Hofosawa Awena Rutherford is likely to know her fate later today when the jury hearing her case for the alleged unlawful killing of her two children, retires to deliberate on a verdict.
It is the state’s case that the young woman deliberately administered rat poison to her children—four-year-old Hodaciea Cadogan and her one-year-old brother Jabari Cadogan Jr.
The two children died on March 27th, 2014, at Perth, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara, after ingesting carbon tablets—a pesticide popularly known for killing rats.
In his testimony, Pathologist Dr. Nehaul Singh who performed the autopsies said that both children died from pesticide poisoning.
Addressing the court in unsworn testimony after being called upon to lead her defence, the accused said that she never gave her children carbon tablets, but rather administered to them what she believed to be “cold tablets.”
According to a caution statement which police said the accused gave, the contents of which she does not deny, Rutherford said that she had gone to purchase cold tablets from a man who also sold rat poison and “other stuff,” on the road.
In her closing address, however, Prosecutor Tiffini Lyken asked the jury to rubbish Rutherford’s claims of ever purchasing cold tablets for the children who, no evidence supports were even suffering from a cold at the time.
Testifying via Skype from the United States, was father of the children, Jabari Cadogan Snr., who told the court that whenever the children were ill, Rutherford would communicate this to him, noting that it was usual practice for her to administer cough medicine in the form of syrup, and not “cold tablets.”
Lyken asked the jury to question the plausibility of Rutherford’s story that she would buy cold tablets for her small children “from a man on the road,” who would be selling poison, also in the form of tablets.
Referencing the caution statement in which the accused told police of having problems and being frustrated while awaiting word on her application for a job as a traffic warden with the Police Force, the prosecutor stressed that it was because of this frustration that Rutherford killed her children.
“We all have problems. But having problems doesn’t give you the right to kill your children,” Lyken emphasized.
In his testimony yesterday, Detective Police Corporal Dellon Fraser recalled that after putting the allegation to the accused, she responded, “Officer, problems. Everybody blaming me.”
He said the woman then told him of purchasing three tablets, two of which she drank, while the other, she divided in half for each of the children.
Rutherford too had been hospitalized for some time after drinking the tablets.
Questioned by defence attorney Adrian Thompson, Fraser said the accused did not specify what type of tablets she had bought.
Lyken also called on the jury to assess Rutherford’s credibility, noting the change in her story from initially buying the tablets from a man on the road, to her later story of making the purchase from a pharmacy.
The prosecutor credited the drastic change in Rutherford’s story to what she opined may have been an apparent realisation that “her story ain’t looking too good,” and so would have to make it more believable.
In an impassioned plea to find the accused guilty, Lyken drew the jury’s attention to the inescapably distinct scent which carbon tablets carry, arguing that her story cannot be believed, as the odour would likely have raised suspicion at that point.
The prosecutor surmised that there was no need for the accused to be suspicious because she knew exactly what she was doing, while stressing that any “cold tablet” with such a scent to be administered to children would raise some amount of concern.
To this end, the prosecutor asked the jury to consider Dr. Singh’s evidence regarding cause of death and the fact that he indicated that so strong is the scent of carbon tablets, that the odor was still present when he performed the autopsies four days later.
The Doctor had stated that after tests were conducted, the substance ingested was positive for aluminum Phosphide, the poisonous component in carbon tablets.
Likening Rutherford’s story to a “drowning man clutching at straws,” Lyken told the jury that if there was one person in the entire world to protect the children, it was the accused.
For his part, Thompson, however, stressed that his client at no time intentionally poisoned her children.
In his testimony, Cadogan had told the court that he and Rutherford’s relationship ended in November 2013, but noted that he always supported his children through remittances, in addition to barrels he sent to the accused for their upkeep.
When asked, he told Thompson that he and the accused got along well and had no problems, but recalled her relating to him, problems she was having with her new partner at the time.
Cadogan testified to receiving certain information on the night his children died and travelling home to Guyana two days later.
The visibly emotional man recounted visiting the Georgetown Hospital Morgue where he identified the body of his children to Dr. Singh for autopsies to be performed.
He said their bodies were then handed over to him and taken to the Jerrick’s Funeral Home, following which they were buried on April 6, 2014.
Questioned under cross examination, the witness initially told Thompson that he had no recollection of his children suffering from asthma. Further pressed, however, he then said he remembers Jabari being treated for the condition.
He, however, said he knew of no wheezing or asthma related problems from which his daughter suffered.
The accused lamented how much she loved her children, and the trauma with which she lives every day through the memory of having lost them.
Because of her uncontrollable sobs and moaning sounds, Rutherford’s testimony was initially barely audible.
This prompted Justice Navindra Singh to sound a stern warning to the accused to speak coherently, as it was difficult to decipher what she was saying.
The Judge told Thompson that he would not record anything his client had to say if he could not understand her testimony.
Immediately composing herself thereafter, Rutherford clearly declared, “I did not buy rat poison for my children.”
She then complained of not being fairly treated by investigators, who she said had blamed her from the beginning for the death of the children.
Noting that there were no witnesses to call in Rutherford’s defence, Thompson closed his case.
The trial continues this morning at 9 at the Georgetown High Court where the Judge will sum up the case and hand it over to the jury for the possible return of a verdict.
The state’s case is being led by Lyken, in association with Prosecutors Shawnette Austin and Abigail Gibbs.