A Rhawnhurst, Pennsylvania couple on probation for the 2009 death of their toddler son from pneumonia is accused of letting a second child die of a treatable illness, opting to pray rather than take the child to a doctor. According to the Associated Press, Herbert and Catherine Schaible are fundamentalist Christians who are accused of allowing their 8-month-old son Brandon to die after days of diarrhea and breathing problems because they believed that God would heal him.
The Schaibles were four years into a 10-year probation sentence resulting from the death in 2009 of their 2-year-old son Kent from bacterial pneumonia. As part of their sentence for an involuntary manslaughter conviction, Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engel Temin ordered the Schaibles to seek regular medical attention for their surviving seven children.
Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner said at a hearing on Monday that the Schaibles had "grossly and disastrously" violated the primary tenet of their probation last week when they allowed their ninth child, Brandon, to die last Thursday.
"I am sorry for your loss. Deeply sorry," Lerner said. "But in all honesty, I am more sorry for the fact that this innocent little child will not be able to grow up to be what he wanted to be."
The Schaibles attend the First Century Gospel Church, a fundamentalist congregation that believes in faith and prayer over science and medicine for the treatment of illnesses and injuries.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore told the court on Monday that the Schaibles acknowledged that 8-month-old Brandon was crying, sleepless and having diarrhea last week. The couple prayed over the baby as his breathing became labored, then stopped. When he died, they called a funeral home.
"They called here and we immediately notified the medical examiner," Rick Fluehr of John F. Fluehr & Sons funeral home told Philly.com.
Authorities are waiting for autopsy results before filing charges against the Schaibles. They could face 5 to 10 years in prison on the basis of the probation violation alone. Judge Lerner released the couple on their own recognizance. The remaining seven children have been removed from their parents' custody.
"You are not a danger to the community," Lerner told Herbert and Catherine Schaible. "You are a danger to your children."
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