Reverend Nico Vanderstoel's sister is standing up in his defence after he pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death in a Sudbury courtroom last Thursday.

He was accused of failing to properly care for his wife, who was bedridden with multiple sclerosis.

Connie Van Huizen said she doubts some of the details in a statement of facts admitted in court in her brother's case. Both sides in court agreed that Heather Vanderstoel died of infection from bedsores covering much of her body.

In victim impact statements, paramedics said they found her lying in her own waste. She was taken by ambulance to emergency, but died a few weeks later, in April of 2011.

Van Huizen said Heather did not want homecare workers to look after her and said she even threatened to stop talking to her husband if he called for help.

“I still say she is doing this to herself and Nico is paying for it,” she said. “He tried everything in his life [to make her] more comfortable and, always, she turned it down.”

Deserves 'credit'

Eugene Van Huizen — Connie's husband and Nico's brother-in-law — said he often used his carpentry skills to help the couple. He said he built a ramp for Heather at her and Nico’s home, but she never used it.

Van Huizen said Nico paid for special vehicles that Heather didn't use.

“According to the law, he failed her in her last weeks. Well, I think he should also get a little credit in the 25-30 years he looked after her.”

Both Van Huizens said Vanderstoel went above the call of duty in caring for his wife.

Dozens of letters of support for the minister — most of which came from parishioners of St. Stephen’s on the Hill — paint a picture of Vanderstoel as a caring, compassionate husband who was always in touch with his wife.

Vanderstoel was given the opportunity to speak for himself in court last week, but said nothing.

Vanderstoel is now serving three years in jail.