LETHBRIDGE – The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on 18-month-old Ezekiel Stephan, who died from meningitis in March 2012, testified Thursday.
The boy’s parents, David Stephan, 32, and his wife Collet Stephan, 35, are charged with failing to provide the necessities of life. They pleaded not guilty.
It was a lengthy cross examination by the defense that went late into the night.
Medical examiner Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo told the court that in March 2012 baby Ezekiel was brain dead when EMS met up with the couple — who had started driving to meet the ambulance because the toddler stopped breathing.
Adeagbo said paramedics’ attempts to revive the child for seven to eight minutes were not the reason he became brain dead.
He stated the toddler was already brain dead when EMS first saw the child. He went on to say the brain acts differently when it has a lack of oxygen, compared to when it’s reacting to meningitis.
According to Adeagbo, when he examined the child’s brain there were no signs that it was a lack of oxygen. He said Ezekiel was dead before EMS intervened.
READ MORE: Jury trial begins for southern Alberta parents accused in toddler’s death from meningitis
Earlier Thursday, Adeagbo testified he performed the autopsy on March 19, 2012 and determined the cause of death to be bacterial meningitis and empyema, an infection of the lungs.
Adeagbo said symptoms of meningitis can come and go, and show more or less severity over the time of the illness. He compared the rise and fall of severity of symptoms to a roller coaster; meaning they can spike and drop over a period of time. For instance, he explained the patient could have a fever one day, then it would be gone the next day and it could return again.
Adeagbo said symptoms can vary from person to person, some showing very few signs.
He also said the lung infection would impact breathing and both illnesses could make a person lethargic and weak.
Adeagbo testified meningitis would not come on within minutes or hours, but would take days to infect a patient. In this case though, he couldn’t specify how many days it took.
“How long did it take Ezekiel to die?” the Crown asked.
“I cannot tell, but disease developed and evolved over time,” Adeagbo said.
READ MORE: Clinic employee testifies in trial of Alberta parents accused in son’s meningitis death
On Wednesday, an employee at the Lethbridge Naturopathic Medical Clinic took the stand. Tuesday, a social worker who interviewed the Stephans at the Alberta Children’s Hospital testified.
On Monday, the Crown said the parents should have ensured Ezekiel medical attention long before he stopped breathing.
In his opening statement, Crown Prosecutor Clayton Giles said, “the jury needs to answer this question: at what point should the accused have taken Ezekiel to the doctor?”
“I’m not saying they killed him, abused him or ignored him—they loved him,” he said. “They didn’t take him to a doctor until it was too late—far too late.”