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

Dooris Raad was last seen in South Surrey’s Ocean Park neighbourhood on June 7. (Surrey RCMP photo)
(James Smith photo)
North Delta crime beat, week of May 31

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

The Lower Mainland Green Team and students from Earl Marriott Secondary remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Green Team returns to White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park to monitor previous work

Environmental volunteers, South Surrey students remove invasive species

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

Friends of Bear Creek Park held a ‘yellow-ribbon event’ on Saturday (June 12, 2021), with protesters at 84th Avenue and King George Boulevard and 84th Avenue and 140th Street. People were asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard “to celebrate and to show support for our trees in Bear Creek Park.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Protesters hold ‘yellow-ribbon’ event at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

People asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard to ‘show support for our trees’

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read