Katelynn Angel Sampson
October 24, 2000 - August 4, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial
People described Katelynn as a happy go lucky girl who was always laughing and wore a beautiful smile and ready to start school as a third grader. People would be shocked when on August 4, 2008, Donna Irving called 911 to report that Katelynn was choking and when police arrived, they found Katelynn was already dead.

"She was a beautiful girl she had a beautiful smile, 
she didn't deserve to die" 
Marlena Pilon

"I just remember her always smiling and being happy"
Jennifer States a cousin of Katelynn

"Very innocent. She didn't have to go that way" 
Beverly Walker

"Usually, yeah, I feel safe in Parkdale. But there's definitely some bad things that happen in 
Parkdale. It's awful that somebody's life gets taken at seven years old, that's just a wasted life." 
Aaron Fogelman

After finding that Katelynn was already dead, police noticed that her body contained obvious signs of trauma. Homicide detectives were called and Katelynn's guardian, Donna Irving was arrested and charged with second degree murder.

"It is probably the worst thing I've seen in 20 years of policing, the worst. I can't give you the 
specifics, just that she was assaulted throughout her entire body. It's the work of the devil, 
really is what it is"
Homicide Detective Sergeant Steve Ryan

Bernice had a boyfriend and two children of their own. Police believe that just before the 911 call, Warren Johnson took the two boys and left the home. Warren would later face charges in the death of Katelynn.

Rumors say that Katelynn was absent from school quite often at the end of her second grade year. The Toronto School Board has what is called a "safe arrival policy" that says parents should be notified when a student is absent from school without a notice from a parent or a guardian. When  student is absent, school policy is for a secretary or other staff member to call and find out why.

If a parent or guardian is not reached or if the child can't be found or if foul play is suspected, the Principal has to make a decision if further action should be taken, according to the policy. As stated in the Child And Family Services Act, teachers and school administrators are required to report any suspected harm or abuse of any student by an adult, to the Children's Aid Society. If this policy is not followed, a fine of $1,000. can be given.

The Director of policy for the Children's Aid Societies, Virginia Rowden said that the public should also be aware that they have a legal obligation to report any suspected child abuse to the authorities.

?You don?t have to know, but if you have a suspicion, you have to report?

An autopsy, which took two days due to the kind and extend of injury to Katelynn's body would show that she had many injuries that had taken place over a length of time.

Bernice Sampson needed time to sort out her life when she decided to ask a friend to help her by becoming the guardian of her child. In January of 2008, Bernice allowed Donna Irving to take custody of her seven year old daughter, Katelynn. At that time, she wasn't aware that Donna had a police record which included a history of convictions for violent crimes. Without knowing the history of the woman she called friend, she sent her daughter to live with her and would end up regretting it. 

At the first three custody hearings, Bernice told Judge Debra Paulseth that she could no longer take care of her daughter, due to personal problems and wanted to transfer custody of Katelynn to Donna Irving while she worked them out. Bernice said that she and Donna had been friends for almost 15 years and that she trusted her. When the judge asked if Donna would have help taking care of Katelynn, Bernice said that she would have help from her partner and that she trusted him as well, that there were no problems with either of them.

Without checking into the background of either Donna Irving or her partner, Warren Johnson, the judge gave them custody of Katelynn. No questions were asked of them as for how they were going to take care of her financially or medically. If a check had been done on her, they would have found that Donna had convictions not violence, but, prostitution and drugs as well.

As soon as she found out that her daughter had died, Bernice went over to the apartment:

"I want to go upstairs. I need her, I need to see her."

The family of Bernice and some of her friends, had to restrain her and let her know that he apartment had been sealed for an investigation to take place.

"Her mother, she loved her child. She loved her child. Things happen in life but she loved her child."
Beverly Walker

On August 4, 2008, Donna Irving was in court for the first time to faces charges of murdering Katelynn. Spectators were upset and emotions ran high:

"You'll still rot in jail"

Things got so out of hand that the Judge had to threaten to clear the court room if the crowd didn't settle down. Bernice watched as the Judge remanded Donna to custody to await her next hearing. As she left the courtroom, she was surrounded by family and friends.

Vickie Alexander and Bernice Sampson outside of the court house where Donna has just appeared before a Judge for the fist time since murdering Katelynn:

"I want to kill her, but what can I do?" 
Bernice Sampson

On August 6, 2008, Warren Johnson was arrested and charged with second degree murder. Police had announced they were looking for him and just shortly after that, he was arrested. Police were not sure of when he had left the home the day that Katelynn had died:

"It's our belief that just prior to, or just shortly after the 911 call was made, he took the boys and left"
Sgt. Steve Ryan - Homicide

Steve Ryan said that Warren had not been totally honest with them when he was questioned after the arrest of Donna Irving. Steve also put out a plea to the public for anyone who had know Katelynn since May of 2007 and knew of any previous abuse, to come forward. He said that he had been given a lot of third party information and that he needed to hear the information from those who actually knew or had seen the abuse or marks:

"I don't care who they are. If they have information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, 
it could be important to us" 

Steve Ryan said that the condition of Katelynn's body was"

"probably the worst thing I've seen in 20 years of policing, the worst." 

As he entered and as he left the court room, Warren was not given kind messages from the spectators in the room who shouted at him:

"It should be first-degree murder. You know you 
planned it."

"murderer"  "child murderer"  "rot in hell"

Warren's only response to them was to give them the finger.

On January 8, 2009, Bernice was given a break by the courts on the drug charges she had been facing. The court ruled that instead of doing jail time for her charges, Bernice would be given a four month, conditional discharge. Bernice had been charged with trafficking when she set up a drug deal between a drug dealer and an undercover Police Officer. Corbin Cawkell, her lawyer, said that if she had been convicted on that charge, Katelynn would have been sent into the system under the car of the Children's Aid Society.

The decision to give up custody of Katelynn was based on the charges she was facing and the hope that after she was able to get her life back on track, she could get custody back. Under the terms of her release, Bernice will do four months of community service.

About four months after Katelynn died, Chris Bentley, the Attorney General said that he wanted to take steps to be sure that this kind of thing will never happen again. New legislation was introduced that would change the way custody cases would, in Ontario. Background checks into the history of those applying for custody would be done and would be given to the judge in every case. All information about the person or persons trying to get custody, including any and all police records would be made available. That included prior court proceedings as well as information the Children's Aid Society files.

 "I think that any time a child dies under these circumstances, we as a community, as a society, 
have something to learn." 

An inquest would have to wait for the case to go to trial and be resolved and though that could take years, Irwin said:

"The little girl's death should not leave the public eye. We can't allow it to leave our memory"

In December of 2008, a complaint that had been filed by NDP justice critic Peter Kormos saying that due to the lack of questions asked in the proceedings that allowed Donna to take custody of Katelynn, the best interest of the child was not considered, was dismissed. Court documents were brought up siting that there had been little if any questioning about the people seeking custody of Katelynn, Donna and Warren.

The Ontario Judicial Council dismissed the complaint that was filed against Justice Debra Paulseth after investigating the claim, it was dismissed at "the earliest opportunity" without any response being necessary from the judge.

Katelynn was laid to rest on August 12, 2008. Her family and friends were there to tell her good bye.


In May of 2012, Donna Irving, 33 years old at the time and Warren Johnson, 50 years old at the time, were both
sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years. Why is it that LIFE never REALLY means

Return To Katelynn's Story
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Death occurred in Canada

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