Weeping mother takes stand at sentencing hearing

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – A weeping mother who was called to the witness stand during sentencing arguments in an Alberta courtroom today said that losing her son was the worst day of her life.

Collet and David Stephan were convicted in April of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son Ezekiel, who died in 2012 of bacterial meningitis.

The couple failed to get medical attention for the 19-month-old, and instead treated him with home remedies such as garlic, onions, horseradish and maple syrup.

Collet Stephan told court in Lethbridge that she was depressed, suffered panic attacks and had nightmares about her children being stolen.

She said her life has been horrible largely because of lies told by the news media during the trial.

The Crown says Justice Rodney Jerke is expected to hand down a sentence on Friday.

The couple, whose family helped start a nutritional supplements company, thought the boy had croup or the flu, even though a family friend who was a nurse told them she thought Ezekiel had meningitis.

Earlier this month, the judge released a finding of facts in the case that he will use to consider the couple’s fate.

“The failure of Mr. Stephan and Mrs. Stephan … contributed significantly to the risk to Ezekiel’s life,” he wrote.

The trial heard the little boy was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when Collet Stephan drove him from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge to pick up an echinacea mixture.

The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He died in a Calgary hospital.

Jerke wrote he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a prudent and ordinary person without medical training would have foreseen “that medical attention was required to maintain Ezekiel’s life.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Stephan did not provide Ezekiel with medical attention. This was a failure of their legal duty to provide necessaries of life. It was a marked departure from the required standard of care,” he said. “It is morally blameworthy conduct.”

However, Jerke also noted in his findings there’s no doubt the Stephans were “caring and attentive parents and had no intention of harming Ezekiel.”

The Stephans now live in British Columbia but have remained free since their conviction.

The maximum sentence for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.

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