06/23/2016 11:48 EDT

David And Collet Stephan: Sentencing Arguments Begin For Parents Guilty Of Toddler's Death

"Mr. and Mrs. Stephan did not provide Ezekiel with medical attention."

Prayers For Ezekiel/Facebook

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A weeping mother convicted in the death of her son told a sentencing hearing Thursday that losing her toddler was the worst day of her life.

Collet and David Stephan were convicted in April of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in 2012 of bacterial meningitis. The maximum sentence is five years in prison.

The Stephans, whose family helped start a nutritional supplements company, failed to get medical attention for the boy, and instead treated him with home remedies such as garlic, onions, horseradish and maple syrup.

Collet Stephan, one of five witnesses called by her lawyer Shawn Buckley, told court in Lethbridge, Alta., that she was depressed, suffered panic attacks and had nightmares about her children being stolen.

David and Collet Stephan were convicted in April in the death of their son. (Photo: CP)

"I had a nightmare after we were charged of a SWAT team breaking into our house in the middle of the night and stealing our children,'' she said.

"I didn't know what was going to happen with our children or us, and being a mother is my purpose in life. It's the reason I am here.''

Stephan told court she has spent the last four years of her life second-guessing herself and wondering what would have happened if she had done something differently.

"If I could turn back time and do something different so he would still be here, I definitely would.''

"Being a mother is my purpose in life. It's the reason I am here."

She also admitted to having trouble preparing for the trial because her lawyer wanted her to review the evidence.

"I was forced to relive the worst day of my life and couldn't bring myself to,'' she said.

The trial heard the little boy was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when Collet Stephan drove him from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge to pick up an echinacea mixture.

The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He died in a Calgary hospital.

Ezekiel Stephan's parents were found guilty in his death. (Photo: Facebook)

The Crown says Justice Rodney Jerke is expected to hand down a sentence on Friday.

Character witnesses told the hearing that the Stephans were kind and wonderful parents. One friend called Collet the "Martha Stewart of Canada,'' while another said the couple were the "kind of parents that I want to be.''

David Stephan's sister, Angela Quinton, said the couple had "an exceptional parent-child bond.''

Support from strangers

The defence ran into a roadblock when Buckley tried to enter into evidence 20 letters of support from around the world.

Jerke said the support letters were from individuals who did not know the family or any details about the case.

"How could (they) ... know the moral culpability of the offenders? That's my job based on the evidence of what they did and how far along the line they are toward intention,'' he said.

Crown prosecutor Lisa Weich said the letters are not character references and, in most cases, those sending support didn't know anything about the case beyond what they've seen on social media.

"I would submit, sir, that sentencing is not a contest between how loudly people in the town square shout. By trying to introduce these letters, effectively, my friend is trying to convince the court of a sentencing position based on mob rule."'

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