Calgary father jailed for gross neglect of disabled adult son

The 27-year-old victim weighed just 43 pounds when Jonathon Phillips and his wife finally sought medical assistance for him

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Neglecting his disabled adult son to the point the victim was near death has landed a Calgary man a two-year prison term.

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And in accepting a joint submission from Crown and defence lawyers which included placing Jonathon Grunewald on probation for three years, Justice Keith Yamauchi said the offender was lucky he wasn’t before the court on a much more serious charge.

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Yamauchi noted that one of the conditions Grunewald suffered from was cerebral palsy, the same disease Robert Latimer daughter suffered from before her death and his conviction for second-degree murder.

“This came quite close to that,” Yamauchi said, of the condition Grunewald’s 27-year-old son was in when he was finally hospitalized on Oct. 24, 2020.

When Grunewald and the victim’s mother, Malinda Phillips, pleaded guilty in January, court heard the victim weighed just 43 pounds when Phillips and Grunewald finally sought medical assistance for him.

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Crown prosecutor Janice Walsh said at that time he was in critical condition and near death.

At the time of his admission he was suffering from hypothermia, with a body temperature of 27.2 C, sepsis, severe malnutrition and dehydration and acute liver failure, Walsh said, reading from a statement of agreed facts.

(The son) was admitted in critical condition in a state of shock … weighing only 43 pounds,” she told Justice Keith Yamauchi.

Walsh and defence counsel Michael Bates submitted a joint submission for both a two-year prison term followed by three years probation.

The victim was found near death in his Falconridge home on Oct. 24, 2020.
The victim was found near death in his Falconridge home on Oct. 24, 2020. Postmedia file photo

Bates said while Grunewald was responsible for neglecting the victim for five years prior to his hospitalization, he noted there were many years where he was properly cared for.

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“No one’s alleging it was all bad,” Bates said.

“In a period of five years all of a sudden things dropped off.”

Bates explained part of Grunewald’s difficulty was confronting Phillips about their son’s care and “marital discord” between them.

He said Grunewald is willing to undertake counselling to help him deal with his own issues.

Yamauchi said while Grunewald’s remorse was a mitigating factor, it probably came to late for his victim.

“(He) would probably say his taking steps to rehabilitate himself came 27 years too late,” the Court of King’s Bench judge said.

Before sentencing Grunewald offered an apology for his conduct in failing to get his son adequate medical assistance before it was almost too late.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said.

“I am truly sorry.”

Phillips was also supposed to be sentenced on Tuesday, but defence lawyer Rebecca Snukal indicated she had a health emergency which required surgery and her recovery process is unclear.

The lawyer will update the court on Oct. 21, to determine whether a sentencing date can be set then.

[email protected]

On Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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