12 Feb 2011

Probation for fundamentalist parents who let baby die without medical care, ordered to protect other children from religious beliefs

Philadelphia Inquirer  -  February 2, 2011

Parents get 10 years' probation in child's faith-healing death

By Joseph A. Slobodzian  |  Inquirer Staff Writer

Herbert and Catherine Schaible, the Rhawnhurst couple who practiced faith-healing as their 2-year-old son died of bacterial pneumonia, will not be going to prison.

They will, however, be taking their seven surviving children to a doctor from now on.

Although the Schaibles, convicted in December of involuntary manslaughter, will have to commit what their church considers a sin, medical care is an integral part of the 10 years' probation imposed Wednesday by Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engle Temin.

Temin said she had "thought long and hard about this sentencing" and had ruled out prison. But she made clear that they must get regular medical exams and care for their seven children, now 1 to 15, until they turn 18.

Herbert Schaible, 42, who teaches at a school run by the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church of Juniata Park, made a brief statement expressing remorse. He said he "accepted the jury's verdict" and asked for leniency. Afterward, he declined to further comment.

Catherine Schaible, 41, whose father is principal of the school, declined to speak before sentencing.

Bobby Hoof, Herbert Schaible's attorney, said the sentence gave the couple 30 days to set up exams for each child with a "qualified medical practitioner."

The Schaibles must schedule follow-up visits as the doctor recommends and must seek medical care if the children even get a cold, Hoof said.

The couple also agreed to submit to periodic checks by probation officers and to open their children's medical records as requested.

Violating those terms could put the Schaibles in prison, Hoof said.

The Schaibles could each have been sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and 31/2 to 7 years for endangering the welfare of a child.

However, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said she was less interested in prison time than in the assurance that the children would regularly see a doctor.

"It was a fair sentence," Pescatore said afterward. "It will be time-consuming, but the probation officer is really going to have to pay attention to make sure they're following through with this."

Hoof said the sentence sent a clear message that "religious freedom is trumped by the safety of children."

At the Schaibles' trial, witnesses testified that for two weeks, Kent had fought what began as a cold, but progressed into bacterial pneumonia. The couple prayed over their son and thought he might be getting well.

But on the night of Jan. 24, 2009, they discovered Kent dead in bed. They called their church's assistant pastor, Ralph Myers, who joined them in prayer and then called a funeral director.

"We tried to fight the devil, but in the end, the devil won," Herbert Schaible told homicide detectives in a statement read to the jury at trial.

The Schaibles' church considers seeking medical care to be a sin and a lack of faith in God. It does shun those who see a doctor.

The church's teaching has at times put it at odds with civil authorities, notably in 1991, when a city measles epidemic killed eight children. Their parents belonged to either First Century Gospel Church or nearby Faith Tabernacle of Nicetown, which also espouses faith-healing.

This article was found at:


Pastor and lawyer claim religious persecution of parents charged for allowing 2 year old to die from pneumonia without medical care


  1. Second Child Death for Convicted Faith-Healing Couple

    Couple on probation after 2-year-old died, lose another child

    By Dan Stamm | NBC10 Philadelphia April 20, 2013

    A couple that was sentenced to probation after their 2-year-old died in 2009 from pneumonia have had another child die.

    Herbert and Catherine Schaible, fundamentalist Christians who believe in the power of prayer ahead of modern medicine, recently had their 8-month-old son die, according to Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Jillian Russell.

    It wasn’t clear when the child died, or the cause of death, but the death hasn't been ruled suspicious, Russell said.

    The child was taken to a funeral home by an as yet unknown individual and the undertaker alerted police, Russell said.

    An official cause of death is pending an autopsy, according to police.

    In 2010, a jury convicted the Schaibles, who have seven other children, of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the death of their 2-year-old son Kent. The Schaibles were each sentenced to 10 years of probation -- they could have faced prison time.

    As part of their sentence, the Schaibles were required to arrange medical examinations for each of their children, to immediately consult with a doctor when a child became sick and to follow the doctor’s treatment recommendations.

    During their trial, the Schaibles' lawyers said the parents were targeted because their fundamentalist Christian beliefs espouse faith healing.

    Pennsylvania law says parents have a legal duty to protect their children's health and safety, although the law does not specify if or when medical care must be sought.

