Four years ago, Mario Fiorini was accused of killing his baby by shaking it. He was bugged. He was arrested. His photo was published in the newspaper. Then all charges were dropped after the treating neurologist's diagnosis, which no one had taken into account, was revealed in court. He believes that the baby died as a result of an illness that doctors did not recognize in time.
Posted at 5:00 am.
According to Dr. According to Guillaume Sébire, a neurologist specializing in non-accidental head injuries and strokes in children and an expert in courts in several countries, the case is not an isolated one. There is an overdiagnosis of shaken baby syndrome in Quebec and elsewhere, he said in an interview with La Presse. Parents are “very likely to be falsely accused” (see other text).
The parents and grandparents of little Lorenzo Fiorini, who died on June 13, 2019, are suing the Sainte-Agathe Multiservice Health and Social Services Center, their son's pediatrician, a doctor at the Montreal Children's Hospital and four investigators from the Sûreté du Québec for just over 1 million Dollar.
A nebulous death
To this day, the circumstances of the death and the investigation into little Lorenzo are unclear.
The baby was 4 months old when he was transferred from Sainte-Agathe Hospital to the Montreal Children's Hospital. His parents had taken him to the emergency room in Sainte-Agathe twice the day before. He was vomiting, his temperature was abnormal, he was inconsolable. They had been sent home.
PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, THE PRESS
Little Lorenzo Fiorini died on June 13, 2019.
On June 9, 2019, during her third visit to the emergency room, the boy had seizures so severe that the medical team could not control them. By the time he arrived in Montreal, it was too late. He suffered from severe bleeding. The brain damage was irreversible. The parents made the difficult decision to stop the treatments.
Because Lorenzo's symptoms were consistent with those of a shaken baby, he was examined by a doctor from the hospital's child protection team. She concluded that the young patient had actually died as a result of shaken baby syndrome and reported the case to the Direction de la Protection de la Jeunesse (DPJ).
Dr. Guillaume Sébire was the neurologist on call when Lorenzo was in intensive care at the hospital. He expressed a different opinion. According to him, the baby suffered from a disease that his mother also suffered from: intracranial hypertension, caused by excess fluid in the meninges. He was at risk of bleeding. Lorenzo had been dropped off in his car seat by his father a few days earlier. The shock may have triggered the brain hemorrhage that led to his death.
However, this different diagnosis does not appear to have been included in the report to authorities, the lawsuit says. There is also no mention of this in a report from the child protection clinic at the Montreal Children's Hospital consulted by La Presse.
This omission then continued throughout the investigation, both by the police and the doctors. Even the parents were only aware of their boy's possible illness when Dr. Sébire testified in court two years later.
The neurologist says he was never questioned by the police.
PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, THE PRESS
The pathologist's report, drawn up a few days after the death and obtained by La Presse, confirms the diagnosis of a shaken baby. The opinion of Dr. However, he does not mention Sébire. On the contrary, the pathologist writes that “the examinations carried out in the hospital did not reveal any previous predisposition of this child to the spontaneous development of this type of lesion”.
The coroner, whose report was delivered in September 2023, also concluded that the head trauma was non-accidental.
A comprehensive medical examination unsuccessfully attempted to rule out all possible natural causes for the child's brain damage.
Extract from the coroner's report on the death of little Lorenzo
The coroner did not respond to our request for an interview. We wanted to know if he had access to Dr. Sébire's notes and if so, why he didn't mention them or even rejected them.
Months of investigation
The investigation into Lorenzo's death began before he even took his last breath.
As they prepared to accompany their son to his death three days after his hospitalization, the parents, Mario Fiorini and Sarah Galuppi, were interviewed extensively at the hospital by investigators from the Sûreté du Québec.
PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, THE PRESS
Mario Fiorini was falsely accused of shaking his baby, which led to his death.
“ [Le policier] said to me: “I hope you know that we have to do an autopsy on Lorenzo, which means we have to send parts of his body all over Quebec. But I promise to bring you back every piece,” the mother recalls. My son hasn't died yet and that's what he tells me. I feel like that's something you wouldn't tell a parent. » A few hours later the baby died in her arms.
When the parents return home, the house is turned upside down. Investigators were conducting a search there. The children's room was not spared either. The mattress is on the floor. The drawers are open. The floor is littered with clothes and toys.
It was all a mess. It looked like a prison-like raid.
Parents and grandparents will be interviewed in the following months. Certain elements arouse investigators' suspicions. Notably, “shaken baby” was part of the parents' search history before their son's death. They say that Google brought the issue to their attention while researching the cause of Lorenzo's incessant crying.
Microphones will be installed in the family home and police will share Mario Fiorini's photo and name with a media outlet to further the investigation. In response to the article, Sarah Galuppi lost her job as an accountant at a large ski resort in the Laurentians.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo's parents don't get any answers to their questions. They asked in vain for the autopsy results. In her mind and those of the police, her son died after being shaken. The couple suspect each other, but also suspect family members who cared for the baby before his death. The family is torn apart.
On December 18, the parents were arrested and questioned again. According to the prosecution, Ms Galuppi was interrogated for 11 hours and her partner for 12 hours. Repeated requests to consult a lawyer were reportedly ignored. Sarah Galuppi says police asked her to record a video in which she told her lover “that he could confess that she would stay with him and give him more children.”
Mario Fiorini claims he was told: “Either you sink or you take the blame” and “someone has to take the blame”. In the end he confesses to the crimes he is accused of.
At some point I felt like I was against the wall. I said something like: This has to be it.
The investigators give him a doll and ask him to imitate his son's gestures. He is formally charged and imprisoned. He will remain there for five days until the family posts $10,000 bail.
The defense is organized. The father takes a lie detector test. Result: “At no time did Mr. Fiorini cause injury or shock Lorenzo.” Please note that a lie detector is not used as evidence in court. “There is no chance that this guy killed anyone, let alone his son,” repeats polygraphist Jacques Landry, himself a former member of the Sûreté du Québec, in an interview with La Presse. He denounces a “disproportionate” investigation and tunnel vision on the part of the police.
For the parents, the statement from Dr. Guillaume Sébire during the preliminary examination in 2021 everything. First, they recognize for the first time the possibility that their boy was not abused. But also that he could have been saved.
In fact, the neurologist mentions in his report that he found several clues in the medical history that could have raised alarms. First, the curve of Lorenzo's head circumference, measured at several doctor's visits since his birth, showed that the skull was growing too quickly. At that time, Lorenzo had been suffering from projectile vomiting for months, which he had reported to the pediatrician several times. In one photo we see that the baby looked “lying”. “the sun”, i.e. low pupils. All symptoms that, taken as a whole, indicate intracranial hypertension.
It was not only during the events of June 8th to 9th that his chronic intracranial hypertension went undiagnosed [2019 à Sainte-Adèle]despite several emergency consultations on the initiative of legitimately concerned parents, but also beforehand.
Excerpt from the report submitted to the court by neurologist Dr. Guillaume Sebire
The charges against Mario Fiorini will be officially withdrawn in March 2023.
The Sûreté du Québec, the CISSS des Laurentides and the Montreal Children's Hospital declined to comment on the matter because civil litigation is ongoing.
An earlier version of this text said that Lorenzo's parents took him to the emergency room at Ste Adèle Hospital before his death. It's more like Ste Agathe Hospital.