Alberta boy died more than seven years ago; parents twice on trial

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — David and Collet Stephan have been found not guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their toddler son Ezekiel. A medical examiner ruled the boy died of bacterial meningitis. Here are some key developments in the case.

Aug. 20, 2010: Ezekiel Stephan is born at home with the help of birthing assistant Terry Meynders, who is also a registered nurse.

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Feb. 27, 2012: Ezekiel takes ill at the family home in Glenwood, Alta. His mother would describe him at trial as having a cold, stuffy nose and trouble breathing.

Feb. 28-March 5, 2012: The parents treat Ezekiel for what they believe to be an upper airway infection that leads to a barking cough. They add tinctures with garlic, hot peppers and horseradish to some of his smoothies. They also attempt to help his breathing with cool air and a humidifier.

March 5, 2012: Ezekiel seems to improve. His father later testifies that the boy is not 100 per cent, but no longer has any difficulty breathing and is able to go to preschool. He plays with his toys and eats some solid food.

March 6, 2012: Ezekiel is "unusually lethargic,'' lies in bed the entire day and his only response is to moan unhappily. He doesn't eat or drink and is exhibiting unusual neurological symptoms.

March 7, 2012: Ezekiel seems to improve again. His abnormal movements stop and he can watch TV, but still isn't playing normally.

March 8-10, 2012: Ezekiel's parents note that he seems to be gradually improving. He regains a bit of his appetite, but is not active or playful.

March 11, 2012: Ezekiel's symptoms worsen again. He refuses to eat or drink and is lethargic. His parents notice his body is very stiff.

March 12, 2012: Ezekiel's body remains stiff. He is getting fluids through an eyedropper because he will not drink on his own. Meynders comes to the home and suggests he might have viral meningitis. She tells Collet Stephan she should take the boy to a doctor.

March 13, 2012: The Stephans head to Lethbridge, Alta., to pick up an echinacea mixture from a naturopath. At home that evening, the boy stops breathing on a couple of occasions before his parents leave home to meet an ambulance. The breathing equipment in the ambulance is too large for a small child and he is without oxygen for nearly nine minutes. Ezekiel is taken to two area hospitals before he is transported to Calgary by air.

March 14, 2012: Ezekiel arrives at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, where doctors tell the parents the boy is showing little brain activity and the prognosis is bleak. He is put on life support.

March 16, 2012: Ezekiel dies.

Feb. 14, 2013: The Stephans are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life.

April 27, 2016: A jury finds both parents guilty.

June 24, 2016: David Stephan is sentenced to four months in jail and his wife to three months of house arrest. They say they will appeal.

Nov. 17, 2017: The Alberta Court of Appeal upholds the convictions but, because the ruling wasn't unanimous, the Stephans have an automatic right to take their case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

May 15, 2018: The Supreme Court quashes the convictions and orders a new trial.

June 3, 2019: The second trial begins in Lethbridge, Alta., this time before a judge alone. Originally scheduled to last four weeks, it stretches out over three months.

Sept. 19, 2019: Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terry Clackson delivers a verdict of not guilty.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2019.

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