Tamara Lovett, the Calgary woman accused of failing to properly care for her seven-year-old son, refused a friend’s offer to take the boy for medical help on the day he died in 2013.
Barbara La Pointe testified in court Wednesday that she befriended Lovett and her son Ryan, whom she described as “a beautiful endurer of abuse” who lived in the “darkest realms of poverty.”
She said she met the pair about a year and a half before Ryan’s death on March 2, 2013, and took the child under her wing. At the time of his death, the boy had meningitis, pneumonia and a strep infection.
His mother is facing two charges — failing to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence causing death — for refusing to take the boy to a doctor.
Lovett sobbed as La Pointe testified on the third day of the Court of Queen’s Bench trial being presided over by Justice Kristine Eidsvik.
La Pointe, now an art teacher at an elementary school, worked at Caffe Beano on 17th Ave. S.W. at the time while going to university. She would take Ryan to her home on weekends and he became close with her two children.
“Ryan to me was my son. I loved him as much as my own children,” she told the court.
Boy described as an unhappy child
La Pointe testified she and Lovett were friends but said their relationship was complicated. She said she would try not to rock the boat with Lovett or come at her from a position of judgment in an effort to do “everything to preserve access to Ryan.”
“It was unimaginable that Tamara and Ryan could be living in such a state of poverty and unsupportedness and suffering,” said La Pointe. “He was a very unhappy child.”
La Pointe said she would often buy groceries for the mother and son and said the boy’s well-being — both physical and emotional — were unimportant when he was at his mother’s home.
“I vowed that I would never ever, ever, ever leave Ryan and I didn’t,” she said.
‘In a state of supreme suffering’
Two weeks before Ryan died, La Pointe had him at her house for the weekend but said he wasn’t himself and slept a lot.
When it came time to take Ryan back to his mother, La Pointe said the boy was “distraught” at the thought of going home.
“[He was] adamant that he did not want to go home that night,” she said. “He had a big cry and I didn’t know what was wrong.”
La Pointe said she asked if she could bring Ryan to her home for the weekend of March 1 and 2, but Lovett said no because he had a cold.
On March 1, about 12 hours before Ryan was found dead on the floor outside the bathroom in the apartment where he lived with his mother, La Pointe brought groceries over.
Lovett wasn’t home at the time and a neighbour was babysitting. When she walked into the bedroom, La Pointe testified she was shocked.
“He was in a state of supreme suffering,” she said.
The boy was emaciated and in a lot of pain, La Pointe testified. He said he had been in bed and had not eaten since she’d dropped him off a week earlier.
‘I think Ryan is going to die’
La Pointe said Ryan told her he wanted to go to her house but she had to tell him he couldn’t because his mother had already said no. At one point Ryan’s eyes rolled back in his head.
“I had a horrific feeling come over me,” testified La Pointe. ”I thought ‘my god, I think Ryan is going to die.’”
Soon after that exchange, Lovett arrived home and was “agitated” and couldn’t be reasoned with, said La Pointe, adding she was afraid to deal with the situation.
Lovett insisted all Ryan needed was dandelion tea and oil of oregano.
La Pointe told the court she offered to take the mother and son to a hospital or doctor, but Lovett refused, so she said her goodbyes to the bedridden child for what would be the last time.
“I promised him I would be back in the morning.”
The next day, one of Lovett’s neighbours called La Pointe to tell her Ryan had died.
Boy had no routine
Lovett would take odd cleaning jobs but didn’t have steady employment, La Pointe said. She described the woman as a friend and gifted artist.
Ryan sometimes attended school, but La Pointe said the boy had no routine. He would stay up with his mother even if it was until the wee hours of the morning.
“He was very sad not to go to school because it was like he was even more lost in this invisible world where no one cared about him,” said La Pointe.
“[He was] utterly unsupported and uncared for to an extent that is unimaginable.”
Earlier in the trial, the judge heard evidence that Ryan died of a Group A strep infection and was already dead by the time paramedics found the child lying on the hallway floor outside the bathroom. A doctor who specializes in infectious disease testified yesterday that Ryan’s life could have been saved with ”a very simple penicillin.”
La Pointe said her intention from the moment she met the mother and son was “to love them and support them and help them in any way.”
One of Lovett’s neighbours was cruel to both mother and son and La Pointe described him as visibly abusive to the child.
People in the apartment building were mostly jobless, had issues with bed bugs and many were on drugs, said La Pointe.
“Ryan was completely isolated. I have never seen a little boy endure [such] isolation.”