OREGON CITY – Two members of a church that preaches faith-healing pleaded not guilty Monday to manslaughter charges for failing to provide medical care to their infant son, who died shortly after his premature birth.
Attorneys for Dale R. Hickman and Shannon M. Hickman entered the pleas. The Hickmans did not speak during the brief arraignment before Clackamas County Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Jones.
Jones set a Nov. 19 trial date for the Hickmans, who are each charged with second-degree manslaughter. It is likely that the trial will be rescheduled for sometime next year.
The Hickmans, who attend the Followers of Christ church in Oregon City, posted 10 percent of their $500,000 bail and are out of custody. They requested that the bail amount be reduced. A separate hearing will be held on the request.
The Hickmans are the third couple identified as members of the Followers of Christ Church to face criminal charges in the death of a child during the past two years. The church shuns professional medical help in favor of prayer and anointing the sick with oil.
The Hickman’s son was born prematurely and lived less than a day after his birth last September. The baby died from pneumonia and underdeveloped lungs, according to the medical examiner.
The state medical examiner’s office has estimated that in the past 30 years, more than 20 children of church members have died of preventable or curable conditions.
In 1999, after debate, the Legislature ended a spiritual healing defense, allowing parents to be prosecuted. Since then, Clackamas County officials have investigated a few deaths of newborns.
The deaths of two relatives in 2008 led to prosecutions.