Murder charges filed nearly three years after teen’s faith healing death

ReligionNewsBlog.com — It took the Prosecutors’ Office in Okanogan County, Washington nearly three years to file charges against the parents of a teenager who police say died because the couple failed to call for medical assistance, relying on prayer instead.

Last week Thursday Gregory and Garnet JaLea Swezey charged with second-degree murder.

The couple’s son Zachery, 17, died of a burst appendix at their home on March 18, 2009.

According to the Wenatchee World officials say they were too busy with other cases to move this case forward, until now.


The Swezeys told investigators they believe in faith healing, but that didn’t force their faith on their son.

Sherriff Frank Rogers tells the paper the case was delayed while several homicide cases were given priority. That, along with attorney staffing issues, contributed to the time it took his office to review the case and file charges.

Rogers says the Swezeys were not considered at risk of leaving the area, or a threat to the community.

The paper says some are shocked that charges were files after such a long period of time. But reporter K.C. Mehaffey also quotes Rita Swan, president of CHILD Inc., a nonprofit group formed to protect children from abusive religious and cultural practices, as saying she understands why it took so long.

“It takes an extraordinary degree of dedication to set forth the facts and document them in a forensic way for a court trial.”

CHURCH OF THE FIRST BORN
Gregory and Garnet Swezey belong to the Church of the First Born, which believes in faith healing

A number of churches and more-or-less loosely-affiliated groups of churches in the USA use the name Church of The First Born. It is not immediately clear from the reports which specific church the Swezeys are members of.

The teachings of the vast majority of these churches regarding faith healing place them outside the boundaries of the historic, Christian faith. Theologically they should be considered cults of Christianity.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016    

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