A Canadian couple convicted for “failing to provide the necessities of life” and allowing their 19-month-old son to die from bacterial meningitis, were given some surprisingly light sentences by Justice Rodney Jerke, who reassured shocked observers of the trial that David Stephan, 33, and his wife Collet, 36, were actually “caring” parents who didn’t intend to put their child at risk.
Before handing down separate sentences of 4 months in jail for David and house arrest only for Collet, the judge made sure to note that the couple made a conscious decision not to see a doctor for well over a day before their 19-month-old son Ezekial was rushed to a hospital.
“Any reasonable and prudent person would have taken action,” he said as Collet sobbed quietly.
According to the CBC, The prosecution asked for a sentence of 3 to 4½ years in prison, “while the defense had argued for a suspended or conditional sentence with no time behind bars.”
Jerke said the prosecution’s request was “far too harsh.”
However, he said Collet was “willfully blind” to the fact her conduct would put Ezekiel’s life at risk of death.
Prosecutors say the couple fed the ailing child supplements and maple syrup with an eye dropper and refused to call for an ambulance until the boy stopped breathing. Authorities also stated that Ezekiel was sick for weeks and his parents would not seek medical care.
The boy was airlifted to a Calgary hospital and put on life support for five days before he died.
Before handing down the differing sentences for the couple, the judge pointed out that Collet did research and called a nurse about her son’s illness.
By contrast, he said, David simply got more nutritional supplements and, instead of calling of 911, called his father.
The judge said David has deflected responsibility and demonstrated a complete lack of remorse for his actions, focusing more on how the situation affected him as opposed to his son.
“[David] loved his son, but to this day refuses to accept his actions played any role in Ezekiel’s death,” the judge said.
“David’s moral culpability is greater than Collet’s.”
Part of the sentence orders the Stephans’ three other children to see a medical doctor at least once a year and a public health nurse every three months.
Both parents will have to complete 240 hours of community service.