    Prosecutors said the Kent could have been saved with basic medical care -- probably even over-the-counter medication -- but the couple relied on prayer instead. Defense attorneys argued that their clients did not know how sick the child was, and their beliefs played no role in their decision.

    When asked for comment outside his Rhawnhurst home Friday, Herbert Schaible, 44, told NBC10’s Chris Cato “we don’t want to talk.”


  2. Death of Faith-Healing Couple's Son Ruled a Homicide

    By Danielle Johnson and David Chang | NBC Philadelphia May 22, 2013

    The death of the son of a local "faith healing" couple has been ruled a homicide.

    Brandon Schaible, an 8-month-old boy, died on April 18 shortly after 8:30 p.m. His parents, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, are fundamentalist Christians who believe in the power of prayer instead of modern medicine.

    They were previously sentenced to 10 years of probation after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009 from pneumonia. Prosecutors said that he could have been saved with basic medical care -- probably even over-the-counter medication -- but the couple relied on prayer instead.

    Defense attorneys argued that their clients did not know how sick the child was, and their beliefs played no role in their decision.

    As part of their probation, the judge ordered them to take their seven other children, ranging in age from 8 to 17, to the doctor for regular checkups or whenever a child showed any sign of illness.

    After Brandon's death, a judge ruled that the couple had violated their probation by failing to take him to the hospital. The judge ordered that their remaining children be removed from their Northeast Philadelphia home.

    On Monday, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner revealed that Brandon died from bacterial pneumonia and dehydration due to a Group B Streptococcus infection. His death has been ruled a homicide.

    Authorities have yet to file criminal charges in Brandon’s death.

    Catherine Schaible's attorney, Mythri Jayaraman, cautioned against a rush to judgment, and said the couple are good parents deeply distraught over the loss of another child.

    "What we do know is Mr. and Mrs. Schaible are distraught, they are grieving, they are tremendously sad about the loss of their most recent baby," she said.

    After Brandon's death, prosecutors sought to have the couple jailed, but a judge permitted them to remain free because their seven other children had been placed in foster care.

    "He feels they are a danger to their children -- not to the community, but to their own children," Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted the couple in 2010, said Tuesday.

    Pennsylvania law says parents have a legal duty to protect their children's health and safety, although the law does not specify if or when medical care must be sought.


  3. Faith-Healing Churches Linked to 2 Dozen Child Deaths

    CHOP doctor says laws need to be changed

    By Vince Lattanzio | NBC News Philadelphia May 24, 2013

    Two Philadelphia faith-healing churches have a long history of the youngest members of their congregation dying because parents refused medical care.

    Families who attend Faith Tabernacle Congregation in North Philadelphia and First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park have lost more than two dozen children to illness since 1971, according to non-profit Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. (CHILD, Inc.). Both churches believe in the power of prayer over modern medicine.

    The Schaibles are one of those families.

    Herbert and Catherine Schaible stand charged with third-degree murder and other crimes after their 7-month-old son Brandon died from bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and a group B streptococcus infection on April 18.

    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says the boy’s death could have been prevented, but the couple instead turned to prayer.

    This is the second time the couple lost a child to illness. They were sentenced to 10 years probation after the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son Kent. Kent died after contracting pneumonia, an illness prosecutors said could have been prevented with basic medical care.

    With Brandon’s death, prosecutors allege the couple violated their probation by not taking the baby to the doctor.

    The Schaibles are members of the First Century Gospel Church. Founded in 1925, the church is an offshoot of its mother church Faith Tabernacle Congregation. At least 22 children from the congregations have died from illnesses.

    In 1991, Faith Tabernacle lost five children to the measles after an outbreak. One child from First Century Gospel also died.

    Dean Heilman was 22-months-old when he bled to death as a result of his hemophilia. His parents, Dean and Susan, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to probation in 1997, according to court records.

    Court records also show Annemarie and Daniel Foster were also charged in 1997 with endangering the welfare of their son Patrick. The 2-year-old went months without treatment for a tumor. The Fosters were given probation and got Patrick treatment, according to CHILD, Inc. He died in 2007.

    NBC10’s Lu Ann Cahn spoke to one member of First Tabernacle Thursday about the church’s beliefs.

