'I feel the presence of his loss': Calgary parents guilty in death of toddler address court

"I can never get over the fact that John doesn't get to be a man," says a Calgary father as he and his wife faced a sentencing hearing. They were convicted in the death of their toddler, who was taken to hospital in septic shock, with four gangrenous toes.

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark's son John died in 2013

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark leave a sentencing hearing at the Calgary Courts Centre after the couple were found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of their 14-month-old son in 2013. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A Calgary couple who waited too long to take their dying toddler to a doctor told the judge they felt sorrow, grief and remorse at the loss of their son.

In October, a jury found Jennifer and Jeromie Clark guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life for their 14-month-old son, John, who died in 2013. 

On Friday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Jeffrey allowed the couple to address the court as a part of the sentencing process. 

'I cried often and still do'

Standing in the prisoner's box dressed in all black, Jennifer Clark told the court that prior to his death, she and John were inseparable. 

"I would often tell my husband that me an Johnny were one, it really felt like that," she said. 

The mother says she's had difficulty processing the loss of her son. 

"When death took Johnny and I realized it was permanent, I cannot explain the depth it hit me," she said. "I cried often and still do."

Jeromie Clark told the judge he had a hard time expressing his feelings about what had happened to John, but that he felt grief, remorse and the sorrow of his wife and family.

"I loved my son John, and I love him right now," he said. "I feel the presence of his loss."

And the father said he often thinks about what could have been for John. 

"I can never get over the fact that John doesn't get to be a man. He doesn't get to be a teenager riding around on his bike with friends, throwing rocks in the river and stuff," he said.

Jeffrey has ordered a pre-sentence report be completed for the Clarks.

He has asked for an update on that process at the end of the month, with the intention of setting a sentencing date for May.

Defence blamed hospital during trial

During the trial last year, jurors heard John was brought to hospital on Nov. 28, 2013, in septic shock and hypothermic, and he had a blistering rash covering more than 70 per cent of his body.

Four of John's toes were black with gangrene. 

Emergency and intensive care doctors testified the boy's abnormally low heart rate and hypothermic state were a sign he was likely in the final stages of an overwhelming infection.

The day after doctors began treating him, the malnourished boy died from a staph infection. 

During the trial, defence lawyers David Chow and John Phillips blamed staff at the hospital for John's death. They argued the child had either contracted his deadly infection at the hospital or that doctors raised his saline levels too quickly. 

It's not yet known what prosecutors Shane Parker and Jennifer Crews​ or the defence lawyers will propose for a sentence. However, in 2017, Tamara Lovett was sentenced to three years in prison for criminal negligence causing death after she failed to take her sick seven-year-old son to a doctor. Ryan Lovett died in 2013 from a treatable strep infection.

Other failing to provide the necessaries cases

Another set of parents have been keeping a close eye on the Clark's sentencing hearing. David Stephan attended most of the Clark's trial, posting videos about what he described as the couple's unfair treatment in both the courtroom and by the media.

He was present at the proceedings again on Friday.

In June, Stephan and wife Collet will be tried a second time in the death of their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel, who died from meningitis in 2012.

The Stephans were found guilty in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life. However, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned their conviction and ordered a new trial after finding the judge did not properly instruct jurors before they began deliberating.

During their first trial in Lethbridge, jurors heard evidence that the couple treated the boy with garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor. The Stephans eventually called 911 but the toddler died in hospital


Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at

With files from The Canadian Press