In May of 2013, paramedics found 15-year-old Alexandru Radita dead at his home. The cause of death was complications to type 1 diabetes. Yet, as this heartrending and horrific story unfolded, all was not what they seemed to be. Alex was forcibly confined and isolated at home. He was starved and denied medical treatment for his diabetes for several years. In the end, he developed several dozen ulcers all over his body, had rotten teeth and a massive infection. Alex weighted 37 pounds (~16.8 kg) and looked so weak and malnourished that paramedics testified that he appeared almost mummified.
His parents were religious fanatics and refused to accept mainstream medicine, either refusing to accept that their son had diabetes or buying into convoluted conspiracy theories that the doctors gave him diabetes by administrating life-saving insulin. To avoid the social services, the education system and doctors, the parents moved to another province. After a few more years of pain, isolation, starvation and a lack of sufficient medical treatment, Alex died. Now, both of the parents have been convicted to life in prison for first degree murder. Justice has been served, but it was too late for Alex and his life could have been saved by the system years before if it was not because of the decision of a judge to give him back to his parents. Later investigations would reveal that the parents had gotten another child taken from them earlier and another infant that had died under mysterious circumstances.
Who was Alex Radita and what happened to him?
Alex Radita first lived with his parents and siblings in Surrey in the Canadian province of British Columbia. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 2. However, when the doctors told the mother that their son had diabetes, her initial response was outright denial and she claim that her son did not have diabetes. During their stay in British Columbia, Alex has hospitalized at least three times. During one of those times, he was mere hours from dying, but the doctors managed to save his life. As a result of this, the Canadian social services took him from his parents in 2003 and placed him in foster care where he was enrolled in school, got a chance to practice his arts and appears to have thrived (CBC News, 2017). It would seem as if Alex had gotten away from his harmful parents, but that would sadly not be his ultimate fate.
A year later, a judge ruled that he should be returned to his parents because the judge believed that the boy would be watched over by health professions and school authorities. The judged had refused to accept the facts offered by a social worker testifying at the hearing and did not believe that the parents denied that their son had diabetes and instead believed that they were just poor at managing his condition. The social worker felt at the time that a decision to return Alex to his parents would sentence him to death (Grant, 2016c). She was so severely affected by the experience from being involved with his case for so long, discovering horrific details of their past, and having it turn so badly that she developed PTSD and could not continue to work.
The Radita family moved from British Columbia to Alberta in 2009 (Graveland, 2016). Alex was not enrolled in a school and never saw a doctor. There is a video from his 15th birthday (about 4 months before he died) where he is seen to be extremely thin, weak and sad (Grant, 2016f). He opens some of the presents from his seven siblings that include a teddy bear and some cartoon books. He looks extremely sick and he does not smile. He is so weak that he has some difficulty even taking off the wrappers of his birthday presents.
The paramedics arrived in May of 2013 and found Alex dead. He was so starved and weak that he would be placed in the 0.1 percentile of 15-year-olds based on his height and body mass. He had over forty separate ulcers on his body, a terrible wound in his jaw that was so severe that the paramedics could see his jaw bone. The muscles of his necks were reported to be “near total liquefaction” and his teeth were “rotten to stumps” (Grant and Anderson, 2017). Alex had been starved and refused medical treatment for years and had developed an “overwhelming infection”. It must have been a terrifying experience to be put through so much pain, illness and isolation. This is would most likely qualify as some kind of torture.
What where the parents thinking?
The parents were religious extremists and belonged to the Romanian Pentecostal Church (Grant, 2016b). Throughout this ordeal, they have changed their story several times. At first, they claimed that Alex did not actually have type 1 diabetes. As time went on, they changed their story and wanted to find a way for them to live without insulin. Then they claimed that his diabetes was caused by the doctors giving him insulin during 2003 and allegedly abusing him. In reality, that insulin save his life.
Both parents have lied to authorities at multiple times. A police investigation revealed that the parents noticed that their son had died at 6 PM but waited four hours until 10 PM to call for emergency medical help. The father claimed to the police that this was because Alex did not want medical help, whereas the mother claimed that Alex just had influenza and diarrhea. They also lied to the paramedics and claimed that Alex had just had type 1 diabetes for a month and was currently receiving insulin treatment. Some evidence, on the other hand, indicate that Alex could have been dead between 12 and 36 hours before paramedics arrived (Grant, 2016a).
