'Depth of emptiness:' Calgary couple guilty in toddler's death address court

CALGARY — A couple found guilty in the death of their son have told a sentencing hearing that they feel a deep sorrow for their loss.

A jury found Jennifer and Jeromie Clark guilty last fall of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

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The trial heard 14-month-old John didn't see a doctor until the day before he died of a staph infection in November 2013.

Jennifer Clark stood in the prisoner's dock Friday and described how she met her husband at church, married him, and started the family they always wanted.

"My baby John and I were together every day. We were inseparable," said the soft-spoken woman, wearing a 1920s-style hat as she did throughout the trial.

"When death took Johnny, and I had the realization that it was permanent, I can't explain the depth of the emptiness I felt."

Her husband told court, between long pauses, that he'll never get over the loss and he feels remorse.

"I can never get over the fact that John doesn't get to be a man. He doesn't get to be a teenager riding around on his bike with friends, throwing rocks in the river and stuff."

Jurors were shown photos of the child after he had died. He had blackened toes and a red rash covering three quarters of his body.

They also saw screen shots of online searches for natural remedies for gangrene such as cabbage leaves and cayenne.

The couple's lawyers suggested doctors at the Alberta Children's Hospital were to blame because they raised the boy's sodium and fluid levels too aggressively.

The forensic pathologist's report said John was malnourished and died from a staph infection.

Justice Paul Jeffrey has yet to make a finding on the facts of the case. There was no agreed statement of facts completed for Friday's hearing, because the defence and the Crown have not agreed on what caused John's death.

Prosecutor Shane Parker told court the Clarks did not show up for an interview for a pre-sentence report and indicated they were not interested in participating.

Jeromie Clark's lawyer said that to his knowledge there was never an appointment booked because there was trouble reaching his client.

"I don't want court to think the Clarks are being obstructionist in any way," said David Chow.

The case is to be back in court Feb. 22 to set a date for the sentencing hearing to resume, probably at the end of May.

Neither the Crown nor the defence have indicated the length of sentence they are seeking. A criminal negligence causing death conviction carries a maximum life sentence.

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