Father pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of his two-month old son

Baby Liam was shaken in his Corunna home after crying. His father, who was 19 at the time, has plead guilty to manslaughter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains disturbing subject matter.

A Sarnia man has admitted killing his two-month old son in their Corunna home.

Nathan Watson, 21, appeared in Sarnia Court by video with his lawyer Friday plead guilty to manslaughter. He kept his head down as court heard the tragic events of baby Liam’s death.

It was the afternoon of Aug. 20, 2019 and Watson was in his Cameron Street home in Corunna where he lived with his partner. The pair had three children; two with Watson and a five year old, the oldest.

That Monday, the mother went shopping and Watson, then 19, was watching the kids. Shortly after she left, Liam, the newest addition to the family, began crying and fussing in his pink bouncy chair. Watson, who was playing video games, went over to him. 

Watson picked up his infant son and began shaking him and asking what he wanted. Liam, whose mother says he was “happy and healthy” when she left the house, quickly “went lifeless and his lips turned blue.”

Watson panicked and called his partner to tell her Liam was limp. She told him to call for help, which he did, and soon Lambton OPP, paramedics and firefighters were on the scene. They too found Liam “unresponsive and blue in colour.” 

The baby was rushed to Bluewater Health and later to Children’s Hospital in London. But Liam had suffered a catastrophic brain injury. He was left with no brainstem reflex or motor responses and no response to pain, no cough or gag reflex and no pupil dilation. A ventilator performed all of Liam’s breathing.

On Aug. 26, 2019 Liam was removed from life support at his family’s request. He passed away at 11 pm. Liam’s organs were all donated to other children.

A post-mortem exam revealed Liam had been abused before he was shaken violently on Aug. 20. The baby – the post mortem showed – had suffered fractured ribs and brain bleeding in the days and weeks leading up to the fatal assault.

Watson’s story about what happened changed several times. He first told police he left Liam with his five-year-old step-son while he went to get the baby food and when he came back Liam was unresponsive. He later said Liam became unresponsive after he kicked the bouncy chair.

On Aug. 20, 2020, exactly one year after the incident, Watson was arrested for Liam’s killing. He finally confessed that “with everything going on in his life and with the children being a handful that he picked up a crying Liam… and started to shake him.”

Watson was originally charged with second-degree murder before eventually agreeing to the manslaughter plea. He was granted bail in September and has been living in London. Defence Lawyer Ken Marley says during this time his client has been working full time and “made positive steps in his personal life and his social life and his medical treatment.”

Following the guilty plea Marley requested a pre-sentence report and psychiatric assessment be prepared before sentencing.

“Mr. Watson has a lengthy history of developmental and psychiatric as well as psychological issues which should be fully explained and explored for the court for the purposes of assisting you in determining the appropriate penalty in this case,” Marley told Justice Deborah Austin.

Austin adjourned Watson’s sentence to Aug. 18, where he will appear in person. Watson will remain on bail in London until then.