CALGARY—The painful death of a diabetic boy who was so emaciated he appeared mummified could have been avoided if his parents had not neglected him for years, a judge said Friday in finding the couple guilty of first-degree murder.
Justice Karen Horner said Emil and Rodica Radita were in gross denial of their 15-year-old son Alexandru’s disease.
‘‘Children in Canada rarely die from diabetes, but proper treatment requires due diligence,’‘ Horner said in a Calgary courtroom as she gave her verdict.
She immediately sentenced the Raditas to life in prison with no chance at parole for 25 years. They showed no emotion.
Alexandru, one of eight children, weighed less than 37 pounds when he died in 2013 of complications due to untreated diabetes and starvation.
Horner said it appeared that Alex had received an insufficient level of care for ‘‘likely a number of years,’‘ even though the Raditas were fully trained on how to look after him.
Alberta’s chief medical examiner testified at the couple’s trial that an autopsy showed the teen was severely underweight, covered in ulcers and nearly toothless. There were several signs the boy had been subjected to neglect and starvation.
Dr. Jeffery Gofton said Alexandru appeared skeletal with thin hair and sunken eyes. He said the boy was wearing a diaper and had very little body fat.
He told court that most of the teen’s teeth had rotted down to the root and there was no sign of any dental work.
Defence lawyer Andrea Serink, who represented Rodica Radita, had argued that the couple didn’t intend to kill their son, but were culpable for not providing the proper level of care.
‘‘The Raditas are guilty of manslaughter, not murder,’‘ she said in her final argument.
Crown prosecutor Susan Pepper said any reasonable person would have known lack of treatment would have fatal consequences for Alexandru.
‘‘Really the question is was there an intention to withhold care ? leading to certain consequences that they would expect to have occur?’‘ Pepper said in her final remarks.
Witnesses testified that the Raditas refused to accept that their son had diabetes and failed to treat his disease until he was hospitalized near death in British Columbia in 2003.
B.C. social workers apprehended Alexandru after his October 2003 hospital admission and placed him in foster care — where he thrived — for nearly a year before he was returned to his family.
Testimony also indicated that after the family moved to Alberta, he was enrolled in an online school program for one year, but never finished. There was no evidence that the boy ever saw a doctor, although he did have an Alberta health insurance number.
The trial heard that the parents’ religious beliefs included not going to doctors. The day the Alexandru died, the family went to church and said that the boy had died, but that God had resurrected him.