'I now know better': Mother guilty in son's strep death speaks at sentencing hearing
Tamara Lovett used herbal remedies instead of going to doctor before Ryan died of infection
A Calgary mother who was found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of her seven-year-old son says she no longer holds the same beliefs she did when she refused to take the boy to a hospital, treating him with oil of oregano and dandelion tea instead.
At a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Prosecutor Jonathan Hak argued Lovett should spend four to five years in prison. Defence lawyer Alain Hepner proposed one year in prison and one year probation.
"No punishment that you impose can equal the pain and torment that's experienced by her," Hepner told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik.
During the trial, court was told the bedridden boy — who was never taken to a doctor for his illness — deteriorated in his mother's apartment for 10 days before his death despite one of Tamara Lovett's friends pleading with her to take him for medical care.
At the trial, Lovett, 48, testified she treated Ryan for what she believed to be a cold or flu with holistic remedies like dandelion tea and oil of oregano.
On March 2, 2013, Lovett called 911 after finding Ryan on the floor outside the bathroom in their apartment. The boy was dead by the time paramedics arrived. An autopsy found Ryan Lovett died from a Group A strep infection in 2013.
Lovett was given the opportunity to address the court and expressed her grief, sadness and regret.
Read her full statement below.
"Every day I punish myself; I think about Ryan and I blame myself for not knowing better and for holding limiting beliefs that ultimately led to the death of my child. At the time, I thought I was doing the best for my child. And although I have lost faith in myself and can't begin to forgive myself, I hope others learn from my ignorance because these beliefs are no longer entrenched in my psyche and this has been a painful lesson.
"Every moment of every day is a reminder of what I've lost. I loved my children, and as any single mother can attest, I wanted the best for them. I believed I was doing what was the best at that time. I now know better. Forgive me for my ignorance. It has cost me a loving son and there is a pain which will last forever. And at the end of the day, it's all about Ryan, it's not about me, and I am so sorry.
'Everything went wrong'
At trial, Doctors testified the infection would have been treatable had the boy, who also had meningitis and pneumonia, been taken to a doctor and given antibiotics.
Lovett was morally and legally responsible to act in Ryan's best interests, Hak told Eidsvik.
"[She] ignored obvious warning signs. In doing so, her son suffered unnecessarily for two weeks or so leading to his death," said Hak.
A pre-sentence psychiatric report found Lovett is "grief stricken for failing her son."
"Tamara Lovett has suffered the ultimate penalty as a result of her actions," Hepner said.
According to a report prepared by forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Duska, Lovett is socially isolated and feels "helpless and hopeless."
"I misjudged the situation, everything went wrong," Lovett told Duska.
Defence wants conviction overturned
Even though she's already been convicted, Lovett's lawyer has set a date next month for a Jordan application, meaning he will argue his client's constitutional right to a timely trial was violated. If the judge agrees, the case would end and Lovett would not be sentenced.
The Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision last year set out a framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed to the point where it has violated an accused's charter rights.
The high court imposed hard timelines of 30 months for a case to make its way through superior courts and 18 months for provincial courts.
Lovett was charged in November 2013 and didn't go to trial until 36 months later in November 2016. It will be up to the judge to determine who the delay is attributable to.
Eidsvik will deliver a sentence only if the Jordan application is unsuccessful.