Ten years have passed since three-year-old Samantha Mercer died of a significant brain injury, leaving her family consumed by sadness and doubt over the police investigation.
Shannon Mercer has kept all the court documents and photos and, a decade later, she still believes the justice system and police failed her granddaughter.
“She was only three and a half years old. Samantha wasn’t a clumsy kid,” says Mercer. “Samantha was very smart, very intelligent, and anyone who met that little girl would tell you that.”
Court documents state police went to the house where Samantha was injured a day after she was taken to hospital.
Mercer went to the home and took her own photos after the scene was released. She says she couldn’t believe what had been left behind, so she called investigators back.
“When the forensic officer came in, we passed him every piece of evidence, even the blood on the mattress. We cut that out and gave it to him.”
In a statement to CTV News, Truro Police Chief Dave MacNeil said “the death of a young person is never easy on a family…our thoughts and prayers are with Samantha’s family during this time,” but he declined to comment on the case.
Terry Dean Allen was charged with manslaughter in Samantha’s death; he testified that she fell down the stairs. A judge acquitted Allen at trial, saying the Crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The girl’s family still wonders why certain pieces of evidence were never presented to the court, including a dented piece of wall from Samantha’s bedroom.
“They said it wasn’t in the same condition, in other words it was damaged, and this was the only explanation they gave to me,” says Mercer.
During the trial, a medical expert said he was shown a 30-centimetre square piece of the wall. The doctor testified that the dent in the wall in Samantha’s room was consistent with the type of impact which may have caused the fatal injury.
In his summary, Justice Alan Tufts said:
“Remarkably (the piece of wall) was never introduced into evidence.”
The verdict devastated Samantha’s family and Mercer says they are still searching for answers in her death.
“If there’s anybody who knows anything or seen anything, please contact us.”
Samantha would be 13 years old by now, and her family says the only comfort they have is in knowing she helped others by being an organ donor.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl