Angry Exchanges at Trial for Couple Whose Boy Died of Bacterial Meningitis

June 11, 2019 Updated: June 11, 2019

LETHBRIDGE, AB.—A medical examiner who did the autopsy on a 19-month-old toddler whose parents are on trial in his death clashed with the boy’s father in court Monday.

David and Collet Stephan are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life for their son Ezekiel, when the family lived in southwestern Alberta in 2012.

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

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

Adeagbo was a medical examiner in Calgary before he left for a new job in Indiana a year ago. He testified via video from Terre Haute.

Although he conducted the autopsy in March of 2012, his final report wasn’t completed for seven months.

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

He sent samples of the toddler’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 about why he died,” said Adeagbo.

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

David Stephan, who is acting as his own lawyer, spent over four hours grilling Adeagbo about why the doctor didn’t have the fluid and tissue samples checked for a viral infection. Stephan also questioned why Adeagbo had the lab conduct a test that was only used for research at the time.

“You provided a diagnosis using a test that was not approved for diagnostic testing?” asked Stephan.

“No, because that diagnosis was already made. It is important to know exactly what caused it. That diagnosis was real,” replied Adeagbo.

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

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

“I think you as the parent should be happy to actually know what caused the bacterial meningitis for this kid,” Adeagbo told Stephan.

“To be frank, you should be happy to know the cause.”

The pathologist’s comments have yet to be admitted into evidence at the trial, as the defence is questioning his qualifications.

Lawyer Shawn Buckley, who is representing Collet Stephan, is arguing that there is an “issue of bias” with the witness. A voir dire, which is considered a separate trial, is being held to determine whether Adeagbo will be allowed to testify as an expert in forensic pathology.

The Stephans are being tried for a second time.

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

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