03/10/2016 14:03 EST | Updated 03/11/2017 00:12 EST

Medical examiner testifies cause of toddler's death was meningitis

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A forensic pathologist has testified that an Alberta toddler whose parents are charged in his death had bacterial meningitis and a lung infection.

Forensic pathologist Bamidele Adeagbo, who was on the stand Thursday in the trial of David and Collet Stephan, said 19-month-old Ezekiel died of a combination of the two conditions.

The doctor said meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, and empyema is an accumulation of pus in an anatomical cavity, in this case, the little boy's lungs were covered in pus.

Adeagbo told the jury that the condition would have made breathing difficult, but symptoms would have fluctuated with spikes and dives, much like a roller-coaster.

The Stephans have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life to Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.

The jury in Lethbridge has heard the couple first thought the boy had croup and treated him with natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion.

The couple did seek advice from a friend, who is a registered nurse and suggested the child could have viral meningitis. She recommended Collet take Ezekiel to a medical doctor.

Collet researched viral meningitis on an online website, which indicated most people, even without specific therapy, recover from less severe form of meningitis.

During an recorded interview on March 15, 2012, Collet Stephan told RCMP that Ezekiel's body was too stiff to get him into his car seat. The couple put a mattress in the back of their vehicle to take him to a naturopath.

The day after, Ezekiel stopped breathing and was rushed by ambulance to hospital in Lethbridge, then airlifted to Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. After five days, doctors took him off life support.

The Stephans were charged nearly a year later with failing to provide their son with the necessities of life. The Crown contends the couple didn't do enough to ensure the toddler had proper access to medical care before he became seriously ill.

(Lethbridge Herald)