A father accused in his son’s death is testifying in a southern Alberta courtroom where the man and his wife are accused of failing to get medical attention for the toddler.
David and Collet Stephan are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life for their son, Ezekiel, who had meningitis, when the family lived in southern Alberta in March 2012. (Although unusual in everyday parlance, the word “necessaries” — not “necessities” — is the term the legal system uses.)
A medical examiner has previously testified that Ezekiel died of bacterial meningitis and a lung infection in 2012.
It is the second trial for the Stephans, who now live in Grande Prairie, Alta. A jury found them guilty in 2016, but the Supreme Court overturned the convictions last year and ordered a new trial. This one is before a judge alone.
The Stephans initially treated their son for days with herbal remedies, alternative therapies and a priesthood blessing and only sought medical attention when he stopped breathing.
Stephan, who is acting as his own lawyer, has been telling his story to a court in Lethbridge on Monday in what amounts to a monologue.
He said he and his wife thought Ezekiel had croup and at first he appeared to be recovering.
The boy got sick again, although Stephan told the judge it wasn’t anything that made them worry that anything was seriously wrong.
The trial has been told that the Stephans thought Ezekiel was ill with the flu and treated him with alternative health remedies even though a midwife and a naturopathic doctor suggested they seek medical treatment for their son.
In March 2012, the Stephans took Ezekiel to Lethbridge so they could buy remedies but prosecutor Britta Kristensen, the toddler’s body was so stiff at that point that the couple was unable to get him into his car seat and instead had him lie on a mattress in the back of their car.
Court heard the couple made two 911 calls on March 13, 2012.
The first was when Ezekiel had stopped breathing, but he seemed to recover, so David Stephan turned down an offer for an ambulance.
Within the hour, he stopped breathing again and the Stephans were on the phone with a dispatcher again as they drove from where they then lived near Glenwood to meet an ambulance on the highway that would take the boy to the Cardston hospital.
The prosecution told the judge that by the time paramedics got involved, Ezekiel had no pulse and no neurological activity.
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