CALGARY — A former RCMP officer broke down on the witness stand Wednesday at the murder trial for parents of a teen who died of starvation and complications from untreated diabetes.
Emil Radita, 59, and his wife Rodica Radita, 53, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Alexandru, who weighed less than 37 pounds when he died in Calgary in 2013.
Charlene Beck was an RCMP constable who had been called a decade earlier, in October 2003, to investigate a report of possible abuse involving Alexandru at a hospital in Surrey, B.C.
"I had never seen a child in that state."
She testified it was something she will never forget.
"Alexandru was lying in a hospital bed,'' she said, but stopped as she choked back tears.
"At that point of time in my career, I had never seen a child in that state. He was so skinny. He couldn't lift his head. He couldn't lift his arms, couldn't lift his legs. He was a skeleton.
"He talked in very, very quiet whispers and only a few words at a time and you had to literally put your ear to his mouth to hear him.''
Alexandru flourished in foster care
Beck said the last time she saw Alexandru was when he was in foster care in June 2004.
"Had I not been there to see it for my own eyes, I would never have believed that it was the same child. He was what I would call chubby, happy ... non-stop talkative, couldn't sit down in a chair for more than two seconds at a time.''
Beck said the Raditas were charged with negligence and failing to provide the necessaries of life, but the case never proceeded because Alexandru was given back to his parents. The family then moved to Alberta.
Parents didn't believe he was diabetic
Jana Wong, a social worker at B.C. Children's Hospital, testified she was responsible for telling the couple that their son had diabetes in December 2000.
"Mrs. Radita told me that her son didn't have diabetes. She thought that he had an infection and just, with some rest and food, he would be fine,'' she said. "I was a little bit concerned because I thought this was denial was a little bit beyond the norm.''
Wong said a home-care nurse was sent to keep an eye on the family longer than was normally allowed.
She said she was aware Alexandru was readmitted to the hospital in 2003 and was severely malnourished.
"I remember one of the doctors describing him as looking like a poster boy for the children for Africa when they have those big bellies because he looked so ill,'' she said.
Wong said she was worried after Alexandru was returned to the family and kept in contact with the social workers involved in the case.
"Visits with the family were not going well,'' she said. "They said that food was an issue and the mother was using food as power in the relationship.''
A judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, has yet to decide if evidence dealing with the family's time in B.C. will be admitted.
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