Alex Radita was one of his parents' 'favourites,' court hears at their murder trial
Underage witness cannot be named because of publication ban
Alex Radita, who weighed just 37 pounds when he was found dead at age 15, was a vibrant and artistic teen who was one of his parents' "favourites," his sister testified at her parents' murder trial in Calgary on Tuesday.
Defence lawyers have indicated the girl — whose name and age are protected by a publication ban — will be their only witness, so the trial will move to closing arguments after her testimony.
Crown prosecutor Susan Pepper told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Karen Horner that the witness has been "deeply traumatized" since her brother's death so a large screen was erected in front of the accused to prevent the girl from seeing her parents.
"He was a very vibrant person, he was very artistic, smart, he was one of the favourites," said the girl as she described Alex for the court. "He was one of my mom's favourites."
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Emil and Rodica Radita, who have seven surviving children, were charged with first-degree murder after Alex's emaciated body was found inside the family's Calgary home in 2013.
The teen died of complications from untreated diabetes.
Both parents have pleaded not guilty.
The Raditas had a long history of denying Alex's condition and refusing to properly treat it, according to evidence presented earlier in the trial.
When paramedics were called to the home in May 2013, they encountered about 20 people who were inside, kneeling, chanting and praying, according to the testimony of one of the paramedics who said Alex looked "emaciated to the fact that he looked mummified."
In 2003 when the family was living in British Columbia, Alex was seized by B.C. social services after he nearly died from untreated diabetes — the same allegations the parents now face in relation to his death. Court heard evidence the diabetic boy had gone, at times, years without seeing a doctor.
Alex's sister testified on Tuesday that her brother liked playing Pokemon and that he had wanted a Build-a Bear teddy so her parents took the family to CrossIron Mills mall and bought him one.
She said her parents would try to feed Alex, but "he would deny it."
The trial ran out of scheduled time in June after the judge heard five weeks of Crown evidence. After a break for the summer, one week for trial continuation was set aside and the case, which is now in the hands of defence lawyers Jim Lutz and Andrea Serink, will move to closing arguments after Tuesday's witness.
'Your parents didn't believe in doctors'
Crown prosecutor Susan Pepper spent a few minutes in cross- examination.
"Your parents didn't believe in doctors because of their religion. Is that right?" she asked the sister.
"Yes," she replied.
"So when Alex was sick he didn't go to the doctor, right?" continued Pepper.
"That's right," the sister said.
The trial began May 24 and the Crown concluded its case in June before it was adjourned for the summer. It has argued the teen's parents fostered complete dependence by keeping their son out of school and isolating him from the community.
On Tuesday, the defence had the witness identify a number of photos that included Alex, herself and another sibling. Some were at a shopping mall and others showed them eating cupcakes and pizza.
'Are you guys happy for today?'
Court was shown a video taken by the witness of a drive back from the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller in which she sang, made animals noises and did a running commentary.
There was the occasional blurred glimpse of Alex and another brother and sister.
At one point Emil Radita is heard saying to them: "Are you guys happy for today?"
The defence has wrapped up its case and closing arguments are scheduled to begin Wednesday afternoon.
Follow along with our blog for what happened in court this morning. On our CBC News app? You can see it here.
With files from The Canadian Press