File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeals trial in Calgary. A judge has ruled that statements given to an RCMP officer and a child abuse consultant by the Alberta couple, charged in the meningitis death of their son, were done voluntarily and are admissible at their upcoming trial.

Judge rules Alberta couple’s statements in son’s death admissible at trial

LETHBRIDGE — A judge has ruled that statements given to an RCMP officer and a child abuse consultant by an Alberta couple charged in the meningitis death of their son were done voluntarily and are admissible at their upcoming trial.

The statements — given by David and Collet Stephan at Alberta Children’s hospital in March 2012 — were the focus of a case management hearing in Lethbridge prior to their trial before a judge without a jury in June.

The couple had sought to have them ruled inadmissible, but Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke ruled Thursday that they were made to a person in authority and that the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they were given voluntarily.

The Stephans also argued to have their case thrown out under a so-called Jordan application because of the time it’s taken to make its way through the courts, but the application was adjourned.

In 2016, the Stephans were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the conviction and a new trial was ordered.

In January, Rooke refused a request from the Stephans for $4 million to pay for past and future legal bills and to delay their retrial.

Speaking outside court, David Stephan said he wasn’t surprised the judge allowed their statements to be admitted at trial.

“(Rooke) has taken major issue over any of the controversial ones that would expose the RCMP corruption and hospital corruption in engineering the case against us,” he said.

Rooke said the officer who spoke to the Stephans asked open-ended questions and made it clear he didn’t know if a crime may have been committed.

He said the RCMP officer made no threats to the couple, including whether to potentially take their son away, noting that the Mountie was “nothing but compassionate.”

As well, Rooke found that no one who dealt with the Stephans was an undercover officer or agent, and that no one misrepresented themselves.

The Stephans had earlier told the court that they were never informed by either the RCMP or a child abuse pediatrician that they didn’t have to speak with them.

The original trial in Lethbridge heard evidence that the couple treated the boy with natural remedies and smoothies made with garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor.

He had been ill for several days and at one point became so stiff he couldn’t sit in his car seat.

Once the boy stopped breathing, the Stephans called 911 but he died in the Calgary hospital.

The Stephans now live in Grande Prairie, Alta.

It’s not clear whether they will have a lawyer for the scheduled four-week trial.

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