would manifest itself about 20 hours later. And that she had lied and covered it up.

There is a line in the Amlin interview notes that makes no sense to Rose-Anne, who reviewed them at the Star’s request.

Amlin wrote: “That Rose-Anne forcefully pushed the door open (which was constructed of steel). Nathaniel was standing on the other side. The door hit Nathaniel sending him backwards over a step causing him to hit the back of his head on the floor and he subsequently hit the corner of the corner wall trim.”

Rose-Anne said there was no step for Nathaniel to fall over, and as for her saying Nathaniel hit his head on wall trim, she said she did not because that did not happen. “I did not say he hit his head on the trim. I just wanted them to know what was there.” She does, however, recall saying in the interview that she understands how the door bump looked.

“In my interview I said I opened the door and it ruined my life,” Rose-Anne later recalled to the Star. “I probably didn’t explain it. I didn’t mean it ruined my life because I hurt my son. I meant that people are going to assume that’s what killed him and it’s not, it’s not what killed him.”

Next: Part Four — A mother fights back

Kevin Donovan is the Star's chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. He can be reached at 416-312-3503 or via email: kdonovan@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Can I be fired if I don’t get vaccinated? Experts answer pressing questions about vaccines and the workplace

Canadians are once again navigating a strange new normal.Vaccines offer protection, but what are the rights of those who choose to not get jabbed? When Erin Pepler, a Burlington, Ont. resident, recently booked massage therapist and osteopath appointments, vaccination status was on her mind. “I didn’t really want to flat out ask if they’ve been vaccinated because it felt invasive, but my RMT freely shared this information during an appointment and it definitely made me feel much better about continuing treatment,” she said. “There are high-risk individuals in my household. If a health-care worker told me they were unvaccinated by choice, I’d definitely question their judgment and consider finding a different practitioner.” Anticipating that many clients would have similar concerns, Farzana Mayer, owner of iKhaya Day Spa in B.C., put a plan in place.“In the event that any of our current employees had chosen to not get the vaccine, they would have been placed in a position that does not require direct contact with colleagues or guests. An example of this would be the front-end co-ordinator position behind a Plexiglas,” she said. Ottawa says it is planning to lessen quarantine requirements for travellers who have had both jabs of any two-dose vaccine, but governments have not yet issued specific guidelines around the use of “vaccine passports” in private sectors of the economy. Paul McLean, a specialist in employment law at Mathews Dinsdale, says his firm has been receiving many questions from employers about how they can talk with staff and customers about vaccination.“The limited government advice so far is couched with the caveat that it can all change tomorrow, so it’s quite up in the air,” he said. To seek some clarity, the Star reached out to employment lawyers, labour boards and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The below are general guidelines only, and should not be treated as legal advice. Is it legal for employers to ask staff to disclose their vaccination status?Kirsten Hume Scrimshaw, founding partner of Ally Workplace Law, said employers have to balance privacy concerns and their obligation under health and safety laws to provide a safe space for employees and the public.“Business owners must assess the risks, such as the level of interaction employees have with customers. If they are asking staff about vaccination status as part of legitimate efforts to assess workplace health and safety, privacy laws have a reasonableness component that would protect employers’ rights to inquire,” she said. “Vaccination is highly encouraged by public health officers. If an employer has to go to court to justify their policies, it’s best to use those same guidelines to show they have an evidence-based approach in bringing in policies.”McLean said there might be circumstances where an employee could argue that it isn’t necessary for them to disclose their vaccination status. “It is fair for an employer to ask in most cases, but I’d say it may vary ... Someone who works at a senior care home is very different from someone who works remotely at home.”Can employers fire unvaccinated staff? Scrimshaw hasn’t heard about business owners putting an ultimatum to employees to get vaccinated or else lose their jobs, but adds that a lot of employment lawyers are waiting to hear any recommendations from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and looking for guidance from provincial health officers.A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour said workers with concerns about vaccination policies in the workplace may raise the issues with their trade union or company health and safety committees. “The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) does not address mandatory vaccinations. However, if an employer ends the employment of an employee because they refused to be vaccinated, the employee may be entitled to termination pay and severance pay under the ESA,” the spokesperson said. When it comes to whether unvaccinated employees can sue for wrongful termination, McLean said this could happen, but individuals “would have to think about whether to pursue a claim if an employer can demonstrate a vaccine was necessary and proper for the workplace to function.” What are the rights of employees who wish to remain unvaccinated?A worker’s rights might depend on the reason they are unvaccinated, says McLean. “If you have an employee who thinks (vaccination is) a Bill Gates microchip conspiracy, an employer could say that’s not a legitimate reason to refuse a vaccine and your presence in the workplace is putting coworkers and members of the public at risk,” McLean said.But if any staff member has a medical reason why they should not get vaccinated, employers have an obligation to make workplace accommodations. “They would have to assess and possibly modify work duties, such as allowing someone to work from home, or in some workplaces maybe they would continue to wear PPE,” McLean said.When it comes to privacy rights, empl

Can I be fired if I don’t get vaccinated? Experts answer pressing questions about vaccines and the workplace

Canadians are once again navigating a strange new normal.

Vaccines offer protection, but what are the rights of those who choose to not get jabbed?

