After a trial that lasted seven weeks, an Alberta couple charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life in the meningitis death of their 18-month-old son was found guilty Tuesday in a Lethbridge courtroom.
David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 35, were charged 11 months after their son Ezekiel died of meningitis in March 2012.
At their trial, the couple testified that they believed their son had croup or flu and treated him for over two weeks with home remedies that included hot peppers, garlic, onions, and horseradish.
Court heard how the boy swung between illness and recovery for days in March 2012 before a family friend and nurse suggested the child could be suffering from meningitis and should see a doctor.
The mother opted to visit a naturopath instead. By that time, the toddler was so stiff he couldn’t sit in his car seat. Later that day, Ezekiel stopped breathing and was rushed to Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, where doctors said they detected little brain activity in the toddler.
Ezekiel was taken off life support on March 18, 2012. The medical examiner ruled he died of bacterial meningitis, empyema, and a lung infection.
The case drew international attention, partially due to the debate over the natural medicine movement.
The defence argued the couple were loving, responsible parents who simply didn’t realize how sick their son was.
The jury, made up of four men and eight women, began deliberations in the trial on Monday afternoon. The trial was initially scheduled to last four weeks.
The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.
(With files from Global News)