(Court TV) — For her second child, 25-year-old Mara McGlade opted to give birth in the comfort of her Florida home rather than in a hospital. Assisting her were her mother-in-law, Linda McGlade, and sister-in-law, Tanya McGlade, both members of Mara’s close-knit church fellowship.
Though Linda and Tanya McGlade were not licensed midwives, the pair had successfully assisted at the births of several church members’ children.
But something went tragically wrong as Mara McGlade gave birth to a son on Dec. 8, 2004. Though baby Gabriel was born a healthy 7 pounds, 6 ounces, Mara suffered internal bleeding following the birth. Instead of calling an ambulance immediately, church members held hands and prayed, finally calling for help four hours later. Mara McGlade died two days later.
The two women were charged with practicing midwifery without a license, which carries 21 months to five years in prison. Representing themselves, Linda McGlade, 55, and Tanya McGlade, 26, went to trial in April 2006 before a Manatee County jury.
Linda McGlade and her husband, Tom, started an informal Bible study group several years ago in their Bradenton, Fla., home, inviting friends and neighbors to Wednesday night gatherings.
Eventually, the couple and several group members left their respective evangelical Christian churches and started holding meetings on Sundays as well. The meetings consisted of Bible readings, singing and prayer. Assisting Linda was her daughter-in-law, Tanya, who was married to one of her sons.
Tom and Linda McGlade were also active in the anti-abortion movement and were members of the anti-abortion group Missionaries for Life. They picketed abortion clinics across central Florida and were arrested several times at clinic protests on various charges, including obstructing a roadway and resisting arrest.
A newer member of the group, Mara Skrobot, met and married Keith McGlade, another son of Linda and Tom.
Mara’s family and former fellowship members said Mara and others were essentially controlled by the McGlades. Members were compelled to discuss and decide together the most mundane aspects of their lives, from the purchase of household goods to home child birth. The answer to most group members’ problems — from what to do about a malfunctioning car to health issues — was prayer.
According to former church members, Keith McGlade said he had received “a message from God” that his children should be born at home.
On the morning of Dec. 8, 2004, the second child of Keith and Mara McGlade was born. But the first sign of trouble occurred when the placenta took 40 minutes to be delivered. Tanya McGlade noted that part of it was missing. Witnesses reported that Tanya said there was no need to worry, and was confident the rest would come out on its own — and therefore no reason to call a doctor.
As Mara’s condition deteriorated, Tanya and Linda McGlade told everyone at the house to pray while they tried to keep Mara awake and hydrated. Witnesses said Mara became weaker and pale, complained of numbness in her legs and hips and was sweating, but no one seemed to realize that Mara was bleeding to death before their eyes.
Sometime after 2 p.m., Mara lost consciousness. At 2:53 p.m., 911 was called.
Bradenton Police Det. Greg Price was near the end of his shift and near the McGlades’ house when he heard the radio call. He arrived just as paramedics were entering the home, and saw blood on the sheets and floor and said Mara McGlade appeared unconscious.
Price asked who was in charge, and was directed to Linda McGlade, who was dressed in scrubs and had blood on her. When he asked her if there was a doctor or midwife in charge, Linda McGlade told him Tanya was the midwife, Price claims. When he questioned Tanya McGlade, who was also wearing scrubs, he said she immediately denied being a midwife.
Det. Valerie Shoates, who specializes in crimes against children, arrived at the house and would later testify that at that time Linda McGlade told her Tanya McGlade was the midwife.
Gary Dingler, the first paramedic on the scene, told the jury he was led into a back bedroom at the McGlades’ house and found Mara in bed, clearly in respiratory distress. He recognized Mara as a former member of his small Christian church, Church of the Cross. Dingler said he inserted a breathing tube into her lungs and tried to insert an IV, but could not because she had lost so much blood. He would testify at trial that group members told him Linda McGlade was in charge, but says he did not recall being told that either Linda or Tanya was a midwife.
He advised Keith McGlade to take the baby to the hospital for an examination. After moving Mara to the ambulance, Dingler said finally got an IV in her by holding her upside down and letting what blood was left in her body flow to her neck. Mara went into cardiac arrest, Dingler said.
