VICTORIA - A 31-year-old Victoria man has been found not guilty of second-degree murder in the April 2008 death of a toddler in his care.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power found Bradley Streiling was reliable in his testimony that the nearly two-year-old boy suffered a fatal injury after falling from the edge of a bathtub.
Power said Crown lawyers did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Streiling slammed Noah Cownden's head on the floor in a moment of anger.
Streiling was living with Noah’s mother, Meadow Dykes, and caring for the boy when he died. The death was first considered an accident, but Streiling was arrested almost five years later after a so-called Mr. Big operation elicited a confession.
Power found that Streiling’s confession to an undercover officer was "too unreliable to accept as a true admission of guilt."
Streiling told an officer who he thought was a crime boss that he banged Noah’s head on the floor before the boy died.
But the judge ruled the confession was "vague and lacking in detail" and came only when Streiling was worried he was going to be kicked out of the fictional organized crime operation.
Streiling had previously told another undercover officer that Noah’s death was accidental and that he would never hurt a woman or child.
Medical experts who testified for the Crown said it was unlikely that Noah’s injuries were caused by a short fall, and more likely caused by repeated blows to the head. But the judge said that evidence did not outweigh other weaknesses in the Crown’s case.
The Crown accused Streiling of not calling 911 right after the boy started convulsing, giving him time to concoct an excuse.
But Power believed Streiling’s testimony that his reluctance to call 911 was because of a distrust of the medical system and authorities stemming from past incidents.
Streiling would not comment on his acquittal.
After the verdict was read, defence lawyer Martin Allen said Streiling is "in a state of emotional confusion. He’s in the process of absorbing it, but obviously he’s going to be very relieved, very happy."
Allen said that Streiling has been under enormous stress facing "the allegation that he did something to his little boy that he’s always been quite clear he didn't do."
Outside the courtroom, Noah’s biological father, Chris Cownden, said: "“Obviously, we would have liked (the outcome) to be different. But we respect the process."
Crown lawyers would not comment after the trial. (Victoria Times Colonist)