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Aaliyah Rosa died of an acute lack of oxygen, a pathologist testified Friday in the murder trial of Aaliyah’s mother, KerryAnn Lewis.
Dr. Lisa Steele testified for most of Friday about her examination of Aaliyah’s body, which took place on July 27, five days after the body of the seven-year-old girl was found in Lewis’s Langley apartment.
The Crown said at the outset of the trial that they planned to show that Lewis sedated Aaliyah before drowning her in the apartment bathtub. Lewis has been charged with first degree murder.
Aaliyah appeared to have been a well nourished child of normal development before death, Steele said.
Crown lawyer Christopher McPherson led Steele through testimony about a close examination of several areas of Aaliyah’s body, including injuries that occurred sometime before death.
Steele noted the absence of petechial hemorrhaging on Aaliyah’s eyes or lips. That type of hemorrhaging shows as small spots, where capillaries burst if someone is strangled or choked to death.
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There was also an absence of injuries to the skin on Aaliyah’s neck.
“No bruising, no scrapes, no abrasions. No injuries,” said Steele.
McPherson asked if Aaliyah had been strangled, would there have been some visible injury to the neck area.
Steele said there are usually abrasions caused by a ligature, and there can be vertical scratches where the victim tries to pry away a rope or hands used in the attack.
There were no ligature marks and no defensive wounds in Aaliyah’s case.
Aaliyah had also suffered some kind of injury that caused brain swelling and a bleed inside her skull. That could have been the result of an impact to the head, or of some kind of seizure, Steele testified.
In addition, she had two bruises on her head, but Steele could not definitively say when those occurred – they could have happened just before death, or 24 hours earlier.
“Any bruising or bleeding is very difficult to date,” she said.
Steele also found damage to a muscle on one side of Aaliyah’s neck.
The girl’s stomach contents included watermelon, and there were no half-digested pills or gel caps, Steele testified.
An examination of a small part of Aaliyah’s brain showed damage consistent with an acute lack of oxygen, said Steele. That part of the brain is particularly susceptible to damage from oxygen loss.
Steele did not conclude her testimony, and is expected to return later in the trial for cross examination by Lewis’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford.
The trial has been running since late October, and with difficulties calling some witnesses due to COVID-19, is now scheduled to extend into December.
The trial has already heard from multiple witnesses, including the people who discovered Aaliyah’s body and several police officers involved in the investigation.