Mother Dies, Women Charged
Mara McGlade died after being on life support for two days. The medical examiner ruled her cause of death as hemorrhagic shock — bleeding to death, in layman’s terms. The bleeding was due in part to pieces of the placenta that remained in the uterus, but primarily because of an undiagnosed condition called a bicornuate uterus, in which the uterus developed into two chambers instead of one.
This condition made the bleeding that led to Mara’s death “more likely,” according to the medical examiner, but the hemorrhagic shock could have been easily detected and treated and Mara “would have likely survived if she received appropriate medical care.”
Almost five months after Mara’s death, Assistant District Attorney Tricia Fradley in April 2005 filed a criminal complaint charging Linda and Tanya McGlade with “practicing midwifery without a license.” Florida is one of 22 states with laws requiring licenses for midwives.
The McGlades were arrested on May 2, 2005. Prosecutors offered both women a plea deal that would allow them to avoid prison: Two years under house arrest in exchange for guilty pleas.
Linda and Tanya McGlade, however, refused to cut a deal and prepared to go to trial with defense lawyer Richard Buckle representing them. But after Buckle, a religious man himself, urged his clients to keep religion out of their defense, he was fired and withdrew from the case.
Rather than hiring a new attorney, the McGlades decided to represent themselves.
Assistant District Attorneys Patricia Fradley and Jorge Andres argued the defendants practiced midwifery without a license and made no secret of their role in the birth of baby Gabriel.
Police were told by witnesses present at the birth that Linda McGlade was “in charge,” and Linda McGlade herself told investigators her daughter-in-law and co-defendant, Tanya, was a midwife, prosecutors contended.
Several witnesses were called to testify not only about previous births where both women assisted, but claims that the defendants warned fellowship members to keep secret their role in the births. Former fellowship member Jessica Case testified the defendants told her that hospital births were “the easy way out.”
A key witness for the state was former member Carrie Murphy, whose son Max was born with the assistance of the defendants. Murphy said her son turned blue after the umbilical cord wrapped around the newborn’s neck. Other witnesses claimed the McGlades pushed the baby back into the canal in order to untangle him. Though Max was fine, the experience led Murphy to say she regretted trusting the McGlades.
Jurors also heard testimony about the birth of Keith and Mara’s first child, also delivered with the McGlades. The couple decided to have the child at home, even though a prenatal sonogram showed the baby could be born breech. Despite the dangers, the baby was born healthy.
Linda and Tanya McGlade conceded they are not midwives, but claimed that they never acted as midwives. There never any payment made to them for such for services, they said. And while Florida’s midwifery law does call for midwives to be licensed, it does not prohibit someone from having a home birth without the help of a doctor, nurse or midwife.
The McGlades contended the state of Florida was trying to infringe up on the rights of women who, for religious reasons, want to have births at home without the assistance of a medically trained professional.
Representing themselves, the women called several current fellowship members, most of whom had attended several home births. Witness Jessica Klein testified that the mother was “in charge,” not the McGlades, of directing the birth. Furthermore, Klein said, everyone in the room present participated in the birth in some way. The McGlades never claimed to be midwives, she testified.
Shirley Deitz, a nurse and a fellowship member, testified for the defense that she too was invited to the birth, but not as a nurse. She told the jurors she did not see any cause for alarm even as Mara’s condition deteriorated, but admitted she had only seen a couple of births in her career.
Keith McGlade told the jury he and Mara decided Gabriel would be born at home without ever consulting with his mother or anyone else in the fellowship. He conceded they took into consideration Mara’s first birth, which resulted in a trip to the hospital. He said he and Mara were calling the shots, and if his mother and Tanya were doing more than anyone else, it was not because they were midwives, but because they had more experience with home births than the others.
The jury of four women and two men deliberated for approximately 20 minutes before finding both Linda and Tanya McGlade guilty.
Jurors were kept in the dark about the reason behind a mid-trial delay. Ryan McGlade —Tanya’s husband and Linda’s son — died of lung cancer on April 14, 2006.
Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas set sentencing for June 15, 2006.
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