Father convicted in son's death fears for other parents

'Heaven help us all,' writes David Stephan on his Facebook page

NELSON, B.C. – A father found guilty of not providing his ailing toddler with medical care says he worries that others will be arrested if they don’t “fall in line with parenting as seen fit by the government.”

David Stephan wrote a “dear jury” letter on his Facebook page Wednesday, one day after he and his wife were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son, Ezekiel, who died of meningitis.

The letter said he deeply loves the jurors and appreciates their time — but they were wrong.

“I only wish that you could’ve seen how you were being played by the Crown’s deception, drama and trickery that not only led to our key witnesses being muzzled, but has also now led to a dangerous precedent being set in Canada,” Stephan wrote Wednesday.

“The floodgates have now been opened and if we do not fall in line with parenting as seen fit by the government, we all stand in risk of criminal prosecution.

“May heaven help us all!”

Stephan and his wife, Collet, were convicted by a jury in the death of their 19-month-old son in March 2012.

The jury heard that the couple thought the boy had croup or flu and treated him for 2 1/2 weeks with remedies that included hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish, even though a family friend who was a nurse told them she thought Ezekiel had meningitis.

Court also heard that Collet Stephan drove the little boy from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge, Alta., to pick up an echinacea mixture, although he was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress in the vehicle.

The Crown argued during the trial that the couple loved their son but still had to follow a legal standard of care. The defence argued they were responsible parents who simply didn’t realize how sick their son was.

David Stephan confirmed in an interview with The Canadian Press that he wrote the Facebook letter because he and his wife are disappointed with the court process.

“It was just definitely heartwrenching to see the direction that it went,” he said. “There’s the Crown’s version of our story, then there’s our story of us who actually lived it.”

He said they are considering an appeal.

“Not so much for ourselves, but for the fact this sets a tremendous precedent for the Canadian populous. It would have been easier for us just to take a plea bargain a long time ago and just basically keep living our lives, but we didn’t want this precedent being set. That’s why we proceeded forward in the first place.

“I don’t know yet whether we’re going to throw in the towel.”

The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison. A sentencing date is to be set in June.

After Ezekiel died, the Stephans moved from Glenwood, Alta. to Nelson, B.C., and returned there after the verdict with their three other boys: eight-year-old Ezra, three-year-old Ephraim and one-year-old Enoch.

Stephan said he and his wife are worried about going to prison because of their children. He said his mother died when he was 10, and he doesn’t want his children to be without a mother or father.

“It is a heartwrenching thought and I don’t see how this is doing the public any good.”

—by Chris Purdy in Edmonton

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