Just a few hours before Alex died, the mother told their religious community that Alex had died and been resurrected by the divine creator (Grant, 2016b). They brought members of their community to their home to pray for Alex and prayer was the primary way they attempted to get Alex better. When the paramedics arrived, there were about 15-20 members form their religious community in the house. Some of them wanted to call for emergency help, so they were not all as anti-medicine as the parents (Grant, 2016e).
What happened during the trial?
The prosecution charged both parents with first degree murder and called for life in prison. They said that the parents had a long history of refusing medical treatment for their son and had tried to evade authorities multiple times. The prosecutors highlighted the fact that the parents had starved their son, kept him in pain and isolation and prevented him from getting the lifesaving treatment he needs. They argued and were able to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the parents knew he had a disease and knew how it should be treated, but ignore all of it. Evidence from the health care system showed that there was a precipitous decline in the amount of diabetes supplies gotten for Alex between 2009 and 2013.
The mother was complete close-minded and refused to give up her position to the point that the prosecutors became convinced that she “cared more about being right than about the truth”. This is a stunning indictment of the mindset of religious extremism. The younger sister to Alex testified that the parents did all of this because of their religious beliefs.
The prosecutor pointed out that parents to do not have the right to use a child as a “religious experiment” or as “a sacrifice to faith” (Grant, 2016f).
The parents plead not guilty, but never testified at their trial. The trial would reveal a shocking history of neglect and child endangerment even before Alex.
A decade earlier, social services in Ontario (where the parents lived before moving to British Columbia) had taken another child from the parents (Grant, 2016d). Not just once, but on two separate occasions. The first time it happened was when the child had just been born. It was born prematurely and needed oxygen to survive. The parents refused it and so the child was taken from them continue treatment in order to save his or her life. The second time it had occurred was when the child was brought in with seizures. The same general theme repeated itself. The hospital needed to treat the child because it had an acute medical problem, but parents refused. So the social services made sure that the treatment could continue.
The prosecutors had access to documents that showed that the parents had yet another child in the early 90s that had died under “unclear circumstances” (Grant, 2016d). The social worker (who was mentioned earlier) said that this 3 and a half month girl had pneumonia. In order to block prosecutors from knowing what truly happened, the parents refused to reveal the name of her or when she was born. The social worker could not find any reports from the coroner. Had the social worker gotten his information, she might have been able to convince the judge in the Alex case not to give him back to his parents.
What was the legal aftermath?
The parents were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison (Grant and Anderson, 2017). They must serve at least 25 years before getting the possibility of parole. The couple has seven other children that will now be safe from their dangerous nonsense.
This is a victory for everyone who cares about preventing child abuse, fighting religious extremism and highlighting the dangers of rejecting modern medicine. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine, at least in this case.
This horrific event has some important lessons (Grant and Anderson, 2017). It was clearly a failure of the social safety net, social services and the justice system. The judge should not under any circumstances have given Alex back to his parents. He should have listened to the evidence put forward by the social workers. There needs to be better communication between different provinces so that child abusers cannot just move and get a blank slate in another province. It is also a stunning failure of the school system because no one there noticed that Alex disappeared.
The social worker is trying to create a system to better protect children against these failures, and she wants to call it “Alex alert” in memory of Alexandru Radita (CBC News, 2017).
References and further reading
CBC News. (2017). ‘Oh, how you suffered’: B.C. social worker’s letter to Alex Radita. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M. (2016a). Alex Radita was dead for up to 36 hours before 911 called, parents’ murder trial hears. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M. (2016b). Alex Radita’s parents told church members he was resurrected from the dead, murder trial hears. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M. (2016c). Alex Radita ‘sentenced’ to death, says social worker of B.C. judge’s decision to return boy to parents. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M. (2016d). Radita murder trial: Parents had 2nd child seized by social services and a baby who died. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M. (2016e). Alex Radita was one of his parents’ ‘favourites,’ court hears at their murder trial. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M. (2016f). Alex Radita ‘was doomed,’ prosecutor says in final arguments at parents’ murder trial. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Grant. M and Anderson, D. (2017). Raditas guilty of 1st-degree murder of teen son who weighed 37 lb. at death. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.
Graveland, B. (2016). Parents of Alex Radita can’t be found guilty of murder: lawyer. CBC News. Accessed: 2017-02-27.