Trial has finally wrapped up for accused killer Roseanne Whalen who, for the past three weeks, stood trial for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Marissa whose remains were found in a shallow grave in a secluded area near Ohsweken, Six Nations in October 2011. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations this week in a Hamilton courthouse.
Whalen, 25, has been charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of her daughter who was killed on July 29, 2011 at the home Whalen shared with her then partner Rainbow Hill, in Fort Erie. Hill and her sister Amanda Dipota, have also been charged and convicted in the death of Marissa whose remains were found at the property of Dipota’s friend, Brian Smith on Third Line, just west of Chiefswood Road. Hill is currently serving a life sentence.
In total, 20 witnesses testified during the trial, including Hill, Whalen’s ex-lover. The jury heard that the two were living at Hill’s home in Fort Erie when Marissa suffered a fatal blow to her head in the bathroom.
Hill told the jury that she was physically abusive towards Marissa and admitted to beating her on a daily basis to the point where she couldn’t be taken out in public due to the severity of her injuries. Hill admitted to being so mad at Marissa that at one point she was force-fed until she vomited. At times when Marissa couldn’t be taken out in public due to extensive physical injuries, Hill told the jury that she would get her mother, Carol, to watch her indicating that her mother knew to what extent Marissa was being abused. Hill’s mother so far, has not been charged with any crime.
On the morning of July 29, 2011, Hill and Whalen woke up and went in to the room where Marissa was sleeping. She did not have a bed and slept on the floor. Marissa’s diaper was soiled which infuriated Hill who took her into the bathroom. At one point Whalen was in the bathroom with Hill and Marissa but had left after Hill turned on the water to give Marissa a bath. After Whalen left the bathroom, Hill told the jury she accidentally dropped Marissa into the bathtub, hitting her face on the tub faucets.
At this point, Hill picked Marissa up out of the tub and looked at her. Hill said Marissa’s eyes had rolled to the back of her head. Whalen and Hill became hysteric and Whalen performed CPR on Marissa. Whalen told the jury, “She blew her last breath in my mouth.” Hill and Whalen then took Marissa next door to the apartment of Hill’s parents.
Hill’s stepfather, Patrick McKay, called 911 but cancelled the call, and admitted to the jury that he didn’t know if Marissa was alive or dead. Paramedics along with Niagara Regional Police responded to the call but were told by McKay and Hill that it was a false alarm and that one of Hill’s children had been choking but was now okay. Before the paramedics arrived, Marissa’s seemingly lifeless body was hidden in the basement while her mother hid in the upstairs bathroom. The paramedics and police left without having seen Marissa.
Later that same day, Whalen, Hill and Dipota drove Marissa to a property on Six Nations and buried her in a shallow grave. They told the property owner Brian Smith, that they were burying a dead dog. Smith told police that he had never actually seen a dead dog. He observed a ‘dog-size garbage bag’ with something in it that appeared to look like a dead dog.
A few days later, Whalen and Hill returned to Six Nations to dig up the body of Marissa to get rid of evidence including a blanket that Marissa’s body had been wrapped in and a garbage bag.
When asked during a police interview why she buried her daughter on Six Nations, Whalen told investigators that she heard natives ‘bury lots of babies on the reservations because police can’t go onto the land.’
For the next couple of months, Whalen would lie to people who would ask her about Marissa. On October 8, Whalen finally told her mother that she did not have a ‘grandbaby’ anymore. Whalen’s mother phoned police. Marissa’s remains were found eight days later.
Dr. Michael Pollanen, chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, told the jury that Marissa’s body was nearly fully skeletonized when he performed a post-mortem examination on Nov. 17, 2011. With the investigation limited to bones, Pollanen explained, the cause of death remains undetermined.
Last Thursday, testimony concluded after hearing one last statement from a psychologist who told the jury that Whalen has the academic functioning of a eight-year-old based on tests, an interview with her and interviews with Whalen’s mother and cousin.
On Monday, the Crown argued that Roseanne Whalen was reckless and indirectly caused her daughter’s death by exposing Marissa to her lover Rainbow Hill, who abused the girl on a daily basis. Whalen’s lawyer argued that evidence shows she did not appreciate the risk to her child because of various learning difficulties a psychologist testified existed. The jury was expected to start deliberations at Hamilton’s John Sopinka courthouse yesterday. Besides second-degree murder, Whalen is also being charged with criminal negligence causing death and accessory after the fact to murder. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.