Faith-healing couple takes plea in son’s death

A north-central Washington couple on Thursday agreed to accept a plea deal that spares them jail time but holds them responsible for their teenage son’s death after they failed to call a doctor.

The Associated Press reports

A jury acquitted JaLea and Greg Swezey of Carlton of second-degree murder charges for failing to call a doctor or ambulance before their son Zachery died of a ruptured appendix in 2009. However, they still faced manslaughter charges.

JaLea Swezey pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal mistreatment and received a suspended sentence. Greg Swezey was charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment and his case was continued for two years.

The Wenatchee World says

Both of the Swezeys also agreed to contact Child Protective Services if a child under their care becomes ill or is injured. The Swezeys have a 4-year-old daughter at home.


The Carlton couple faced murder charges in Okanogan County Superior Court for failing to call a doctor or ambulance in the three days before their son Zachery died of a ruptured appendix.

Members of the Church of the First Born, the Swezeys believe in faith healing, and were acquitted of second-degree murder for their son’s death, but still faced manslaughter charges.

Prosecutor Karl Sloan argued during their four-day trial in mid-May that all indications showed the Swezeys knew their son’s situation was grave.

Greg Swezey testified during their three-day trial that he did not know until minutes before Zachery passed away on March 18, 2009, that his son dying.

Church of the First Born

The Swezeys are members of the Church of the First Born, a group of churches known for their extreme, unbiblical views regarding faith healing.

The teachings of the Church of the First Born regarding faith healing places the movement outside the boundaries of the historic, Christian faith. Theologically it should be considered a cult of Christianity. [See also: Abusive Churches and Spiritual Abuse]

Faith Healing
• The term ‘faith healing’ refers to healing that occurs supernaturally — as the result of prayer rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians or other medical care.

• But while faith healings do take place today just as they did in the early Christian church, the teachings of some churches, movements and individuals on this subject amount to spiritual abuse.

• Legitimate churches and movements do not equal using drugs or receiving proper medical attention with unbelief, insufficient faith, or otherwise sinning against God.

Faith-healing parents acquitted of murder charge
Research resources on faith healing

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016