A Calgary boy who died in 2013 lived in "squalor" in a "dark and dirty apartment" with his mother, who is accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life after treating his meningitis and strep infection with dandelion tea and oil of oregano.
Tamara Lovett, 47, went on trial Monday in Calgary on that charge, as well as a charge of criminal negligence causing death.
(Although unusual in everyday parlance, the word "necessaries" — not "necessities" — is the term the legal system uses.)
Ryan Lovett, 7, did not have a birth certificate and had never seen a doctor because his mother "did not believe in conventional medicine," Crown prosecutor Jonathan Hak told court Monday in his opening statement.
"She was, of course, proven wrong when, hours later, Ryan died in her apartment."
911 call played in court
After Ryan was bedridden for 10 days, Lovett was told by a friend that she should bring Ryan to a doctor, but she refused, according to the prosecutor. Ryan died the next day.
Hak played the 911 call made by Lovett for Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik.
- Warning, some listeners may find this content disturbing. Listen to the 911 call:
"He's been running a fever and he's convulsing right now … I'm holding him right now," Lovett can be heard saying to the 911 operator.
Covered in vomit and cold to the touch, Ryan was already dead when paramedics and police arrived at Lovett's apartment to find the child lying in the hallway, said Hak.
Paramedic Teresa Coulter, who was first on scene, described a "very, very difficult" environment to work in because of the darkness and clutter.
The Crown prosecutor told court the boy was living in "squalor" and in a "dark and dirty apartment."
'I should have brought you in sooner'
A Code 99 — which is a call for backup — was enacted as Coulter testified Ryan's condition was lifeless and needing "all interventions."
Because she'd been exposed to a group A streptococcus infection, Coulter had to take antibiotics for a month.
Another paramedic, Craig Nichol, testified that the mother was frantic.
"I should have brought you in sooner," Nichol testified Lovett was saying to her son over and over.
Aside from meningitis and a strep infection, Ryan also had pneumonia, jaundice and multiple organ failure, Hak told the judge.
"All he needed was antibiotics," said Hak.
Lovett was 'distraught'
Testimony was heard Monday from several police officers who were first on scene alongside paramedics and then accompanied Ryan and his mother to the hospital.
Ryan was pronounced dead almost immediately after arriving at the hospital and Const. Jared Euverman was tasked with staying with the boy's body.
He told defence lawyer Alain Hepner that Lovett was allowed to be with her son's body for 40 minutes until the medical investigator arrived and she was asked to leave.
"At the hospital, I recall her being speechless, shocked," said Euverman. "Clearly there was some level of grief."
Det. Kevin Lisowski remained with Lovett and said she sobbed uncontrollably and was "distraught."
The trial is expected to last two weeks.