A southern Alberta couple accused of allowing their meningitis-infected toddler to die four years ago tried home remedies such as olive leaf extract and whey protein rather than take him to a doctor, a Lethbridge jury heard Monday.

David Stephan, 32, and his wife Collet Stephan, 35, have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.

RCMP said at the time that the boy had been ill for a couple of weeks but his parents only called for an ambulance when he stopped breathing.

The Crown alleges the parents fed the boy supplements with an eye dropper, lay down with him and consulted a friend.


However, they did not seek medical help until the toddler stopped breathing, the Crown told court.

Ezekiel was airlifted to a hospital in Calgary and, after five days, doctors took him off life support machines.

Doctors told the boy's parents he died of meningitis.

Crown counsel played an audio tape from a police officer who interviewed the couple after hospital staff called police.

On the tape, Collet Stephan tells the officer a friend, who is a nurse, told the couple the boy likely had meningitis.

Home remedies given as condition deteriorated

In a bid to boost his immune system, the couple gave the boy — who was lethargic and becoming stiff — various home remedies, such as water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root as his condition deteriorated.

Court heard the couple on tape explaining to the police officer that they prefer naturopathic remedies because of their family's negative experiences with the medical system.

The Crown told court the couple loved their son and are not accused of ignoring or killing him. But they should have sought medical help sooner, the Crown argues.

David Stephan works at a nutritional supplements company called Truehope Nutritional Support Inc. out of Raymond, Alta.

Health Canada launched an unsuccessful court case in 2004 to try to stop the distribution of the company's supplement Empowerplus — a product the company claims can manage mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder — and also issued warnings about it.

In 2006, the company was found not guilty of distributing Empowerplus without a drug identification number.

Court also heard the Stephans tried treating Ezekiel with Empowerplus.

The family has posted on social media that they feel they are being unfairly persecuted and that their approach to health should be respected.


  • An earlier version of this story stated David and Collet Stephan run Truehope. In fact they do not. The company has clarified on its Facebook page that David works at the company but does not hold a management position.
    Mar 10, 2016 3:21 PM MT
With files from the CBC's Kate Adach and The Canadian Press