‘I’m sorry’: Calgary parents plead guilty to neglecting disabled adult son

A Calgary mother broke down in tears Friday after she and her husband pleaded guilty to failing to provide for the necessities of life for their severely disabled adult son.

Malinda Phillips and Jonathon Grunewald put forward their pleas in Calgary’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

In an agreed statement of facts, the court heard that the 29-year-old man was mostly confined to his bedroom for five years. He had been diagnosed at birth with severe cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and brain damage.

He was rushed to hospital in October 2020 when he was found unresponsive in the family home in northeastern Calgary’s Falconridge neighborhood.

“He was hospitalized in critical condition, in a state of shock, and exhibited the profound effects of hypothermia, sepsis and weighed only 43 pounds,” Crown prosecutor Janice Walsh said.

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Hospital officials warned Calgary police and officers charged the couple last year.

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“I’m sorry,” Phillips sobbed before submitting his guilty plea.

A sentencing is scheduled for April 8. Hearing officers expect to present a joint recommendation for the judgments.

Walsh told the court that Phillips and Grunewald admitted that their son had not used a wheelchair for three years and “was essentially bedridden, except on special occasions, including family dinners and excursions.”

Click to play video: 'Parents charged after 27-year-old Calgary man taken to hospital weighing 43 pounds'

Parents charged after 27-year-old Calgary man brought to hospital weighing 43 pounds

Parents charged after 27-year-old Calgary man brought to hospital weighing 43 pounds – January 15, 2021

They were offered help to their son, and in 2015, they began receiving $ 1,768 a month from Alberta’s Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program.

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Walsh said Phillips did not trust the medical community.

“(Phillips) acknowledged that she had been offered home help, but rejected it as she did not think it would be beneficial,” Walsh said.

The mother also admitted to having withheld food from her son four to five days a week.

“She acknowledged that this has been going on for the last four to five years, and she noticed that his medical condition was declining about three years ago, but she did not take him to the doctor,” Walsh said.

The court heard that Phillips was in a car accident in 2015 and suffered from depression and back pain. She put on her headphones and “zones out” and took a three to four hour nap during the day.

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Grunewald, who worked during the day, took over the care of his son in the evening, Walsh said.

“He was aware that Malinda did not take care of him during the days, but he did not want to ‘pick a fight about it,'” Walsh said.

She added that the son did not get any fluids until his father gave him them at dinner.

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Grunewald admitted that the family had been offered fully funded medical care at home five days a week. He knew his wife had refused the service and “did not press on the issue,” Walsh said.

The son now lives in a nursing home. Walsh said he has gained weight, increased his mobility and can sit in a wheelchair.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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