Skip to main content

Alberta Medical examiner tells Alberta couple’s trial that child died of bacterial meningitis

The Stephans are being tried for a second time. A jury found the couple guilty in 2016, but the Supreme Court overturned the convictions last year and ordered a new trial. This one is being heard without a jury.

Todd Korol/The Canadian Press

A medical examiner who did the autopsy on a 19-month-old toddler, whose parents are on trial for his death, says there’s no question the boy died of bacterial meningitis.

David and Collet Stephan are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life for their son, Ezekiel, when the family lived in southwestern Alberta in March, 2012.

The pathologist said his autopsy on March 19 of that year concluded the boy died of bacterial meningitis and a lung infection.

Story continues below advertisement

“That was very clear right from the beginning why this child died. There was no confusion about why he died,” Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo told the judge hearing the case in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench.

“It was obvious it was bacterial meningitis and empyema. There was no trauma or anything that is suspicious.”

Dr. Adeagbo was a medical examiner in Calgary before leaving for a new job in Indiana a year ago. He testified via video link from Terre Haute.

Although Dr. Adeagbo conducted his autopsy on Ezekiel in March, the doctor’s final report wasn’t completed until the end of October that year.

He said it was important that he take the proper amount of time to give a full explanation in the report. That meant sending samples of the toddler’s cerebral spinal fluid and a biopsy of his right lung, which had an infectious mass, to a microbiologist.

“It took a while,” he acknowledged Monday.

The pathologist said he also sent his report for a peer review, which was normal in Alberta at the time of the boy’s death.

Story continues below advertisement

“It was a standard thing … for every suspected pediatric homicide no matter what the age,” he told the court.

“It took some time to finish the explanation even though it was very clear.”

The pathologist’s comments haven’t been admitted into evidence as the defence is questioning him in a voir dire held to determine whether he will be allowed to testify as an expert witness.

Lawyer Shawn Buckley, representing Collet Stephan, has said there is an “issue of bias” with Dr. Adeagbo, but the lawyer’s arguments haven’t been heard yet.

The Stephans are being tried for a second time. A jury found the couple guilty in 2016, but the Supreme Court overturned the convictions last year and ordered a new trial. This one is being heard without a jury.

The trial has been told that the Stephans thought Ezekiel was ill with the flu and treated him with alternative health remedies even though a midwife and a naturopathic doctor suggested they seek medical treatment for their son.

Story continues below advertisement

The couple called 911 when the child stopped breathing, but he died in hospital.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Cannabis pro newsletter