    “The church believe that people get sick because they’re not doing the right thing,” the man named John said. He refused to give his last name during the interview.

    “God promised us that if we do his will, that there’s no infection; all these diseases that you name, would not come to you,” the man explained. John says he believes the congregation is being persecuted for their beliefs.

    Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says a parent’s faith does not trump their health.

    “Although, you are allowed to martyr yourself to your religion, you are not allowed to martyr your child to your religion,” he said.

    Dr. Offit is now writing a book about the 1991 measles outbreak. He says Pennsylvania’s laws need to be changed to prevent additional faith-healing related deaths from happening.

    “In the State of Pennsylvania, there are religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws, we are backward in that sense,” he said. “I think we need to eliminate those exemptions.”

    The Schaibles are being held on $250,000 bail. But prosecutors are seeking to have the bail revoked over the violation of the couple’s probation. A judge will decide whether the bail should stay or go during court proceedings Friday.


  4. Philadelphia faith-healing couple accused of murder must stand trial: judge

    By Dave Warner, Reuters June 12, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA | Arguments that a Philadelphia faith-healing couple did not know their baby was sick enough to die failed to convince a judge to dismiss murder charges arising from the death of their infant son in April.

    Herbert Schaible, 45, and his wife, Catherine Schaible, 43, are accused of murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 7-month old Brandon Schaible.

    Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden on Wednesday said their case should proceed to trial after he rejected claims by defense attorneys that prosecutors could not show gross negligence, malice or that the parents knew the baby was about to die.

    Brandon Schaible died on April 18 of bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, the city medical examiner's office ruled.

    "They did nothing to help that child," prosecutor Joanne Pescatore said at the court hearing. "That's why it's murder."

    Brandon was the second Schaible child to die. In 2009, Kent Schaible, age 2, also died of bacterial pneumonia.

    The two were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the case of their 2-year-old son and put on 10 years probation, on the condition their surviving children get annual physical checkups and be taken to a medical professional if they were ill.

    The Schaibles belong to the First Century Gospel Church in North Philadelphia, whose members believe in the power of divine healing.

    Reverend Nelson Clark of the 525-member church said in a recent interview that Herbert Schaible was trusting in God to heal his child.

    He said while Schaible could have informed authorities or a medical professional that his son was sick, "he felt like any kind of a call was a lack of faith on his part."

    "He felt, I guess, he would be being disloyal to God," he said.

    Police Detective James Crone read a transcript in court of an interview he conducted with Catherine Schaible when the baby died. He quoted her saying that no one in her family goes to doctors "because of our religious beliefs."

    "That's why we don't go," she said in the police statement.

    The parents, who are being held in jail, each face a possible sentence of 40 years in prison if convicted of third-degree murder and 10 years for involuntary manslaughter.

    The couple's seven surviving children were placed in foster care after Brandon's death.

    (Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Steve Orlofsky)


  5. Pennsylvania faith-healing case poses thorny legal issues

    By Joseph A. Slobodzian The Philadelphia Inquirer Leader-Telegram June 15, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA - Herbert and Catherine Schaible's faith in the laws of God put them on a collision course with the laws of man when their 8-month-old son, Brandon, fell ill in April.

    As members of First Century Gospel Church, a Philadelphia Christian congregation that shuns medical care as an affront to God, they turned to prayer when Brandon became ill with what proved to be a fatal case of bacterial pneumonia.

    Prayer was what they turned to in January 2009 when their 2-year-old son, Kent, also died of bacterial pneumonia, a death that led to involuntary-manslaughter convictions, 10 years' probation and a court order to seek medical care when their seven other children got sick.

    For the Schaibles' attorneys, prayer will have nothing to do with defending what legal experts say is one of the thorniest of murder cases.

    "These are really difficult and sad cases," said Steve Crampton, general counsel for Liberty Counsel, an Orlando, Fla.-based legal organization that focuses on religious issues.

    Crampton said the Schaibles' case "lies at the intersection of society's right to protect the life of the child and the parents' right to both the free exercise of their children's religion and (control over) the upbringing of their children."

    The couple's seven children, ranging in age from about 8 to 17, were placed in foster care after Brandon's April 18 death.

