Nearly five years after religious parents starved their toddler to death, a jury found Jennifer and Jeromie Clark guilty of criminal negligence causing death. The jury in Calgary, Canada also convicted the parents with failing to provide the necessities of life-related to the child’s death. At the time of death, the child suffered from a rash, gangrene, hypothermia, and a staph infection. Jennifer and Jeromie Clark, Seventh Day Adventists, had never taken the child to see a doctor. They only brought 14-month-old John to the hospital the day before he died. The parents starved the child to death with a strict vegan diet.
According to multiple reports, in November 2013, Jennifer and Jeromie Clark brought their son, John, to a local hospital. Doctors that treated John testified he had blisters on 70% of his body, gangrene on four toes, hypothermia, and a staph infection.
During the trial, a pediatric doctor specializing in infectious disease, Dr. Tajdin Jadavji, told the jury the 14-month old boy didn’t crawl or pull himself up. John had numerous developmental delays, but the parents never took him to see a doctor.
After the boy arrived at the hospital, the staff transferred him to Alberta’s Children’s Hospital. When John came to the hospital, Doctors that met him described him as “at death’s door.”
In court, prosecutors revealed that the couple took steps to conceal John’s condition from friends and family. When John’s condition declined, the parents completed internet searches for treating gangrene at home.
When John did not improve, the parents sought medical help from the hospital. However, by the time he arrived, the child was in grave condition. At the trial, a paramedic that transported John said he looked like he was burned from head to toe.
Within 21 hours of his arrival at the hospital, John died from his illness. An autopsy confirmed he died from a staph infection related to malnutrition. The autopsy also confirmed the boy was only in the 1% for height and weight for his age. According to doctors, he weighed 20 pounds at the time of his death.
The defense attempted to argue that John died from sodium toxicity as a result of the care he received in the hospital. They also suggested the equipment used at the hospital contributed to the infection of the boy.
Doctors that treated John said that by the time he arrived little could be done to save his life. They told jurors they gave the child sodium because his sodium levels were dangerously low. Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim, a medical examiner said toxicology did not contribute to his death.
The medical examiner confirmed in her testimony that the boy had a severe rash that covered 70% of his body. She said much of the tissue was in a state of necrosis or dying of the skin.
Through the investigation into the death of John, authorities learned the Clarks followed a strict vegan diet. The couple said they followed the diet due to their religion. They told authorities they were part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Multiple reports indicate the diet they followed was part of an extreme interpretation of the religion.
Jeromie and Jennifer admitted that John was delivered at home in 2012. After his birth, the parents never took John to see a doctor for pediatric care. The only time the parents brought the child to see a doctor was the day before he died.John developed a rash due to his malnutrition. Doctors said had the parents taken to a doctor sooner, John could have been treated for the skin infection. They also said he could have received treatment to improve his nutrition.
Ultimately, the Clarks failure to provide adequate nutrition and medical care for John resulted in his premature death doctors told the court. After a three week trial, the jury took only 6 hours to convict the parents on both charges.
Jennifer and Jeromie will face sentencing for the conviction in February 2019. According to the criminal code in Canada, the couple could be sentenced to life in prison.
The conviction of the Clarks is another example of religious parents taking their beliefs to an extreme. By following an extreme interpretation of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Clarks starved their son with a nutrient-poor vegan diet. Additionally, their religious beliefs caused them not to seek out any medical help for the child.
Jennifer and Jeromie were released on their own recognizance. They will learn their fate in February.
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