Alberta mom convicted in death of toddler addresses court at sentencing hearing
Published Thursday, June 23, 2016 7:33AM MDT Last Updated Thursday, June 23, 2016 7:28PM MDT
A Lethbridge court is hearing sentencing arguments for the former southern Alberta couple convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their son Ezekiel.
David and Collet Stephan were found guilty in April in the death of their 19-month-old son who contracted a lung infection and later died in Alberta Children’s Hospital from meningitis.
The Stephans, whose family helped start a nutritional supplements company, thought Ezekiel had croup or the flu and they were using natural remedies including hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish, to treat the boy.
The defence argued the Stephans were loving, responsible parents who didn't realize how sick their son was and the prosecution said it was a clear-cut case of the couple failing to seek the required medical care.
The jury found the couple waited too long to get their son the help he needed.
During the sentencing hearing on Thursday morning, Collet Stephan told the court that the ordeal has caused her to become severely depressed and that she had panic attacks and nightmares about her children being taken from her.
Collet also said that the proceedings affected her marriage and divorce became a common topic, but the couple was able to work through it. She called the trial 'torture' because the couple is constantly reliving the worst day of their lives.
She told court she has spent the last four years of her life second-guessing herself and wondering what would have happened if she had done something differently. "If I could turn back time and do something so that he would be here, I would," she told the court.
Earlier this week, the Stephans were interviewed by the producers of the controversial documentary Vaxxed and the Crown played the interview in court.
In the video, the Stephans were unapologetic for their actions and blamed the media for turning public support against them.
Justice Rodney Jerke released a finding of facts in the case in June and said he would use that along with the information gleaned from the hearing to determine the sentence for the couple.
In the document, Jerke said he was satisfied 'beyond a reasonable doubt' that a 'prudent and ordinary person' without medical training would have forseen that Ezekiel's condition required professional medical attention.
"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 found that the Stephans were caring and attentive parents and never intended to harm Ezekiel.
The maximum sentence for falling to provide the necessaries of life is five years in jail and the Crown is calling for a sentence of three to four and a half years.
The sentencing hearing continues and the judge has indicated that he will hand down a decision in the case on Friday.
(With files from CTV Lethbridge's Terry Vogt and The Canadian Press)