'I fought back': A mother's fight to clear her name in toddler death
Two decades after her toddler Jenna was brutally murdered by a teenaged babysitter, Brenda Waudby is finally getting the opportunity to grieve.
The single mother from Peterborough, Ont., has never had the opportunity to properly mourn the loss of her almost two-year-old daughter because she spent nine years trying to clear her name as a murder suspect in the case and another seven years refuting allegations of child abuse. Waudby was considered a suspect largely based on the findings of now-disgraced pediatric pathologist Charles Smith, who suggested that Jenna had been beaten before the night of her death, and based on his estimated time of death, concluded that Jenna’s mother must have been responsible.
In 2005, however, the 14-year-old babysitter who was looking after Jenna and her seven-year-old sister Justine that night in 1997, confessed to killing the child.
Waudby’s story and those of four other families among the dozens affected by Smith’s flawed findings have been detailed in a new book titled “Death in the Family.” Waudby told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday that she can finally begin to heal now that the truth is being told in author John Chipman’s book.
“It’s been a long road, a long journey,” Waudby said. “Finally, everyone can see now what actually happened instead of catching only glimpses.”
When Waudby was considered a suspect in Jenna’s death, her older daughter Justine was taken out of her custody and placed into foster care for two years. Waudby said it took a long time to regain her daughter’s trust after what happened.
“She wasn’t completely sure whether I might have done something,” Waudby said. “It took time to rebuild that, so she knew it was her mother again and that I had done nothing to her sister.”
Chipman explained that he was interested in Waudby’s story because he couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to lose a child and then have to go through everything she experienced.
“You have to remember it’s a parent’s worst nightmare losing a child and that’s where it starts for these people,” Chipman said.
The author said that Smith never had training or a certification in forensic pathology, it didn’t even exist at the time, and he was only educated in pediatric pathology. Eventually, Smith was investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and they revoked his license and formally reprimanded him. He has never been criminally charged.
During the inquiry into Smith, the former doctor apologized directly to Waudby for his involvement in her case. Waudby said she still can’t forgive him for what he did to her life.
“His apology at the inquiry was very empty, very scripted,” Waudby said. “He has no remorse I don’t believe for what he’s done.”
Waudby explained that there were no words to describe what she went through emotionally while she was under suspicion for the death of her daughter. She said she felt isolated from the world and the only thing that kept her going was the prospect of clearing her name.
“It was either I coped with what was going on or you die inside,” Waudby said. “There was a glimmer of hope so I held onto it. I fought back. I fought with everything I had to get where I am today.”