By Tamara Smith
The week of May 7, 2002, marked the end of one of the most disturbing trials in Canadian history. In what the trial judge and pathologist called “one of the worst cases of child abuse in Canada’s penal system,” Marcia and Edward “Tony” Dooley were each sentenced to life in prison, without the chance of parole for at least 10 years, for the second-degree murder of Tony’s son Randal. Perhaps what is most disturbing is the series of tragic events, namely the ritual abuse that young Randal Dooley endured before his life came to a sudden end in 1998.
With the promise of a better life and prosperity, his mother Raquel Burth sent Randal Dooley to Canada from Jamaica, in 1997, to live with his father. Dreams and promises turned to nightmares and suffering that ended on September 25, 1998 when authorities were called to the Dooley residence to find the lifeless body of Randal Dooley. The autopsy that followed revealed Randal had died from brain injuries that his father and stepmother claimed were suffered in a fall from his bed the night before. Further investigation by police resulted in the arrests of Tony and Marcia Dooley on the count of second-degree murder.
The horror of a young boy, described by his teachers as a sweetheart who loved to learn, being murdered by those responsible for his care and guidance was overshadowed by the evidence that came to light during the Toronto-based trial.
Randal Dooley’s autopsy revealed not only the brain injury that killed him, but two other brain injuries, 13 broken ribs, broken vertebrae, a lacerated liver, a crushed adrenal gland and a tooth in his stomach. It was also revealed during the trial that his stepmother had broken both his arm and elbow on separate occasions, and his father admitted himself to once beating Randal with a belt until the belt had frayed. The belt-beating incident resulted in marks that lasted over a month, leading to Randal not being enrolled in school the following year for fear of the abuse being discovered.
The fact that the abuse was actually discovered, but that no action became of it, leaves the feeling of guilt that Randal Dooley’s murder could have been prevented. Taking note of Randal’s unnatural fear of his step-mother when he once lost a mitten and another instance when he refused to take off his T-shirt to swim at a pool, a teacher noticed marks and finally informed the principal, who then contacted the Children’s Aid Society (“CAS”). The CAS, in turn, contacted police. The officers who investigated the claim decided to believe Marcia Dooley’s story that Randal’s injuries were the result of a childhood game. The ritual abuse continued and soon after, young Randal was dead.
The sheer number of witnesses who testified during the trial to be aware or suspicious of Randal Dooley’s abuse keeps blame from being placed on one particular party. Beyond teachers, a principal, the CAS and police, family and friends also acknowledged possible signs of abuse, but didn’t do anything. Possibly the most disturbing testimony came from Randal’s older brother Tego who witnessed the moments leading up to his death. After Randal started having a seizure and passed out, likely a result of a hard blow to the head or hard shaking according to testimony, Marcia Dooley put him into a bathtub full of cold water still in his pajamas. It was Tego who took Randal out of the bathtub, dressed him in dry clothes, brought him to bed and then lay
beside him to try to warm his cold body. He also testified that once
Randal was in bed, Marcia Dooley had returned to beat Randal’s back and bottom with a slipper. In the months leading up to his death, Randal was ill and could not keep his food down. Tego also testified that Marcia would force Randal to eat his vomit when he was sick after eating. Ironically, his vomiting was likely a result of one of the injuries inflicted during one of his regular beatings.
Randal Dooley suffered horrible abuse and eventually death at the hands of those expected to love him and Teego Dooley, now back in Jamaica with his aunt, will forever have to live with memories of the abuse, murder, trial and conviction of his father and stepmother. Though there is some justice in Tony and Marcia Dooley receiving life sentences, their case is only the tip of the iceberg. New claims emerge almost daily about priests raping or molesting young boys or R Kelly having sex with minors. It’s clear that before the war on terrorism or the crisis in the Middle East, the focus needs to be shifted to our own neighborhoods.
With children suffering such horrible abuses by the people expected to give love and guidance, is it really surprising that criminals are getting younger and children are walking into schools with guns? The children are the future. Regardless of any current political agendas, the children of today will form the society of tomorrow. It’s clearly time for everyone to get involved. Those who are suspicious of any form of abuse need to come forward, no matter the fear of repercussions. Authorities need to investigate every claim properly and thoroughly. Children should be encouraged to speak up about possible abuse, before others come forward, or worse before the abuse leads to murder, as was the case for Randal Dooley.
Most importantly, parents feeling overwhelmed by child rearing should take the first step if they need help.
Reprinted with permission:
Printed in Volume 1 Issue 11