A southern Alberta couple found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their toddler will be sentenced today, more than four years after his death from bacterial meningitis. David Stephan, 33, and Collet Stephan, 36, whose family helped start a nutritional supplements company, were convicted by a jury in April after their trial was told they used naturopathic remedies rather than seeking medical treatment for the boy.
The prosecution is asking for a sentence in the range of three to 4.5 years while the defence would like a suspended or conditional sentence which includes no time behind bars.
Justice Rodney Jerke said the prosecution request was “significantly past” the range he would consider, but he also expressed concern that the Stephans hadn’t convinced him they felt any real remorse about Ezekiel’s death.
He received tearful pleas from both of the Stephans when he asked them if they had anything they would like to say to the court.
David Stephan said it is important for his other children to have a father “who’ll help raise them up.”
“Looking back at it, had I known that it could possibly end up in this situation I would not have put my child at risk,” he told court. “There is nothing I wouldn’t give up to bring him back.”
Collet Stephan said her only purpose in life is to be a mother.
“My children are everything to me and I’m everything to my children,” she said, sobbing. “I am incredibly sorry I did not take him to the hospital. I just loved him so much.”
Court heard the couple thought the boy had croup or flu, so they treated him with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish — even though a family friend who was a nurse told them she thought Ezekiel had meningitis.
The trial also 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 was rushed to a local hospital but died after being transported to a Calgary hospital.
On Thursday, the court heard a video interview between David Stephan and the producers of the documentary “Vaxxed,” in which he criticized the justice system for targeting his family.
He called it a “parental rights issue,” blamed the media and called for public support at a rally outside the courthouse today.