Canadian couple David and Collet Stephan have pleaded not guilty to charges that they “failed to provide the necessities for life” to their 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died of untreated meningitis four years ago. According to the CBC, prosecutors have claimed that the couple attempted to treat their son with home remedies rather than take him to a doctor; the couple allegedly only called an ambulance when he stopped breathing.

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From the CBC:

Crown counsel played an audio tape from a police officer who interviewed the couple after hospital staff called police.

On the tape, Collet Stephan tells the officer a friend, who is a nurse, told the couple the boy likely had meningitis.

In a bid to boost his immune system, the couple gave the boy — who was lethargic and becoming stiff — various home remedies, such as water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root as his condition deteriorated.

Court heard the couple on tape explaining to the police officer that they prefer naturopathic remedies because of their family’s negative experiences with the medical system.

The Stephans run a controversial nutritional supplements company called Truehope Nutritional Support Inc.; in 2004, according to the CBC, Health Canada unsuccessfully tried to block distribution of one of their supplements, called EmpowerPlus, which prosecutors say was also given to Ezekiel. Truehope claims that EmpowerPlus, which basically consists of a variety of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, is an effective treatment for ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, autism, and a myriad of other disorders.

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The couple released a truly batshit statement Sunday to their Facebook group, which, while titled “Prayers for Ezekiel” and described as “A page for positive thoughts/prayers for David, Collet and Ezra Stephan,” mostly seems set up to accept donations to cover court costs.

The statement, which can be seen in full here, claims that the couple is sleep deprived and “stretched thin”; that people “attacking our family” have caused their GoFundMe and YouCaring sites to be shut down; that a government seizure of their supplements in 2003 led to mass suicides; that “Yahshua (Jesus) once said ‘And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’. Free from what one must ask? Free from the Romans or any other tyrannical government of that time or ours? Sure!”; and that “we are all beings of light and love.”

Gonna, um, gonna go ahead and not recommend that you not make a donation.


Contact the author at ellie@jezebel.com.

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Image via stand4truth.ca/donate, the couple’s new donation page.