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Couple charged in child’s death targeted over belief in natural medicine: family

RAYMOND — A relative of an Alberta couple charged after a toddler died of meningitis thinks the family’s belief in nutritional supplements is behind an “overzealous” prosecution.

David and Collet Stephan have been charged with failing to provide the necessities of life for their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel.

The child died nearly a year ago and RCMP charged the couple this week. The 29-year-old man and 32-year-old woman, from the town of Glenwood, are to appear in Lethbridge court in May.

“Whatever’s going on here stinks,” the man’s brother Brad Stephan said Thursday. “I don’t see anybody else getting charged for having meningitis.

“I almost have to wonder if we don’t have an officer somewhere or someone just acting overzealous ... We just feel this is just really over the top and we’re not understanding why.”

It’s unclear whether Mounties are alleging the couple didn’t act quickly enough to get their son proper medical treatment. The RCMP have simply said the boy fell ill in February 2012 and it wasn’t until March 13, when he stopped breathing, that his parents called for an ambulance.

Family said officers questioned the couple for hours after they arrived at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. The boy was placed on life-support machines and died five days later.

An autopsy confirmed he had a bacterial infection that spread into his bloodstream and lungs, causing meningitis, Brad Stephan said. Meningitis symptoms, such as fever and rash, can at first appear mild but quickly escalate. The condition can be fatal within a few hours.

Brad Stephan said the couple loved their son. They simply didn’t know he was so sick.

The curly-haired tyke had developed a cough but he appeared to be getting better. Hours before he stopped breathing, he was an active little boy, said his uncle.

“He was playing with his dad. He was eating. Everything seemed good.”

 
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