'Mommy’s not waking up': Evidence begins in Windsor murder trial
The Crown has started calling witnesses in the trial of Jitesh Bhogal, 31, charged with first degree murder in the death of Autumn Taggart, 31.
Chris Sherwin, father of Taggart’s son, testified Tuesday in Windsor’s Superior Court.
Court heard the pair, who share a child, now aged 13, were no longer together as a couple, but maintained a friendship that started back in 2006.
Sherwin testified that he, Taggart, and their son went grocery shopping together on the day before her body was discovered, because Taggart didn’t have a car.
He told the court when he dropped Taggart and the child off at home on the evening of June 9 2018, everything seemed fine.
He testified he and Taggart exchanged a few text messages until around midnight.
The next day, Taggart did not reply to any messages from Sherwin.
He told the court he was “growing frustrated with not hearing from her.”
Then around 7 p.m., Sherwin told the jury, he got a message from Taggart’s number that read “Mommy’s not waking up.”
When he confirmed it was his son messaging, and not Taggart, Sherwin says he drove to her University Avenue apartment.
Sherwin says the boy let him in the side entrance, and he sent the child to sit with Sherwin’s two friends, in a car in the parking lot.
Sherwin testified he went up to the third floor apartment and directly to Taggart’s bedroom.
“She wasn’t moving,” Sherwin testified. “I noticed the colour of her skin was really white.”
Sherwin testified her nose looked “very bruised and bloodied” and that her feet and neck were all he could see of her body.
The rest, he told the court, was covered with a blanket.
Sherwin says he didn’t touch Taggart’s body, called out her name before leaving her room and going to the living room where he told the jury he fell down from shock.
In the meantime, his friend called 911.
On cross-examination, Sherwin told the court Taggart would “shift” between being outgoing and sociable to withdrawn and introverted.
He told the jury she would sometimes stay in her apartment for a few weeks without going out.
In the months before her death, Sherwin testified Taggart was more sociable.
Sherwin says he witnessed Taggart having what appeared to be seizures, “numerous times” between 2011 and 2013, and when she did, she would fall to the ground or collapse in his arms.
Earlier Tuesday, Constable David Derus, a Windsor police officer on patrol on June 9, 2018, took the stand.
Cst. Derus told the court he was dispatched to 1382 University Ave. West around 8 p.m. for a report of a dead body.
He arrived along with his partner, a police sergeant, and two paramedics.
They entered the building, with Cst. Derus entering the apartment first, according to Cst. Derus.
He testified he went to the victims’ bedroom “immediately.”
“I observed a female laying on her back with a bedsheet covered partway up to her chest area,” Cst. Derus testified. “The female’s breasts were exposed.”
Cst. Derus says a paramedic entered the room, got closer to the body and confirmed the person was deceased, before leaving the building.
After that, Cst. Derus told the jury he “contained the scene,” making note of every person who entered and exited the apartment, between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., during which time various police officers, investigators and the coroner were in the unit.
Cst. Derus told the Jury he was relieved of the crime scene at two a.m. for his lunch break.
“One of us (police officers) were always at the door,” Cst. Derus testified.
Cst. Derus remained at the door from 4:20 a.m., until his shift was ending just after 6 a.m.
On cross-examination, defence lawyer Peter Thorning, questioned Cst. Derus about his notes.
In his hand-written notes, Cst. Derus wrote the “female was covered below the neck.”
“I’m going to suggest to you that the sheet (bedsheet) was moved by someone else,” Thorning asked Cst. Derus.
The officer disputes the assertion, arguing “below the neck” could be interpreted as the chest area being exposed.
Cst. Derus admitted that he left “his post” containing the crime scene around 11:29 p.m. to take a statement in his cruiser, but made no mention of this in either his hand-written notes, or computer generated report after the incident.
Thorning also pointed out Cst. Derus wrote in his notes about there being blood on the victims’ nose and lip, but made no mention of there being vomit on her face as well.
Cst. Derus had no explanation for why he noticed and noted the blood but not the vomit.
Thorning also had Cst. Derus confirm there was no signs of a struggle or weapon in the bedroom, which the officer described as “cluttered” with food and plates “everywhere.”
Before continuing with the trial, Justice Renee Pomerance reminded the jury to only consider evidence presented in court, not to use the officer’s notes as evidence in the case.
A paramedic with Essex-Windsor EMS also testified.
Brad Humber told the court he was the first medic into Taggart’s apartment, and he went directly to her bedroom and accessed her condition.
Humber testified he couldn’t detect a pulse, her chest was not rising and falling, her body was cold to the touch and rigor mortis had set in.
He told the Jury Taggart was covered with “multiple blankets” but that her “head and neck and part of her upper torso” were exposed.
On cross examination Humber couldn’t remember whether he checked for pulse on Taggart’s neck or wrist.
He told the court he noted that her bedroom was dirty and unkept, but has no recollection of what, if anything, was on the floor of her room.
Humber also testified it did not appear that there was a struggle in her bedroom.
The trial will resume Wednesday.