    Bobby Hoof, the lawyer for Herbert Schaible, 44, declined comment. Mythri Jayaraman, attorney for Catherine Schaible, 43, could not be reached for comment. Both lawyers defended the Schaibles in the 2010 trial.

    For the Schaibles and others like them, however, there is no protection when faith and law collide.

    "For parents, there is no religious exemption, no absolute license that lets you do what you want in the name of religion," Crampton said.

    Donald A. Bosch knows the problems of defending a case like the Schaibles'. The Knoxville, Tenn., lawyer spent a decade representing self-proclaimed faith healer Ariel Ben Sherman, who was charged with neglect in the 2002 death of a 15-year-old girl with bone cancer.

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  6. Sherman, pastor of New Life Tabernacle in Lenoir City, Tenn., had counseled congregant Jacqueline Crank that her daughter Jessica could be cured by prayer - not medicine.

    As Jessica's condition worsened and authorities were called, Sherman and the Cranks went into hiding. By the time they were found a month later, Jessica had a basketball-size tumor on her shoulder and was near death.

    Sherman and Jacqueline Crank were charged with neglect in Jessica's death and, after a protracted journey through Tennessee courts, were found guilty and sentenced to a year's probation for the misdemeanor conviction.

    Bosch said that laws dealing with faith or prayer healing vary among the states: "Generally, the law says that there's a duty to provide reasonable care, but that doesn't mean you have to throw faith out the window. There's a fine line for parents to navigate between faith and reasonable medical care."

    Jacqueline Crank is appealing her conviction. Sherman's appeal is over, and he is beyond the law's reach: The 78-year-old faith healer died Nov. 28.
    The Schaibles' biggest legal problem may be that they have been here before.

    They were arrested and tried for involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of their son Kent. They sat in court and heard medical experts testify that had Kent been taken to a hospital, or just administered antibiotics, he likely would have survived. They heard the verdict and the judge impose 10 years' probation and order that they get their remaining children to a doctor when they got sick.

    Then, on April 18, 8-month-old Brandon died in their Rhawnhurst home of bacterial pneumonia as his devout parents prayed over him.

    The legal repercussions were predictable. The Schaibles were cited for violating probation. Their children were put in foster care. They were charged not with manslaughter but third-degree murder, which in Pennsylvania carries a 20- to 40-year prison term.

    In their favor, some experts say, is the almost universal description of them as loving, caring parents.

    Temple University law professor David Kairys, a veteran criminal and civil rights lawyer, said he thought third-degree murder might still be a stretch for prosecutors.

    "I don't see how you can prove intent to kill," Kairys said.


  7. Ex-members of Schaibles church say death surrounded them

    BY SOLOMON LEACH, Daily News Staff Writer JUNE 14, 2013

    WHEN HERBERT and Catherine Schaible watched a second child wither away and die in April instead of taking him for medical treatment, the general public reacted with disgust and disbelief.

    But for one woman, the feelings that emerged were more of sadness and empathy borne out of her unique perspective.

    "I feel bad for them because I understand where their minds are. I lived in that fear once," said the 32-year-old woman, a distant relative of the Schaibles and former member of the couple's church, First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park.

    The woman, whom the Daily News is referring to as Stephanie because she asked that her identity be withheld since she has family members still in the church, was a member for 18 years. The death in April of 7-month-old Brandon Schaible - four years after his brother Kent, 2, died of bacterial pneumonia and dehydration - has caused her to speak out about the church, which she described as a cult.

    "I hurt for them," she said of the Schaibles. "I also get fed up and angry for them. I feel bad for the kids. I'm just tired of seeing the children die."

    First Century Gospel, which split years ago from Faith Tabernacle in North Philly, has been well-documented for its belief in "faith-healing," the notion that seeking medical care is for nonbelievers and that healing is a reward for faith. Members are not allowed to go to the doctor or get vaccinations. They also do not own property, purchase insurance or attend college.

    "They think that if they don't do everything exactly the way they're taught in church . . . they're going to burn in an eternal lake of fire and it's never going to end," Stephanie said. "I used to have that fear. I still have episodes [of post-traumatic stress disorder]."

