A Calgary jury who heard details surrounding the death of a malnourished 14-month-old child have convicted the parents of criminal negligence and failure to provide the necessaries of life.
The child, named John, died in 2013 one day after his parents Jennifer and Jeromie Clark brought him to the hospital where he suffered a seizure and went into cardiac arrest.
Pictures shown to the jury during the trial revealed the child’s blackened toes and a red rash that covered a large portion of his body — signs that those who testified said were indicative of the final stages of a “treatable staph infection.”
Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said that the Clarks initially believed the child’s rash was due to eczema, but in reality it was a “skin reaction to malnutrition.”
“It’s the Crown’s theory that these defendants did not feed John properly,” Parker said, adding that his parents “owed him that small, but incredibly important duty.”
During the trial, evidence was presented that showed the Clarks researched “natural remedies” online. But the remedies failed, and when John was finally brought to the Foothills Medical Centre on Nov. 28, 2013, he was already in the final stages of dying.
According to a forensic pathologist’s report, John was malnourished and died from a staph infection less than 24 hours after he was admitted to the hospital.
The Clarks had a notable supporter throughout their trial. David Stephen, who is due to be retried with his wife Collet for the death of their son in 2012 under similar circumstances, sat in the gallery throughout the trial taking notes. He also posted multiple Facebook videos from outside the courthouse, lamenting what he saw as the couple’s persecution.
The Stephans were found guilty in 2016 of allowing their 19-month-old son to die from bacterial meningitis. They were charged in 2015 after their son Ezekiel passed away in March 2012 from a deadly infection which they attempted to treat using “natural remedies” that included hot peppers, garlic, onions, horseradish, and a product from a naturopathic “doctor” who claimed the remedies would boost Ezekiel’s immune system.
The Stephans’ conviction was overturned on a technicality.
Despite the strong evidence against them, the Clarks attempted to pin the blame for their child’s death on the doctors who treated him, claiming they raised the boy’s sodium and fluid levels too aggressively.
“[The doctors are] the heroes in this file and to portray them as the villains really was quite unfair for their efforts to try and save that 14-month-old baby,” Crown prosecutor Parker said.
The Clarks were apparently devoted adherents of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. During Jennifer Clark’s first court appearance in March, she was asked to remove her 1920s flapper-style religious head covering, but she refused.
According to investigators, the Clarks followed a strict vegan diet based on an extreme interpretation of their religion.
Featured image via screen grab