A bronze statue honoring 5-year-old abuse victim Jeffrey Baldwin, depicted in his Superman costume, was unveiled Saturday at Greenwood Park in Toronto.
The story of the Toronto boy, who died in 2002 of starvation and septic shock after years of abuse by his grandparent guardians, received renewed attention in Canada last fall with a coroner’s inquest, during which Jeffrey’s father testified to his love of Superman. “He wanted to fly,” Richard Baldwin recalled. “He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up [as Superman] for Halloween one year. He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel.”
That testimony struck a chord with Todd Boyce, an Ottawa father of four who raised more than $36,000 on Indiegogo to fund a statue of Jeffrey in his Superman costume, sculpted by Ontario artist Ruth Abernethy. That effort drew international headlines in July, when DC Entertainment denied permission for the Superman logo to be included on the statue. However, the company quickly reconsidered its decision.
The Toronto Star was on hand Saturday for the dedication of the statue and accompanying bench, engraved with messages to Jeffrey from contributors to the Indiegogo campaign. “There’s so much support and compassion for Jeffrey,” an emotional Boyce is quoted as saying. "So much that he didn’t have in his life, but he has it now.”
Jeffrey’s teenage parents lost custody of the boy and his three siblings, who were placed into the care of their maternal grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman. While two of the children were treated relatively well, Jeffrey and one of his sisters were locked in a dark room for 14 hours a day, deprived of food, verbally and mentally abused and left to live in their own waste. Jeffrey died Nov. 30, 2002, of septic shock and starvation. Bottineau and Kidman were convicted in 2006 of second-degree murder. The case led to major changes in policy regarding the granting of custody of children to relatives.
Jeffrey lived a short distance from Greenwood Park. "Whenever you’re skating, whenever you’re rollerblading, whenever you’re walking through, there’s a bench to sit on and just have a moment with Jeffrey in Greenwood Park,” Councillor Paula Fletcher, who represents the neighborhood, said before a crowd of hundreds during Saturday's ceremony.