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Alberta Court of Appeal to hear arguments in toddler meningitis death

Appeal scheduled in toddler meningitis death

CALGARY — Alberta's Appeal Court is to hear arguments today over the conviction and sentencing of a mother and father who neglected to seek proper medical treatment for their son who died of bacterial meningitis.

David and Collet Stephan were found guilty by a jury last April of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel in 2012. The toddler was treated with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish for several weeks and died in a Calgary hospital.

David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail and his wife Collet to three months of around-the-clock house arrest. The two were released part way through their sentences pending the result of the appeals.

The Stephans want the court to overturn their conviction. They argue the judge's instructions to the jury were unfair and the court should have accepted expert testimony that was excluded.

The Crown is appealing the sentences on several grounds. It will argue they aren't "proportionate to the gravity of the offence or to the degree of responsibility of the offender.''

Prosecutors also assert that the judge gave insufficient weight to denunciation and deterrence and failed to give weight to aggravating factors. The Crown also says Justice Rodney Jerke overemphasized mitigating factors in the couple's favour.

David Stephan posted to his Facebook page Wednesday, saying he was praying for "the right outcome."

"Our hope is that this agenda-driven precedent that lays as a snare for parents (in many cases holding them to a higher standard than a medical doctor would be held to) will be done away with," he wrote.

"May the rights of loving parents be restored and protected from those who would stand to profit by removing them."

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

The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He was rushed to a local hospital and died after being transported to Calgary Children's Hospital.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter


Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press