Medical examiner details Punky's violent injuries
Last updated May 12 2005 04:34 PM MDT
EDMONTON – The genital injuries six-year-old Corrine "Punky" Gustavson suffered in an attack were severe enough that they could have killed the child, had she not been smothered, medical examiner Dr. Graeme Dowling said.
"This is the worst example of this that I have seen," he testified Thursday at the first-degree murder trial of Clifford Sleigh.
Corinne "Punky" Gustavson
Sleigh has admitted to taking the girl from her front yard in September 1992 while she played with a friend, saying he chose her because she was closest to the fence. He has also acknowledged that he sexually assaulted her, but has pleaded not guilty to aggravated sexual assault.
Punky's body was found two days later in a trucking yard, dressed except for her shoes.
Dowling said the child's vagina was violently torn, and could have bled enough to cause her death, had she lived and not been treated. He said the cause of death was smothering.
Defence lawyer Peter Royal asked Dowling whether Punky could have died because of a condition where a little pressure on a nerve in the neck for a short period of time can cause death.
Dowling said it would be unusual.
Royal also asked whether the bruising to the girl's genitals could have been caused after she died. Dowling said what he saw didn't indicate that, but that it was possible.
He also testified while being questioned by the Crown that there was little blood on the girl's body or clothes and that he believed that was because the bleeding would have stopped when she died.
The medical examiner also testified that the girl's clothing appeared to have been hastily put on – both legs were through the same hole of her underwear, her pants were on backwards and her arms weren't put through her jacket's armholes.
Dowling said he believes her clothes were removed and then put back on.
During the doctor's testimony, some of Punky's family and a juror wept. The girl's uncle left the courtroom, shaking his head.
Sleigh tried to plead guilty to manslaughter at the beginning of the trial, but the Crown chose to proceed with a charge of first-degree murder.
The 42 year old was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault in 2003.
Man charged in girl's murder admits to sexual assault
EDMONTON - A man charged with first-degree murder in the death of a
six-year-old girl admitted to sexually assaulting her, court heard
trial of Clifford Sleigh began Monday morning in Edmonton with Sleigh
offering to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter in front of
Crown attorneys rejected the plea but did accept Sleigh's guilty
plea to a charge of kidnapping in the case of Corrine (Punky) Gustavson.
Gustavson disappeared from her mother's east Edmonton yard in
September 1992. Her body was found two days later, fully clothed except
for her shoes, in an industrial area.
Police said she had been smothered and sexually assaulted.
No arrests were made until March 2003, when police charged Sleigh,
now 42, with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual
In his opening statement, Crown Jason Track told the jury he can
prove first-degree murder, which can apply if the victim was killed in
the commission of a sexual assault or kidnapping.
Track said that in an agreed statement of facts, Sleigh admits that
he sexually assaulted the girl and that his semen was found on her
underwear. He also agrees that the semen matches his DNA profile and
that there is only a one in 25 trillion chance that it is a random
However, Sleigh disputes that the assault was an aggravated sexual assault.
Track told the jury the cause of the girl's death was "blunt force genital trauma."
Sleigh said in the agreed statement that he took the girl from her
yard as she played with a five-year-old friend, and that he'd grabbed
the child closest to the fence.
Outlining his case to the jury, Track said Sleigh had come to
Edmonton the weekend Punky disappeared for a softball tournament, and
was staying near the Gustavson home. The jury was also told that Sleigh
had taken a friend's car for a few hours the day the girl disappeared.
The case is expected to last three weeks.
Edmonton sex slaying trial begins
Edmonton — A six-year-old girl whose 1992 sex slaying horrified her hometown died simply because she was playing too close to a fence.
The admission was contained in an agreed statement of facts on the
opening day of trial for Clifford Sleigh, 42, who was not arrested
until more than a decade after Corinne Gustavson was slain.
Monday's court proceedings began with Mr. Sleigh pleading guilty in
front of the jury to kidnapping and manslaughter as the charges of
first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping were read.
The prosecution accepted only the kidnapping plea.
“The Crown does not accept the guilty plea (of manslaughter),”
replied prosecutor Jason Track. “We intend to proceed on the charge of
Later in court, Track referred to an agreed statement of facts in
which Mr. Sleigh described kidnapping and admitted to sexually
assaulting the little girl.
Mr. Sleigh abducted Corinne, known as Punky because of her spiky
hair, as she was playing in a backyard with another young friend. The
statement of facts quotes Mr. Sleigh admitting he “chose Gustavson only
because she was the closest to the fence the two girls were playing in
In his opening statement, Mr. Track described the case he will try to prove.
He said Mr. Sleigh came to Edmonton from Lodgepole, Alta., as part
of a family who were meeting other relatives at a softball tournament.
The residence where he was staying was near the Gustavson home, court
Court also heard that Mr. Sleigh took his host's car without asking
for several hours on Sunday, Sept.6 — the day Corinne was taken.
That morning, said Mr. Track, the mother of Corinne's five-year-old
playmate came rushing into the Gustavson house with the news that her
daughter had seen someone take Corinne.
“(The father, Ray Gustavson,) ran out in his stocking feet,” said Mr. Track. “He was unable to find her.”
It's expected the playmate will testify at the trial.
“She'll tell you one native man took Punky,” Track said. Mr. Sleigh is aboriginal.
Two days later, Corinne's body was found lying face-down in the back lot of an Edmonton trucking company by the firm's owner.
Mr. Track described the cause of death as “blunt force genital trauma.”
Although DNA profiling had been attempted during the initial
investigation, technicians could not get usable evidence. However, by
2000, the technology had improved and police were able to get a
The crime transfixed the city. Intense media coverage followed,
including a feature report on the American TV series Unsolved