Unsolved Murders | Missing People Canada

Other Topics => Solved Cases => Topic started by: raisinpie on January 08, 2009, 01:53:16 PM

Title: Caroline Roberts, died 1975, admission of George LaFaver, Prince Albert, SK
Post by: raisinpie on January 08, 2009, 01:53:16 PM

Pathologist looked at police notes before deciding how murder victim died
Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2008
PRINCE ALBERT - Saskatchewan's chief and only forensic pathologist came under fire in Prince Albert provincial court today for using potentially biased material in his evaluation of a decades-old case.

The RCMP contacted Dr. Shaun Ladham of Saskatoon City Hospital when the force obtained a confession from William George LaFaver for the 1975 killing of his then-common law wife, Caroline Roberts.

Ladham compared the original case material with the confessions the RCMP gave him and came to the conclusion that Roberts likely died from the injuries she sustained in the Prince Albert National Park fire-watch cabin where LaFaver was living.

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Font:****They fought one night and LaFaver slapped her and forced her head once or twice into the hard plywood floor, he told an RCMP officer in a police interrogation on Jan. 30.

Defence lawyer Peter Burns questioned Ladham as to why he would request all case material from the investigating RCMP officers, instead of just basing his opinions on the medical evidence. Ladham said it's his common practice, one he used extensively in his eight years of work in the United States, to get everything he can "to know the possible mechanism of injury."

Burns pressed the issue, asking if it didn't occur to Ladham that it was dangerous to review materials that could unconsciously prejudice his work.

"It didn't bias me at all - it didn't change any of my opinions," he responded.

Judge Hugh Harradence also quizzed Ladham, asking him why he would have informal and unrecorded conversations with the officers about what they thought of the case.

Harradence echoed the concerns voiced by Burns, wondering if it would have been "cleaner" to have only considered the medical evidence.

Ladham said it's his job to consider all manner of evidence and to put it into context.

The defence also took Ladham to task for using the word "slam" in reference to LaFaver's confession that he grabbed Roberts by the hair and propelled her head into the ground.

LaFaver never used the term and it has connotations of a high level of force, Burns pointed out. It was the police officer that used that expression to describe the incident.

"I grew up in the Maritimes and watched wrestling and used that word all the time," Ladham explained.

He described the main injury as a subdural hematoma at the rear of Roberts' head. It was an acceleration-deceleration injury, the type where a skull is in motion and comes to a halt but the brain keeps on moving for microseconds. This causes the veins to tear and blood begins to pool, and swelling damages the respiratory and cardiac systems. 50 millilitres of this gathered blood could kill a person, Ladham said.

He said Roberts was likely comatose after her head was slammed, and that any subsequent injuries likely just exacerbated her condition.

Also today, Burns said he no longer had concerns about whether his client's confession was voluntary.

Injuries recorded on Caroline Roberts' body in the initial autopsy:

-Discolouration of the eyelids.

-A 3.5-centimetre bruise underneath her right eye.

-A lesion on her right lower lip such that "the lip (was) split in two."

-Various bruises and contusions and scratches on her torso.

-A large hematoma resulting in a goose bump on the back of her head.

-Coning, or swelling, at the base of her brain in the cerebellum. The tonsils were enlarged around the brainstem, pushing it in and affecting the respiratory and cardiac systems. According to Dr. Shaun Ladham, this is what caused Roberts' death.

Media argues for confession footage

Media outlets also made application today for the release of footage of William George LaFaver's confession in a police interrogation.

Judge Hugh Harradence asked both lawyers if there was any objection. Crown prosecutor Peter Hryhorchuk had none, but defence lawyer Peter Burns was opposed because he was worried that the footage would be viewed by the public without proper context.

He had no problem with it being released once all the evidence is accepted into court, he added.

Harradence reserved his decision on the matter.


For more information on this topic google: caroline burns william george lafaver

There is a lot of info that could be uploaded, but I don't have the time at the moment. I will post the into from SSP (Saskatoon Star Phoenix) January 8, 2009.

REST IN PEACE, Caroline!



Sides spar over value of confession in case of woman's 1975 death
Charlene Tebbutt, Special to The StarPhoenix
Published: Thursday, January 08, 2009
Despite the fact that William George LaFaver has already confessed to killing his wife more than 30 years ago, his lawyer insisted "this is not a smoking gun case," as closing arguments were made Wednesday.

Defence lawyer Peter Burns went on to attack the credibility of the chief forensic pathologist and his role in the case.

The Crown and defence have both described LaFaver's trial as a difficult case involving evidence collected more than three decades ago. The trial wrapped up Wednesday in Prince Albert provincial court.

LaFaver, 68, is charged with manslaughter in the June 14, 1975, death of his common-law wife, Caroline Roberts.

Roberts, 27, died from head injuries she received while at a cabin near the Boundary Fire Tower on the western perimeter of Prince Albert National Park. No one was charged at the time and a coroner's jury ruled Roberts suffered the head injury after she fell against a stove in the cabin.

Some of those who worked on the original case in 1975 have since died, including the pathologist who examined Roberts' body after she died. LaFaver himself, a tower watchman at the time, had trouble remembering exactly what happened in the little cabin where Roberts spent her last hours.

"A lot of it depended on the paperwork," Crown prosecutor Peter Hryhorchuk said of the case outside court Wednesday.

Burns said the case is not a simple one even though there is a confession. In a videotaped interview with RCMP previously shown in court, LaFaver said he was responsible for Roberts' death, adding he slapped her and hit her head against the plywood floor of the cabin during a heated argument.

The two were drinking and LaFaver said he didn't realize Roberts was hurt. He thought she had passed out.

"This is not a smoking gun case," Burns told Judge Hugh Harradence. "You can't go from an admission by the accused to a conclusion of guilt."

Burns criticized much of the Crown's case, including the police interview with LaFaver done the day he called to confess to killing Roberts. Burns said police should have tried to reconstruct the events that led to Roberts' death to be sure there weren't other factors that may have caused her head injuries.

Burns also questioned testimony from the province's chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Shaun Ladham.

He took issue with Ladham's use of the word "slam" to describe how Roberts' head hit the plywood floor of the cabin. Ladham had previously testified the word was a common expression he used, saying he likely picked it up from watching wrestling as a young boy.

Harradence questioned whether Ladham's use of the word slam was just a poor choice of words.

"It assumes guilt," Burns argued.

Burns said Ladham's review of all the materials relating to the historic case, including police reports, also went beyond his duties as a pathologist. Ladham, who spent eight years as a medical examiner in the United States, said it was customary there to review all the information relating to a file.

In one example, Burns pointed to Ladham's own description of Roberts as an alcoholic despite medical evidence, saying Ladham showed "unconscious bias" in the case.

Title: Re: Caroline Roberts, died 1975, admission of George LaFaver, Prince Albert, SK
Post by: raisinpie on January 08, 2009, 03:00:19 PM
Oops.. this is the final part of the story ..... continued....

Sides spar over value of confession in case of woman's 1975 death
Charlene Tebbutt, Special to The StarPhoenix
Published: Thursday, January 08, 2009
"He's careless, he doesn't care about the foundational facts," Burns added.

But, Hryhorchuk said the most important question in the case is whether LaFaver's actions caused Roberts' death.

"This accused, by his own admission, assaulted this lady and she died," Hryhorchuk said.

The case really depends on the statement of the accused."

Harradence questioned both lawyers Wednesday about the possibility of a guilty verdict on a lesser and included offence other than manslaughter. Hryhorchuk said the Crown continues to seek a conviction on the charge of manslaughter while Burns said common assault might be another possibility.

Harradence reserved his decision until Feb. 20