Alex Radita 'was doomed,' prosecutor says in final arguments at parents' murder trial

Emil and Rodica Radita had a goal: to find a way for their son to live without insulin because, despite a mountain of evidence of Alex's diagnosis, the couple did not believe he suffered from the ailment, said prosecutor Susan Pepper in her final arguments at the couple's first-degree murder trial.

Video released of emaciated Alex Radita on his 15th birthday, 4 months before his death

Alex Radita, 15, weighed less than 40 lb. when he died. His parents, Emil and Rodica, are accused of refusing to treat his diabetes and neglecting the child. (Left:Court exhibit Right:CBC)

Alex Radita was "doomed and trapped" in his life with parents who refused to acknowledge or treat his diabetes, prosecutor Susan Pepper said Thursday in her final arguments at the couple's first-degree murder trial.

Emil and Rodica Radita had a goal, said Pepper, to find a way for their son to live without insulin because, despite a mountain of evidence of Alex's diagnosis, the couple did not believe he suffered from the ailment.

  • The court released a video exhibit of Alex's final birthday, an excerpt of which can be found below.
  • WARNING: The video may be disturbing to some viewers.

"Alex could no more live without insulin, than he could live without a heart," said Pepper. "He was doomed — doomed and trapped by the two people with the power to save him."

"What little life he was allowed in the end was marked by pain, by sickness and by a profound loneliness that must come from knowing the world is not for you. "

Since Alex was first diagnosed at age two when the family lived in British Columbia, his parents repeatedly told medical officials they did not believe their son had diabetes. 

When he was five-years-old, Alex was taken from his parents after nearly dying from untreated diabetes. Once he was returned to his family, Emil and Rodica eventually moved to Alberta where the child was never taken to see a doctor.

"Alex was an isolated child, he had no resources outside of his family, he knew no one," said Pepper.

The evidence presented at trial from the family's time in B.C. is some of the strongest that the Radita parents knew the consequence of withholding treatment was Alex's death, said Pepper.

"Rodica continued to express an egotistical attachment to her own position," said Pepper. "[She] cared more about being right than about the truth."

At times throughout Pepper's arguments, Rodica shook her head in disagreement.

'Dependent as an infant'

On Tuesday, Alex's youngest sister told the judge that, despite other church members' testimony that they do believe in traditional medical care, her parents did not believe in doctors because of their religion.

"There is no right in law that permits a parent to use a child as a religious experiment or sacrifice to faith," said Pepper.

In reviewing the parents' conduct after Alex's death, Pepper noted that both lied to authorities about Alex's medical condition and history.

"The Raditas lied because they knew they had something to hide," said Pepper.

"It is beyond imagining that any human being would not have known that Alex was dying. It is obvious that Alex was deteriorating for months."

Justice Karen Horner released a video of Alex from his 15th birthday, taken as the already emaciated boy slowly unwraps gifts from his siblings 

In the video, he is already showing signs of severe emaciation, four months before paramedics would discover the boy dead inside his home covered in 41 sores, one on his neck so deep, the child's jaw bone was visible.

"He was as dependent as an infant in the end, with no one in the world outside of the family," said prosecutor Susan Pepper. "His parents were the sole keepers of his life and they withheld that life by denying him insulin, food and medical care."

WARNING: Disturbing Content - Alex Radita's last birthday

CBC News Calgary

5 years ago
Video released from the murder trial of Emil and Rodica Radita, who are accused of killing their son Alex, who was found dead in their home four months after his 15th birthday, weighing just 37 lbs. (The audio has been disabled by court order.) 0:50

The video — which was released on the condition no sound is used and no other Radita family members shown — shows Alex so weak he struggles to unwrap the presents, which include a teddy bear.

"At some point, the accused knew that their plan was killing their son or they knew that he was likely to die and they accepted this consequence," said Pepper. "They knew this and yet continued their plan."

For the five years the family lived in Alberta until Alex's death, the boy never attended school and never saw a doctor.

"For the accused to be able to execute their plan, they had to evade the scrutiny of doctors and school officials who might stand in the way of their plan,"​ said Pepper.

"Both watched as his body blistered from the horrifying effects of starvation."

In defence closing arguments on Wednesday, lawyers Andrea Serink and Jim Lutz argued the Crown has not proven the Raditas planned or intended Alex's death. 

"The only real question this court needs to answer all centres around intent," lawyer Andrea Serink, who represents Rodica Radita, said in her final argument.

"You have to be satisfied that the only conclusion is that these individuals intended to have Alex die or intended to put him in circumstances that they knew would result in his death."

'There was nothing left of him'

The evidence presented by the Crown throughout the five week trial was reviewed by Pepper.

Paramedic Deborah Baumback was first to discover the emaciated boy in his bed in May, 2013.

"There was nothing left of him," said Baumback. "The jaw bone on the left side had an open sore. It was so deep, it looked like you could actually see the jaw bone sticking through."

Emil Radita told Baumback that Alex had been diagnosed with diabetes a month earlier and that he was on two types of insulin.

Const. Larry Pugliese arrived shortly after Baumback. He testified that Emil told him he found Alex dead at 6 p.m. but the 911 call didn't come in until just after 10 p.m.

Pugliese said Emil told him he didn't call for help sooner because Alex didn't want medical treatment while Rodica told the officer her son's sickness was due to the flu and he had diarrhea.

'He does not have diabetes'

"It was clear from the evidence early on that diabetes would become important to understanding the life and death of Alexandru Radita," Pepper told Justice Karen Horner.

Alex was diagnosed with diabetes at age three when the Raditas lived in Surrey, B.C., and was hospitalized three times — once so ill, one doctor testified the boy was just hours from death.

 In 2003, social services seized the boy for a year because his parents repeatedly refused to accept his diagnosis and treat him.

"I told the mother that her child had diabetes, that he was stable, he was turning the corner, and she told me, 'he does not have diabetes,'" said Dr. Michael Seear, who treated Alex 

After Alex's near-death hospitalization, he was seized from his family and placed with a foster mother before a B.C. judge decided to return the child to his family about a year later.

The family left the province and moved to Alberta where Alex never saw a doctor in the five years he lived in this province.

'Prayer and only prayer'

Alex's parents told members of their Romanian Pentecostal Church that he'd died and was resurrected by God and came back to life.

About 15 members of the church were brought to the Radita home to pray for Alex. Once they saw the boy, some of the elders insisted Emil call 911.

A letter written by one of the boy's siblings was found in the garbage. The girl wrote that her brother's appearance frightened her and that she planned to pray for him.

"The solution to a dying Alex was prayer and only prayer," said Pepper.

'A little bit of food, a little bit of insulin'

Dr. Daniele Pacaud, a pediatric diabetes expert testified that Alex would have suffered for months leading up to his death. 

In reviewing the Radita family's Safeway pharmacy records, a dramatic decrease in diabetic supplies was noticeable between 2009 and 2013, and none were bought in the six months leading to Alex's death.

"A little bit of food, a little bit of insulin keeps a person limping along," said Pepper.

Alexandru was well below the first percentile for height and weight, Pacaud concluded that the boy passed away from an overwhelming infection in the context of severe malnutrition, his teeth "were rotted to stumps."

The teen had a neck wound so deep, his jaw bone was visible, Dr. Jeffery Godton said his neck muscles were "near total liquefaction."

An autopsy found Alex's body was covered in 41 ulcers and wounds.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Karen Horner is presiding over the case and will set a date to deliver her decision after final arguments conclude.