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Court hears from boss of man charged in son's death

TORONTO - A day before authorities found his son's lifeless body, a Toronto-area father left work in a hurry to deal with what he called a family emergency, the man's murder trial heard Wednesday.

In the hours that followed, Garfield Boothe and his wife Nichelle Boothe-Rowe scrambled to cover up their involvement in Shakeil Boothe's death, prosecutors allege.

Shakeil was found dead on May 27, 2011. The Crown alleges his father and stepmother knew he had died a day earlier but didn't report it.

Boothe punched out of his job as a forklift operator at 11:26 a.m. on May 26 less than five-and-a-half hours into his shift, his supervisor testified Wednesday.

Boothe, a temporary worker hired through an agency, had asked for permission to leave early after receiving a call from his wife about a family emergency, Richard McCabe told the court.

"He was rushed, he was hurried, he wanted to go," but didn't appear overly distressed, McCabe said.

"I didn't observe any tears. Garfield was always quite calm... he didn't show a whole lot of emotion."

Boothe told his boss he would return for his shift the next day — a Friday — but he didn't, McCabe said. He didn't show up the following week, either, or call to explain his absence, the supervisor said.

McCabe said he only learned of Boothe's arrest after someone at the staffing agency spotted the man's photo on the news.

It was also the first time he heard his employee, who had mentioned a newborn baby, had another son, he said.

Boothe and Boothe-Rowe are each charged with second-degree murder, and prosecutors allege Shakeil was abused, deprived of food and kept shackled to his bed in the months before his death.

Paramedics testified they found Shakeil cold, stiff and foaming at the mouth. They told the court it was immediately clear he was dead, and they believe he had been for some time.

The Crown alleges he died after a brutal beating the day before.

Court has heard autopsy results showed widespread internal bleeding from injuries incurred "minutes to hours" before his death, as well as older scars and injuries.

Once they discovered the boy was dead, the couple hatched a plan to cover their tracks, the Crown alleges.

A taxi driver told the court Wednesday he drove a black man, woman and baby from the Boothe family home to the Toronto bus terminal the evening of May 26.

They had two bags with them, Shahbaz Chodhry said through a Punjabi interpreter.

All three got out, but Chodhry was told to wait, and eventually the man returned, asking to be driven back home, he said.

The round-trip bill came to $175, but Chodhry said he was paid $200 in cash — $100 each from the man and the woman.

Another taxi driver recalled picking up a black man with a carry-on bag from the same home the following morning and driving him to Toronto's Pearson airport.

Boothe arrived home in an airport taxi shortly afterward, bag in tow, the owner of a moving company testified.

Mark Edmonson said he and his employee Junior Johnston had been waiting outside the Brampton, Ont., home for about 15 minutes when Boothe appeared. No one had answered the door, he said.

The company had been hired over the phone the previous afternoon, Edmonson said. A woman had called to have the contents of the three-bedroom house moved into a storage unit. He didn't remember her name or number, but recognized Boothe as the man he met at the home.

Boothe told the movers he was just getting back from a trip to Jamaica, the colleagues told the court.

He mentioned having the "best sleep" on his vacation, but said "since he got back here, he got the whole world on his shoulder," Johnston recalled. The movers didn't ask why and Boothe didn't elaborate, they said.

Boothe kept darting out to talk on his cellphone, they said, though he offered them shots of white rum during a break. Johnston said Boothe himself drank two.

In the end, all they moved was two cribs, a chest of drawers, bags of clothes and two barrels full of "kids' stuff" — far from the houseful of belongings they expected to haul, Johnston said.

The movers said one room — which prosecutors said was Shakeil's — was deemed off-limits.

A woman who worked at the storage facility confirmed Boothe and some movers showed up there around 10:30 a.m. on May 27.

Mal Perera said Boothe and his wife had come the previous day to reserve a unit, but Boothe-Rowe wasn't there for the move.

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