Tammy Goforth took the stand in her own defence Friday, Jan. 29, describing what life was like in her home when the two girls were in her care.
Goforth and her husband Kevin are on trial for the murder of a four-year-old and injuring a two-year-old.
Wearing a grey cardigan, her hair pinned up and often looking directly at the jury, Goforth gave a loud, firm and emphatic "no" to the question of did she intentionally hurt the girls.
Goforth said Kevin wasn't sure they should take the girls from social services, but she wanted to.
They were provided no medical records or a health card. She didn't take them to a doctor or dentist because she would have no coverage. Goforth testified the four-year-old's teeth look "neglected".
So when the two-year-old cut her face on the nightstand in November 2011, they received a bill for the stitches the girl received at the Pasqua Hospital. Goforth testified the girl showed no emotion nor did she cry, even when she was receiving the stitches.
In front of the packed courtroom, Goforth said she bought a Rubbermaid dresser and filled it with diapers, creams, toys and other items. But she had to take the dolls away from the girls because they were "ripping off the heads and arms".
She describes the four-year-old as shy, who didn't communicate well, and the two-year-old as being quiet.
"She took a while to get used to us," Goforth said, adding she was "scared of the outdoors" to the point that visits to the park or museum became stressful.
The jury was shown a book of photographs as evidence of life in the Goforth home. Pictures showed the family around the Christmas tree, and a fake birthday party for the girls with a cake - fake because the Goforths weren't clear on when the girls were born.
Goforth testified she became "a light sleeper and often slept on the couch" because the girls would wander at night. The girls would have the occasional fight, Goforth said, mainly over toys.
Goforth told the court she disciplined the girls by separating them.
"One would go upstairs with the gate up, the other downstairs on the couch."
Neither girl was put in daycare because the Goforths didn't have the funding "and that takes money".
When shown photographic evidence of the girls' injuries, Goforth couldn't explain every bruise or skin abrasion documented. She said the girls would wear high-tops without socks, leading to scrapes on their ankles. Goforth also said she taped mittens to the girls' wrists to prevent them from scratching themselves.
She assumed the tape was bothering them, because "they would be itching and rubbing it a lot".
Describing the night the girls went to hospital, July 31, 2012, Goforth became near hysterical on the stand.
She is a severe anemic so remembers the two weeks prior to "the incident" - as she called it - as very tiring.
Both girls were showing flu-like symptoms. They were "cranky, tired, wouldn't eat a lot". She was on the couch laying down and the girls in their room. She fell asleep in the early evening and woke with a start later in the night. She ran upstairs to check on the girls and found the four-year-old not breathing. She began screaming, "something's wrong, something's wrong", wrapped the child up and rushed with Kevin to the hospital.
Gofroth describes the girl as opening and closing her mouth; she looked like she was trying to breathe but couldn't.
When asked by her lawyers whether she slapped or hit the girl, Goforth answered no. When asked whether she withheld food or prevented them from eating, she again replied no.
When asked whether she taped them to the wall, restrained them or bound them up, Goforth answered no.
CROSS-EXAMINATION FOCUSES ON PHOTOS OF GIRLS' CONDITION IN HOSPITAL
Tammy Goforth repeated the words “yes, I cared”, whenever the Crown lawyers suggested that she got to the point where she just didn’t care about the girls.
When asked to explain pictures showing the girls' condition in hospital, Goforth says they were “always slender”. The Crown suggested “there’s slender, and then there’s skin and bones”, to which Goforth replied “not exactly skin and bones”. She said the girls still had chubby cheeks, but admitted the pictures were shocking, saying it was because of the medical equipment.
In response to questioning, Goforth maintained the girls were sick with diarrhea for two weeks that's why they looked that way. She added that she was sick over that time period as well and they had all started drinking soup again.
When the Crown asked if she was intentionally starving the girls, she replied “definitely not”. She said she fed the girls and when she was asked to look at the pictures again she said “that’s from being sick”.
When asked why she didn’t take the girls to a doctor when they were sick, Goforth maintained that she thought they would improve. They also didn’t have health cards and she said that would have made it easier to take them to the doctor. When asked why she didn’t try to get the health cards, she said she thought it was the responsibility of the child protection worker to provide them.
Goforth also denied ever restraining the girls or binding their ankles, saying she only ever taped mittens to their hands to prevent scratching.
When asked about using string to lock the door of the girls’ bedroom, Goforth first admitted she had done it a couple of times to stop the girls from wandering at night. Under cross-examination, she later said she had only done it once.
At one point, the Crown asked Goforth why she stopped taking the girls to church with her, drawing an audible reaction, but no words from one of the family members. Goforth replied that family members would take the girls from her and she wouldn’t see them until the end of the service.
The Crown also focused on why the Goforths would race to the hospital with the four-year-old, but not take the two-year-old who was in a similar condition. Goforth maintained that it all happened very fast and she was screaming at the four-year-old to speak when she found her unresponsive lying on the ground. She said at that point the two-year-old was sitting up and looking around, wondering what was going on.
Goforth also testified that she called her mother from the hospital to ask her to check in at the house, but did not ask her to remove anything. Under cross-examination, she admitted that she wasn’t sure if it was her mother she talked to on the phone, saying it might have been her father-in-law.
The Crown suggested some unusual injuries documented in photos of the girls were from restraints or being confined to a small space, Goforth said “no” but admitted she had no explanation for the cause. She also said the bruises and sores looked worse when they were blown up in pictures in the light.
The trial continues on Monday.
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