    'Giving Satan glory'

    As a child, Stephanie said, she contracted measles and chickenpox and got very sick on at least one occasion, but eventually recovered.

    "It was just a way of life. And when you get sick it was, 'You kids go and get on your knees [and pray],' " she recalled.

    Stephanie said Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who were held for trial yesterday on third-degree murder charges, were also her former teachers at the church's Northeast Philadelphia parochial school, which goes through 10th grade. She said that a cousin of the Schaibles, Suzy Schaible, also died years ago, during childbirth.

    In 1991, a child at the school died during a measles outbreak. It's a case Stephanie remembers vividly.

    "She had a twin brother and they are relatives of mine," she said of the deceased child.

    "It's sad to think I have so many family members that are being oppressed like that," said Stephanie, one of two former church members who spoke with the Daily News.

    As one of nine children in her family, Stephanie said she grew up in the church, where large families are common.

    As a child, she said, she was sexually abused by two older brothers and some of her male cousins - something she did not tell anyone about until recently, in part because of the church's teachings.

    "They tell you if something bad happens, you pray about it and then you don't talk about it," she said. "If you talk about bad things, you're giving Satan glory when you should be giving God glory."

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  8. By the time she reached her mid-to-late teens, she had already begun to question some of the church's teachings. But what really dashed her beliefs, she said, is when her father died of an undiagnosed form of cancer and her mother suffered a fatal heart attack a month later.

    "I was doing exactly what the church said. I repented of my sins, [got] rid of my worldly possessions, and when your loved one dies, there's such a feeling of deception," she said. "It makes you lose your trust in people and your trust in churches. The more I questioned things, the more [they] contradicted themselves."

    The emotional pain was so great, Stephanie said, that when she was 18, she began cutting and burning herself. At one point, she said, she even thought of committing suicide.

    Around that time, one of her family members who had left the church and moved out of state offered her a chance to come visit. Despite her fear, Stephanie went, and as time passed, she decided she wouldn't return to the church, she said.

    Once she left the church, she began to live life as others do, she said. She went to a doctor for the first time. She got vaccinated. But while she was free from the fearmongering, her childhood teachings resonated in the back of her mind.

    "I still remember I had cramps so bad I was in a fetal position crying. My relative stood in front of me with two aspirin. She said, 'You need to take these.' I said, 'No.' She said, 'Take them, and if anybody asks, I made you take them.' I took them and I prayed and said, 'Please don't let it work. I'm sorry I took it,' " she recalled. "Part of me knew that the church was misguided and wasn't teaching the truth, but part of me [still believed it]."

    Eventually, she said, she realized she could enjoy life without the constant fear that something bad would happen to her. She has attended college, has moved back to the area and, ironically, is studying to work in the medical field.

    "I don't walk in fear anymore. When I go to church, I get to be on fire for God," she said.

    One thing that has not been restored, however, is her relationship with her family, she said. Many of her relatives still do not speak to her. But one younger brother briefly moved in with her and has since left the church.

    'We give the truth'

    First Century Gospel worships in a nondescript one-floor hall the church rents on G Street near Annsbury. At a recent Sunday service, the hall was packed with a few hundred well-dressed people, with the men wearing collared shirts or suits and the women wearing dresses or blouses and pants.

    Pastor Nelson Clark, whose grandfather and namesake founded the church in 1925, began the 75-minute service with prayer, during which he prayed for "the families who've lost loved ones," asking that God assure them that "those that have passed on in the faith will receive the promises." He also prayed for the families who are "held by authorities," who are being "persecuted and prosecuted."

    After a few hymns accompanied by an organ, Clark read praise notes of healing submitted by members. One such note described a family member's deliverance from "pain in their teeth and gums."

    "The devil had hindered and oppressed them, especially when eating or drinking any kind of cold food or beverage," Clark read. "We are praising God for the improvement and believing that they are permanently delivered by God."

    After the service, Clark declined to be interviewed. When asked about the claims of the two former members who spoke with theDaily News, he said, "We feel we give the truth. If they didn't feel it was the truth, they leave."

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  9. The fact that First Century and Faith Tabernacle have existed in the city this long is somewhat surprising, according to Shawn Peters, author of When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law.

    Peters said faith-healing congregations are typically found in rural areas or isolated on the West Coast.

