Nearly a decade after the murder of seven year-old Katelynn Sampson shocked the city, one Toronto resident has raised the alarm about the state of her memorial outside a downtown public school.
Kelly Skeete was passing by Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School near Queen Street and Lansdowne Avenue late Monday afternoon, when he said he noticed the memorial surrounded by two dumpsters full of garbage.
“As soon as the urine stench hit me, I started to really absorb where I was standing and I was like, this is not right,” Skeete said. “No child should be remembered like this — especially her.”
Katelyn’s case first made headlines in 2008. The second-grader was killed following years of abuse by a couple the girl’s mother had entrusted with her care while she battled a drug addiction.
Donna Irving and Warren Johnson were sentenced to life in prison four years later and the verdict paved way for a 2016 inquest that eventually led to “Katelynn’s principal.” The bill ensures children are given a voice when it comes to decisions about their care.
“I remember her death shaking the entire city and I thought her death deserved a lot more respect than this,” Skeete said. “Especially a child in her case where a lot of people were involved and no one was listening to her. It’s ironic that she’s in this dark corner, forgotten again, and no one listening to her.”
Skeete said Katelynn’s story hits close to home because of his own difficult childhood. Frustrated by what he’d seen, Skeete posted a video to Facebook expressing his outrage, and said he started reaching out to officials to no avail.
CityNews reached out to the Toronto District School Board, and in a written statement a spokesperson said: “As Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School is currently undergoing a ground revitalization, the garbage bins were temporarily placed near that location and will be moved away immediately upon the completion of work. We would be happy to work with Katelynn’s mother to explore further location options once construction is complete.”
But Skeete said that is unacceptable.
“We could walk around the school right now and I could point out 50 different places this dumpster could be rather than here,” he said.
Construction at the school is set to be complete by the end of September, but Skeete believes the school board should apologize and move the dumpsters immediately — something he says he wishes he could do himself.
“The person who put it there — would they want their child remembered like this?” he asks. “What was the thinking process when they thought this is an appropriate place to put it?”