Mother accused in daughter’s death thought sickness was sin, former friend testifies
A mother accused of homicide for praying as her 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes believed people got sick because they sinned, a former friend and Bible study partner testified Tuesday.
Former friend Althea Wormgoor told a Marathon County jury that Neumann didn’t believe in doctors or medicine.
“Basically, you pray and do nothing but pray,” she said.
Wormgoor, who has four children, testified her family moved from California to Wisconsin in January 2008 to start a second coffee business with the Neumanns and participate in their weekly Bible studies. […]
But Wormgoor said by March 10, 2008, she and her husband realized they disagreed with the Neumanns about the business and faith healing.
The Wormgoors did not believe sin caused sickness. They also thought the Neumanns focused a lot on demons. Once, when one of their sons got sick, Leilani Neumann thought his vomiting was to rid his body of demons.
Wormgoor said she and her family went to the Neumanns’ home the day Madeline died. Leilani Neumann had urged them to come, saying Madeline was on the floor, not talking, eating or drinking, she said.
The family went reluctantly, refusing to believe the girl was as sick as claimed, Wormgoor said. Fallout over the business partnership had made them skeptical, she said.
Once at the home, they prayed with the Neumanns. Leilani Neumann raised her hands in the air, calling her daughter’s illness a test of faith and a chance for God to show his power, Wormgoor said.
After about five minutes of prayer, Leilani Neumann indicated her daughter appeared better than the previous night, her breathing stronger, Wormgoor said.
Suddenly, Madeline’s mouth “twitched,” she said.
“To me, it looked like she was gasping for air,” Wormgoor said. “It was a twitch that scared me. You are telling me she is getting better, but right then I am not seeing it. I panicked.”
Wormgoor rushed to call 911, but her husband got to a phone first and made the call.
After an 11-year-old girl laid motionless and in a coma for more than 12 hours, the girl’s parents and two other adults waited until the child had stopped breathing before calling 911, according to testimony Tuesday during Leilani Neumann’s trial on a second-degree reckless homicide charge.
Prosecutors called nine witnesses Tuesday, including former friends of the Neumann family, a diabetes specialist and an emergency room doctor to convince jurors that Leilani Neumann showed a reckless regard for her daughter’s health by ignoring symptoms of her deteriorating condition.
Madeline Neumann, known as Kara, died March 23, 2008, after her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, prayed for her recovery from uncontrolled diabetes rather than seeking medical attention.
Randall Wormgoor testified that he failed to convince Dale Neumann to take Kara to a doctor and decided to call police. A short while later, Kara stopped breathing.
At one point, Dale picked up Kara, coddled her body and was moaning, “Jesus, Jesus,” Randall Wormgoor said.
Dr. Ivan Zador, a pediatric endocrinologist at Marshfield Clinic who specializes in diabetes who reviewed Kara’s medical records, said there is a 99.8 percent survival rate for people who receive treatment for diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication of diabetes that killed Kara.
Zador, who says he has treated 30 to 40 diabetic ketoacidosis cases the past 10 years, said that Kara could have been saved “very late into the day of her death.”
Neumann’s attorney, Gene Linehan pointed out that a person with the illness will see their rapid, labored breathing ease just before they die, to which Dr. Heong P’ng, medical director of the emergency services at Saint Clare’s Hospital, agreed. To the untrained eye, it appears as if the patient is getting better, Linehan said.
• The Wausau Daily Herald has a special section on the Death of Kara (Madeline) Neumann and its aftermath.