Thursday , October 21 2021

Swapping at the time of trial for the pair whose boy died of bacterial meningitis


LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – A coroner who did the autopsy on a 19-month-old child whose parents are being tried on his death clashed with the boy's father in court on Monday.

David and Collet Stephan are accused of failing to provide the life needs of their son Ezekiel when the family lived in southwestern Alberta in 2012.

The trial heard the couple thought that Ezekiel was ill with the flu and treated him with alternative health remedies, even though a midwife and a naturopathic doctor suggested that he take medical treatment.

Bamidele Adeagbo told the Lethbridge trial that the autopsy concluded that the child died of bacterial meningitis and lung infection.

Adeagbo was a medical examiner in Calgary before leaving for a new job in Indiana a year ago. He witnessed video footage of Terre Haute.

Although he performed the autopsy in March 2012, his final report was not completed for seven months.

Adeagbo said it was important that he take adequate time to give a full explanation in his final autopsy report.

He sent samples of a child's cerebral spinal fluid and a biopsy of his right lung, which had an infectious mass, to a microbiologist, and that took time.

"There was no confusion as to why he died," Adeagbo said.

"It was obvious that it was bacterial meningitis and empyema. There was no trauma or anything suspicious."

David Stephan, who is acting as his own lawyer, spent more than four hours criticizing Adeagbo over why the doctor did not check fluid and tissue samples for a viral infection. Stephan also wondered why Adeagbo had the lab perform a test that was only used for research at the time.

"Did you provide a diagnosis using a test that was not approved for diagnostic tests?" Stephan asked.

"No, because this diagnosis has already been made, it is important to know exactly what caused it," said Adeagbo.

"And yet a test that is not approved for research purposes is being used to determine if it was bacterial meningitis?" Stephan continued.

Adeagbo said the test was used in the United States and Europe and should provide a clearer picture of what happened to Ezekiel.

"I think you as a parent should be happy to know what caused bacterial meningitis for this kid," Adeagbo told Stephan.

"To be honest, you should be happy to know the cause."

The pathologist's comments still need to be admitted as evidence at trial, as the defense is questioning their qualifications.

Lawyer Shawn Buckley, who represents Collet Stephan, is arguing that there is a "bias issue" with the witness. A voir dire, which is considered a separate trial, is being held to determine whether Adeagbo can testify as an expert in forensic pathology.

The Stephans are being tried for the second time.

A jury found the couple guilty in 2016, but the Supreme Court overturned the convictions last year and ordered a retrial. This is before a judge alone.

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