29 Oct 2010

Ex-friend says Wisconsin mother charged with reckless homicide thought illness was sin

Yahoo News - Associated Press May 19, 2009

by Robert Imrie | AP writer

WAUSAU, Wis. – A mother accused of rejecting medical treatment and relying on prayer as her 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes believed people got sick because they sinned, a former friend and Bible study partner said Tuesday at the woman's homicide trial.

Althea Wormgoor and her husband described praying with Leilani Neumann and her family in Madeline Neumann's last hours, a scene that turned to chaos and tearful pleas to heaven when the girl stopped breathing.

Leilani Neumann also attributed sickness to demons, Wormgoor testified. She said that when one of her sons got sick, Neumann thought his vomiting was to rid his body of demons.

"That was a little much," Wormgoor testified.

Neumann, 41, has been charged with second-degree reckless homicide in her daughter Madeline's March 23, 2008, death at the family's rural Weston home.

Prosecutors contend a reasonable parent would have known something was gravely wrong with Madeline, who had become so weak she couldn't walk or talk. They say Neumann recklessly killed her daughter by praying instead of rushing her to a doctor. The defense has said she and her husband, who is awaiting trial, didn't know how sick their daughter was until it was too late.

Wormgoor told a Marathon County jury that Neumann didn't believe in doctors or medicine.

"Basically, you pray and do nothing but pray," she said. Wormgoor added, however, that Neumann once asked her for an aspirin.

Wormgoor, who has four children, testified that her family moved from California to Wisconsin in January 2008 to start a second coffee business with the Neumanns and participate in their weekly Bible studies. The Neumanns also had lived in California, and the families had known each other for years.

But Wormgoor said that by March 2008, she and her husband had realized they disagreed with the Neumanns about the business and faith healing.

Wormgoor said she would not have let one of her daughters get as sick as Madeline without getting medical help.

"I believe he (God) can heal anything, anyone if he so chooses, but that is not our decision," she said. "It is his decision. Prayer absolutely helps."

Wormgoor said she and her family went to the Neumanns' home the day Madeline died. Leilani Neumann had urged them to come, saying Madeline was on the floor, not talking, eating or drinking, she said.

The Wormgoors prayed with the Neumanns. Leilani Neumann raised her hands in the air, calling her daughter's illness a test of faith and a chance for God to show his power, Wormgoor said.

"'Oh Lord, you can heal diabetes. You can heal cancer,'" Wormgoor said Neumann prayed. "'I am praying that God is going to bring her back from this and make her 10 times better.'"

After about five minutes of prayer, Leilani Neumann indicated her daughter appeared better than the previous night, her breathing stronger, Wormgoor said.

Suddenly, Madeline's mouth "twitched," she said.

"To me, it looked like she was gasping for air," Wormgoor said. "It was a twitch that scared me. You are telling me, is she getting better? But right then I am not seeing it. I panicked."

Wormgoor rushed to call 911, but her husband got to a phone first and made the call.

Randall Wormgoor testified that he had urged Neumann's husband, Dale, to take Madeline to a hospital.

"I said, 'Dale, if that was my daughter, I would be taking her to a doctor," Randall Wormgoor said. "He said at some point, 'Don't you think it has crossed my mind.'"

Randall Wormgoor said he tried to reason with Dale Neumann, saying God worked through doctors just as the Neumanns worked through their coffee business to try to do their ministry. But then chaos broke out as word spread that Madeline was not breathing.

Randall Wormgoor said he went back to where Madeline had been on the floor.

"I saw Dale sort of on his knees, holding her, saying 'Jesus, Jesus' in a mournful, crying tone," he testified.

Efforts to revive the girl were unsuccessful.

If convicted, Leilani Neumann faces up to 25 years in prison. Dale Neumann also has been charged with second-degree reckless homicide. His trial is set for July.

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