WELLAND – On Monday, September 29th, in Welland Superior Court, 26-year-old Roseanne Whalen was given a life sentence in the 2011 death of her two-year-old daughter, Marissa. When the badly decomposed body of the toddler was discovered, half buried in a field on Third Line Road at Six Nations, it had been partially eaten by animals.
A 12-member jury had to sit through gut wrenching testimony of gross neglect and sadistic treatment of the innocent young girl at the hands of her mother’s partner, Rainbow Hill of Fort Erie who was also charged with second-degree murder in Marissa’s death.
Although there was no evidence presented that Whalen herself punched or struck the child herself, it was proven that she knew of and witnessed in silence horrific beatings and other inhumane acts inflicted upon the toddler by Hill.
Roseanne Whalen was initially charged with criminal negligence causing death, accessory after the fact to murder and indignity to human remains. As more evidence came to light, the charge was upgraded.
In sentencing, Judge Robert Reid found that Whalen was equally responsible for the girl’s death and sentenced her to life in prison on a charge of second-degree murder with no possibility for parole for 15 years. One of three recommendations set forth by the jury was for a sentencing of 25 years without possibility of parole.
The case ranks among Canada’s worst known cases of child abuse on record.
Although Roseanne Whalen may have been the biological mother of Marissa, she most certainly was nothing more.
Testimony showed that the child was rarely seen in public because of her almost constantly bruised face and body. Autopsy of the remains also show older, untreated broken bones.
Matter-of-fact text messages about the beatings were brought forth as evidence. The main concern the two discussed glibly was that her face was so “messed up” that someone might notice it if she were allowed outside the house. There was never a word of concern by either woman about Marissa herself.
On at least one occasion, Marissa was held down and force-fed by Hill until she threw up and then was forced to eat her own vomit as punishment. Slaps, punches and kicks were all she knew of life growing up in the home of her mother and her girlfriend.
Hill testified in court during her trial that the little girl was unwanted by both of them and was the subject of arguments between them. Whalen didn’t want to give Marissa up because the child was a source of income through baby bonus cheques she received.
The Welland court was told that on July 29, 2011, two days after Marissa’s second birthday, she awoke with a soiled diaper. This sent Hill off in an angry rage during which she kicked her in the stomach with great force and knocked her onto the floor.
Hill’s own biological son, who was six at the time, later asked Hill why Marissa was bleeding from the mouth and nose.
Hill’s initial story was that Marissa had fallen in the tub.
The child died soon afterwards and her lifeless little body was later buried in a remote wooded location in Six Nations. Her remains were found on Oct. 16 of that year.
“Marissa had to live the last month of her short life in what can only have been a combination of fear and suffering,” Judge Robert Reid said during sentencing. “She was a toddler. She had no means of independently defending herself or seeking help. She had to rely on adults and particularly one adult, her mother, who chose not to assist her.”
A third party was also implicated in the case. Amanda Dipota, 30, of Niagara Falls, was charged in a St. Catharines court with accessory after the fact to murder and indignity to human remains, helping to find a secluded place on Six Nations and helping to bury the remains. Dipota is the older sister of Rainbow Hill.
Dipota was ordered to be held in custody until her next court date, a video appearance, on Oct. 24 at 10:45am.