Skip to content

Calgary father sentenced to two years in prison for neglect of disabled adult son

CALGARY — A Calgary father has been sentenced to two years in prison for failing to provide the necessaries of life for his severely disabled adult son.

Jonathon Grunewald and Malinda Phillips entered guilty pleas in January.

"I take full responsibility for the lack of action in the care of my son," Grunewald told Court of King's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi Tuesday before he was sentenced. "I am truly sorry."

In an agreed statement of facts, court had earlier heard that the now 29-year-old man was mostly confined to his bedroom for more than five years. He was 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's home. He was in critical condition, in a state of shock, and weighed only 43 pounds.

Crown prosecutor Janice Walsh and defence lawyer Michael Bates presented a joint sentencing recommendation Tuesday to the judge.

"He does admit that he only called 911 when (his son) was unresponsive and near death and having trouble with breathing," said Walsh. "And he called only when he realized that he could 'lose him.'"

Walsh said Grunewald expressed shame and remorse, but noted he also said he did his best to feed and care for his son.

"That is a lack of clarity, a lack of an ability to understand or an ability to accept his full responsibility."

Bates said his client was taking full responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty and proceeding with sentencing.

"There is a true dynamic ... of not a difference of responsibility for the offence, but in the dynamic of how this comes about," he said.

"He's acknowledging that he did know that he needed to do something and do more and he allowed the dynamic with his 30-plus year spouse to go into conflict avoidance."

Bates said his client avoided the situation until it became so dire that he called 911.

"It led to putting his son's life at risk."

Yamauchi called it a "really sad case."

He compared it to that of Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his daughter who also had cerebral palsy.

"This came quite close to that," said Yamauchi. 

"Cerebral palsy is a really serious condition ... that doesn't mean he lacks cognition.

"I am sure (he) did and does have cognition."

Yamauchi said it falls into the far end of sad cases because of what the man had to endure.

"We do our best to do what's fair in the circumstances, fair to (your son) and fair to you," he said to Grunewald before he delivered the two-year sentence.

Grunewald will also have to serve three years of probation after his penitentiary sentence is complete.

The sentencing for Phillips has been adjourned until a later date because she is dealing with a serious medical issue.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 4, 2022.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press