'Wasn't on the radar:' Parents accused in son's death unaware he had meningitis

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The father of a toddler who died of bacterial meningitis says he and his wife didn't realize their son had contracted the potentially deadly disease.

David Stephan told a court in Lethbridge, Alta., today that the couple did not think Ezekiel had the more serious form of the inflammatory brain condition.

The Stephans are accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life to the 19-month-old, who died in March 2012.

They treated the boy with natural remedies instead of taking him to a doctor.

Stephan testified he and his wife, Collet, thought it was possible Ezekiel had contacted viral meningitis.

Viral meningitis is less serious and usually clears up on its own, but the bacterial form can be fatal if not treated quickly with antibiotics.

``I recall distinctly that bacterial meningitis wasn't on the radar,'' Stephan told Crown prosecutor Britta Kristen during her cross-examination Tuesday.

``If we thought he had a fatal infection, we would have been to the doctor right away.''

On Monday, Stephan testified that his wife did call a friend at one point who was a nurse and a midwife. The friend mentioned the possibility Ezekiel might have meningitis but she wasn't sure.

Stephan told court that he was ``100 per cent convinced'' later that Ezekiel had recovered, but that was before he noticed the child had an odd breathing pattern.

Stephan said he and his wife continued to treat their son with natural remedies, even after he was declared brain dead at the children's hospital in Calgary.

``We weren't willing to let go,'' he said. ``We would cling on to anything.''

Kristensen suggested that the Stephans would have known natural remedies wouldn't cure bacterial meningitis.

Court heard earlier that the Stephans initially believed their son had the croup. It wasn't until he took a turn for the worse and stopped breathing that they called 911.

A jury convicted the couple on the charge in 2016, but the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a second trial last year. It is being heard by a judge without a jury, and David Stephan is acting as his own lawyer.

© 2019 The Canadian Press