Faith-Healing Death Ruled a Homicide; Parents Charged With Murder

Update: Later today Herbert and Catherine Schaible were charged with third-degree murder in the death of their son.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says

The couple was already on probation after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of two-year-old, Kent.

In announcing the murder charge, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said the parents disobeyed the conditions of their probation requiring them to get medical attention and follow medical advice if any of their children were sick.

“The death of seven-month-old Brandon Schaible is a tragedy and sadly there is only one reason for it, the criminal action of his parents,” Williams said. […]

In addition to murder, Herbert and Catherine Schaible are both charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child. They also face a probation violation hearing next month.

According to the Danbury News Times

First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann says the Schaibles are entitled to their religious beliefs — until it endangers their children.

“How many kids have to die before it becomes extreme indifference to human life?” McCann said in announcing the charges. “They killed one kid already.”

The death of an 8-month old son of a Philadelphia ‘faith healing’ couple already on probation for the negligence death of another child has been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.

According to the autopsy report, Brandon Scott Schaible, the son of Herbert and Catherine Schaible, died in the family’s home April 18 from bacterial pneumonia and dehydration after the parents withheld medical care, the Philadelphia Inquirer says.

The Schaibles are members of the First Century Gospel Church in Northern Philadelphia — which teaches that “it is a definite sin to trust in medical help and pills” and claims that a person’s salvation depends on trusting God to heal without medical help or medicine.

First Century Gospel Church

First Century Gospel Church

In December 2010 the couple was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the January 2009 pneumonia death of their 2-year-old son Kent, after they relied on prayer instead of seeking medical attention.

While they originally faced more than ten years in prison, in February 2011 Herbert and Catherine Schaible were sentenced to ten years of probation.

The judge in that case also stipulated that they must take their remaining children for regulard medical check-ups as part of their sentence.

At the time, the Philadelphia City Paper reported

The terms of their probation require the couple to schedule regular in-person meetings with probation officers for two years, followed by three years of regular phone meetings and then five years of non-reporting probation. Part of this sentence requires that the Schaibles schedule regular medical appointments for all their children and release their children’s medical records to probation officers.

At their sentencing hearing the Schaibles promised that they would never again choose religion over medicine.

In April the couple called the John F. Fluehr & Sons funeral home and said their infant had died. The funeral home contacted police.

Paramedics pronounced 8-month old Brandon Schaible dead, and investigators processed the Schaibles’ home as a crime scene.

The child welfare agency of the Department of Human Services removed the couple’s seven remaining children, who range in age from 8 to 17, from the home and placed them in temporary foster care.

They have now received court-ordered medical examinations and any needed immunizations.

No charges were filed against the Schaibles pending the outcome of the medical examiner’s report.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says

The medical examiner’s findings and the results of a police investigation of the case have been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review. Criminal charges against the infant’s parents, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, are likely, law-enforcement sources said, and could come as early as this week.

In statements to police, the Schaibles said they did not seek medical help for their son because of their faith in God’s power to heal. […]

The Schaibles also face potential prison time for violating the most explicit condition of their 2011 manslaughter conviction in Kent’s death: to call a doctor for a sick child.

A judge ruled last month that the Schaibles “knowingly” and “intentionally” violated the terms of probation in Kent Schaible’s death when they decided not to get medical help for Brandon.

Last week First Century Gospel Church pastor Nelson Clark told The Inquirer

Satan tests through illness. God is a jealous God. Trust in medicine and doctors is idolatry. Only true faith in the divine power of God heals.

The fact the the city has placed the Schaible’s children in temporary foster care — in the home of non-believers — worries Clark.

To prevent that from happening again, Clark said, he is trying to reconcile the demands of the state with their own beliefs.

He said church teachings would allow a child welfare agency to arrange medical visits. This way, he explained, someone else could initiate the calls to a doctor.

Research resources on faith healing
Research resources on abusive churches


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 22, 2013.
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