Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July of 2018. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Cause of death at issue in Langley child murder trial

A Crown expert witness said it is possible that Aaliyah drowned

WARNING: This story contains disturbing content

The cause of death of seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was at the centre of testimony this week as the trial of Langley’s KerryAnn Lewis continued in New Westminster Supreme Court, with a medical expert saying drowning and toxic drugs may be the most likely cause of death.

Dr. Marc Del Bigio is expected to be the final witness in Lewis’s first degree murder trial. She’s accused of killing her daughter, Aaliyah, on July 22, 2018, in her Willoughby apartment.

The final phase of the trial has centered on expert medical testimony about whether or not a pre-existing medical condition could have contributed to, or caused, Aaliyah’s death.

Del Bigio, a neuropathologist and professor at the University of Manitoba, was called by the Crown prosecutors to rebut testimony of defense witness Dr. Christopher Dunham, a pediatric neuropathologist at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Dunham testified earlier that his examination showed that Aaliyah suffered from undiagnosed hydrocephalus – a condition that includes swelling of the brain. While it didn’t seem to have affected Aaliyah seriously while she was alive, Dunham told the court that the condition was a likely contributor to her death.

“Blunt force trauma is definitely playing a role in this case,” Dunham testified earlier. “The pre-existing condition is definitely playing a role in this case.”

Del Bigio said his examination showed less evidence for either head trauma or hydrocephalus as major contributors to death.

“There’s definitely evidence for mild trauma to the head, but aside from it being recent, one can’t be sure whether it happened prior to her dying, or after her death,” Del Bigio said.

Questioned by Crown lawyer Kristen LeNoble, Del Bigio said that submersion in water, lack of oxygen, and drug toxicity, in some combination, remained a plausible cause of death.

“I think that the cause of death could still be related to non-neuropathological factors, as described in the original autopsy report,” Del Bigio said.

He emphasized that examining the brain alone would not determine if death was caused by drowning.

“There’s nothing in the brain that will show anything specific to drowning,” he said.

The Crown’s case since the start of the trial has been that Lewis, distraught over her limited access to her daughter, gave the young girl a mixture of over-the-counter and prescription medications before drowning her in a bathtub.

Witnesses who discovered the child’s body said she was wet and was wearing a bathrobe, on the bathroom floor.

READ MORE: Crown wrangles with witness over cause of death in Langley child murder case

Lewis’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, began cross-examining Del Bigio on Tuesday morning, and focused on the gaps in the information he and other experts had available after the initial autopsy.

Del Bigio had access to previous autopsy reports, some photos, and samples taken during the autopsy. But many of the parts of the brain were not well labelled, he said.

“I can’t tell for example if five of the samples were taken from right beside each other,” Del Bigio said. “Things like that would be important to know. If you’re looking for changes in a certain part of the brain, I need to know what part of the brain it is.”

Sandford also asked Del Bigio a number of technical questions about specific brain structures, changes that might be seen in them after death, and about proper procedures for preserving brain tissue after an autopsy, and even what happens to such autopsy evidence after experts have finished their work.

The trial was set to continue with Del Bigio’s testimony wrapping up Wednesday morning. After that, the lawyers are likely to give their final arguments before Justice Martha Devlin.


Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC Supreme CourtIHITLangleymurder

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP say Gemina Mitchell (inset) was last seen on May 9, 2021. (File photo/Contributed photo)
Missing Surrey woman last seen May 9

Police are asking for help locating Gemina Mitchell

Musicians perform at Surrey’s Brownsville Bar Park on Saturday, June 19. (submitted photo)
Surrey-area musicians plug in for Saturday-afternoon jams at riverside park

‘We have done this for a month now every weekend, and it draws a socially distanced and safe crowds’

Earl Marriott Mariners football coach Michael Mackay-Dunn (centre, wearing white hat) is retiring from teaching and coaching. (EMS Football photo)
Longtime Earl Marriott Secondary teacher, football coach retires

Michael Mackay-Dunn hangs up coaching whistle after 22 years

William Henry Rawlison was last seen on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (Contributed photo)
Police looking for missing White Rock senior

William Rawlison, last seen on June 20, may be driving to Kamloops

Natalie Brown and Colten Wilke star in the feature film Thunderbird, co-produced by South Surrey-raised Michael Morrison and released this month in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey-raised producer helps bring ‘Thunderbird’ to the screen

Michael Morrison guides B.C.-shot thriller with First Nations connection

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Most Read