When Erin Pepler, a Burlington, Ont. resident, recently booked massage therapist and osteopath appointments, vaccination status was on her mind.

“I didn’t really want to flat out ask if they’ve been vaccinated because it felt invasive, but my RMT freely shared this information during an appointment and it definitely made me feel much better about continuing treatment,” she said.

“There are high-risk individuals in my household. If a health-care worker told me they were unvaccinated by choice, I’d definitely question their judgment and consider finding a different practitioner.”

Anticipating that many clients would have similar concerns, Farzana Mayer, owner of iKhaya Day Spa in B.C., put a plan in place.

“In the event that any of our current employees had chosen to not get the vaccine, they would have been placed in a position that does not require direct contact with colleagues or guests. An example of this would be the front-end co-ordinator position behind a Plexiglas,” she said.

Ottawa says it is planning to lessen quarantine requirements for travellers who have had both jabs of any two-dose vaccine, but governments have not yet issued specific guidelines around the use of “vaccine passports” in private sectors of the economy.

Paul McLean, a specialist in employment law at Mathews Dinsdale, says his firm has been receiving many questions from employers about how they can talk with staff and customers about vaccination.

“The limited government advice so far is couched with the caveat that it can all change tomorrow, so it’s quite up in the air,” he said.

To seek some clarity, the Star reached out to employment lawyers, labour boards and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The below are general guidelines only, and should not be treated as legal advice.

Is it legal for employers to ask staff to disclose their vaccination status?

Kirsten Hume Scrimshaw, founding partner of Ally Workplace Law, said employers have to balance privacy concerns and their obligation under health and safety laws to provide a safe space for employees and the public.

“Business owners must assess the risks, such as the level of interaction employees have with customers. If they are asking staff about vaccination status as part of legitimate efforts to assess workplace health and safety, privacy laws have a reasonableness component that would protect employers’ rights to inquire,” she said.

“Vaccination is highly encouraged by public health officers. If an employer has to go to court to justify their policies, it’s best to use those same guidelines to show they have an evidence-based approach in bringing in policies.”

McLean said there might be circumstances where an employee could argue that it isn’t necessary for them to disclose their vaccination status.

“It is fair for an employer to ask in most cases, but I’d say it may vary ... Someone who works at a senior care home is very different from someone who works remotely at home.”

Can employers fire unvaccinated staff?

Scrimshaw hasn’t heard about business owners putting an ultimatum to employees to get vaccinated or else lose their jobs, but adds that a lot of employment lawyers are waiting to hear any recommendations from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and looking for guidance from provincial health officers.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour said workers with concerns about vaccination policies in the workplace may raise the issues with their trade union or company health and safety committees.

“The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) does not address mandatory vaccinations. However, if an employer ends the employment of an employee because they refused to be vaccinated, the employee may be entitled to termination pay and severance pay under the ESA,” the spokesperson said.

When it comes to whether unvaccinated employees can sue for wrongful termination, McLean said this could happen, but individuals “would have to think about whether to pursue a claim if an employer can demonstrate a vaccine was necessary and proper for the workplace to function.”

What are the rights of employees who wish to remain unvaccinated?

A worker’s rights might depend on the reason they are unvaccinated, says McLean.

“If you have an employee who thinks (vaccination is) a Bill Gates microchip conspiracy, an employer could say that’s not a legitimate reason to refuse a vaccine and your presence in the workplace is putting coworkers and members of the public at risk,” McLean said.

But if any staff member has a medical reason why they should not get vaccinated, employers have an obligation to make workplace accommodations.

“They would have to assess and possibly modify work duties, such as allowing someone to work from home, or in some workplaces maybe they would continue to wear PPE,” McLean said.

When it comes to privacy rights, employers should not share employees’ medical information publicly, but this is an emerging grey area, says Scrimshaw, pointing to how some businesses are advertising the vaccination rate of their staff.

It’s unclear whether advertising the general vaccination rate of staff as a group contravenes privacy rights. The Star reached out to multiple provincial ministries across Canada, and none provided clear rules.

A spokesperson for the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, a non-partisan ombudsman and officer of the Parliament of Canada, said the Commissioner did not have any other guidelines to provide at this time. It had issued an earlier statement on the importance of considering privacy rights in vaccine passport development.

Can business owners refuse service to unvaccinated customers?

There are no federal guidelines at this time on private sector practices around the use of proof-of-vaccination documentation, or informally asking customers about vaccination status.

Businesses in the U.S. and Europe have hosted events with different policies for attendees who are vaccinated, and those who are not. In Canada, whether businesses choose to ask customers about vaccination would depend on the nature and even location of the business, said McLean.

“A small eco-resort in a remote community might choose to only accept vaccinated guests because they lack access to medical facilities of COVID-19 testing in their area,” he said.

“A large retail or grocery store, however, would have more options to serve customers. If someone is unvaccinated, they could be offered online shopping or staff members could bring goods outside.”

As for whether customers could complain about unfair treatment, McLean anticipates this would most likely take place on social media rather than play out in courts of law.

Joanna Chiu is a Vancouver-based reporter covering both Canada-China relations and current affairs on the West Coast for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu

Source : Toronto Star More   

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