Crown slams parents in meningitis trial


LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – The Crown in the trial of an Alberta couple charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their toddler son says the case isn’t about a lack of love — it’s about failure to provide medical help when he needed it.

“This trial is not about murder. It is not about manslaughter. It is not about any offence concerning death. The Crown does not need to prove the accused contributed in any way or had a hand in a death,” prosecutor Lisa Weich said Saturday in her final submission to the eight woman-four man jury.

“They didn’t fail to love him. That’s not what this is about. They failed in their duty to provide medical attention. A reasonably prudent parent would have recognized, would have foreseen that Ezekiel was at risk of danger.”

David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 35, were charged after their 19-month-old son Ezekiel died of bacterial meningitis in March 2012.

The couple didn’t seek medical attention until he stopped breathing, and had treated him with things such as hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish.

On the evening of March 13, 2012, Ezekiel suddenly stopped breathing. He was rushed to hospital and eventually ended up in Calgary where doctors detected very little brain activity. Ezekiel died a couple of days later.

The Crown says Ezekiel had been sick for more than two weeks and wasn’t fully recovered.

“A reasonably prudent parent wouldn’t, as David said – wait and see if he got worse,” said Weich.

“Failing to take him to a doctor was a marked departure from what a reasonably prudent parent would have done … it’s far below the minimum standard of care for children that society expects. They should not have walked to the hospital — they should have run.”

A friend of the Stephans, who is a registered nurse, testified she told the mother that he might have viral meningitis and advised the boy be taken to a doctor.

Court documents entered in the trial show that just days before Ezekiel was rushed to hospital his family was giving him fluids through an eyedropper because he wouldn’t eat or drink.

The jury has also heard that Collet Stephan researched treatments for viral meningitis online and the next day picked up an echinacea mixture from a naturopath in Lethbridge.

Court was told Ezekiel was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress as they drove to the naturopath’s office the day before he stopped breathing.

Weich recounted David Stephan’s description of Ezekiel’s change in breathing the night he went to hospital. She said it was a six count followed by about five seconds where he seemed to be holding his breath.

Weich was silent for five seconds before continuing her submission.

“That’s five seconds. Imagine your kid not breathing for five seconds,” she continued.

“What do the accused do? The accused wait until Ezekiel stops breathing.”

The charge to the jury is scheduled for Monday afternoon.