Marathon County Circuit Judge Vincent Howard issued his order after Dale and Leilani Neumann waived their right to a preliminary hearing – a proceeding where prosecutors must present sufficient evidence to justify the charges.
Defense attorneys said it was in the parents’ best interests to forego the proceeding, but they did not elaborate. No date was set for the couple to enter pleas.
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Earlier Tuesday morning, Howard rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charges, ruling the criminal complaint sufficiently spelled out why the couple was charged with second-degree reckless homicide. The document had enough information for the couple to mount a defense, he said.
“The complaint does not necessarily have to lay out the theory of the case,” Howard said.
Defense attorneys had argued the complaint did not tell the couple how they caused their daughter’s death as their actions – praying, providing food and giving CPR – did not kill her.
An autopsy determined Madeline Neumann – called Kara by her parents – died at the family’s rural Weston home on Easter Sunday from undiagnosed diabetes. The girl likely had symptoms for several weeks or months, court records said.
Prosecutors contend Kara could not speak, eat, drink, walk or breathe easily for about 48 hours before she died – giving her parents enough warning to seek medical help. The parents failed in their legal duty to care for the child, prosecutors have claimed.
Leilani Neumann, 40, has said the family believes in the Bible, which says healing comes from God, and never expected Kara to die. The parents told investigators the girl had not been to a doctor since she was 3.
The Neumanns entered and left the courtroom holding hands Tuesday. In waiving the preliminary hearing, both told Howard they had not been treated for any emotional problems.
“Never,” Leilani Neumann said.
The couple politely answered yes to several questions the judge posed to determine whether they were voluntarily waiving their legal right to a preliminary hearing.
Asked to explain what a preliminary hearing was, Dale Neumann, 47, called it a smaller version of a trial to see whether the facts were substantial enough to continue on with the case. The judge praised him for his answer.
In rejecting the motion to dismiss, Howard said he had to consider whether there was evidence the parents were aware of the risks of their actions and the danger to their daughter.
The parents had a “subjective realization” that Kara was seriously ill because they sought more “prayer power” for her, the judge said.
“What a person’s knowledge is is what a trial is all about,” he said.
Howard has said the case could go to the state Supreme Court before trial because of the religious issues involved.
At issue is a Wisconsin law that says a parent cannot be accused of abuse or neglect of a child if in good faith they selected prayer as treatment for a disease. District Attorney Jill Falstad has said her analysis of the law is that it doesn’t apply to homicide cases.
Gene Linehan, the attorney for Leilani Neumann, said Tuesday that motions regarding the constitutional issues in the case are expected to be filed within the next month.
Second-degree reckless homicide is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.