    "Oftentimes they're isolated precisely because they don't want people to scrutinize them," he said.

    It is for that reason, Peters said, it is hard to estimate how many faith-healing congregations exist.

    "Unfortunately, we don't find out about these congregations until something terrible happens, not just to one child but several children," he said.

    'A lot of phoniness'

    Eric Blake, another former member who was reared in First Century, described its teachings as "brainwashing."

    "Just like any false teaching or any other cult, they cut you off from the outside world. No college; [they] don't read any books. When you put that in somebody's head, that is what they believe," the Mount Airy resident said.

    Blake, 53, who is African-American, estimated that black members once comprised 25 percent of the congregation, although the ratio is smaller now. Blake also attended the church's school, but said he saw things that led him to question the religion.

    "I saw a lot of phoniness. The things that they were saying that you'd be in trouble for with God, some of the leaders were doing the same thing and nothing was happening to them," he said. "And then I looked around at the world and nothing was happening to people in the world that were doing the things that they were saying was bad. So I was like, 'Well, I'm in the world, let's go out there and experience life.' "

    Like Stephanie, Blake left the church around age 18 - roughly 35 years ago - a move that caused a rift with his mother. When he got married years later, his mother did not attend the wedding at the advice of church leaders, he said. The two remained on rocky ground until she died in 1996.

    "It was hard mentally and spiritually," he said of the rift, "but I guess through a lot of prayer I realized all I could do was pray, and I knew she wouldn't change, so I had to look at the good times for what they were."

    Blake, too, said several of his family members in the church died because they refused to seek medical treatment for things such as measles. Many of his other family members have since left, he said.

    Since leaving First Century, both Stephanie and Blake said they have learned to develop their own spiritual relationship and currently attend other churches. In Blake's case, he described his acceptance of Christ as "the most impactful thing that ever happened to me."

    Recently, Blake began connecting through Facebook with former First Century members with whom he had attended school. He said the group hangs out a few times a year, which he hopes will inspire First Century members who are "on the fence" to see there are other options.

    "Mentally and spiritually they destroy lives because they're playing with people's heads," he said of the church.

    Stephanie said that over the years, she has talked with several former members who were also sexually abused, although there is no indication that church officials were aware of the abuse.

    One day, she dreams of opening an outreach program for First Century members who want to leave but are afraid to, although she realizes many will never leave.

    "I think there's a chance that maybe one or two will [leave], and if that's the case, it's worth it," she said.


  10. Judge wont toss Philadelphia faith-healers murder charge

    by MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press August 07, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA - August 7, 2013 (WPVI) -- A judge refused to dismiss murder charges Wednesday against a fundamentalist Christian in the faith-healing death of his son, saying things might be different if another one of his children's deaths hadn't landed him and his wife in court four years ago.

    Their probation in that case required Herbert and Catherine Schaible to seek immediate medical help if another child was sick or injured. But the Schaibles instead sat and prayed over 8-month-old son Brandon before he died of pneumonia in April, according to their statements to police.

    Defense lawyer Bobby Hoof argued that Brandon died just three days after he became ill, and said there was no evidence of malice, as required for a third-degree murder charge. The judge disagreed.

    "They learned in the worst possible way ... exactly what these symptoms could lead to in a child, especially a young child, if not medically cared for," Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner said, referring to the 2009 death of 2-year-old Kent Schaible. "We've been here before ... under strikingly similar circumstances."
    About a dozen children die each year in the U.S. when parents turn to faith healing instead of medicine, typically from highly treatable problems, said Shawn Francis Peters, a University of Wisconsin lecturer who has studied faith-healing deaths. At least one state, Oregon, has removed faith healing as a defense to murder charges.

    The Schaibles are third-generation members and former teachers at the First Century Gospel Church, a small, insular congregation in northeast Philadelphia.

    "We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power," Herbert Schaible, 44, told homicide detectives after Brandon, their ninth child, died.

    Their seven surviving children are now in foster care.

    Catherine Schaible is due in court Wednesday afternoon for the same motion to dismiss the murder charge in Brandon's death. She is free on bail and attended the morning hearing of her husband, who remains in custody. He silently nodded to his wife after the judge's ruling.

    Kent also died of pneumonia, albeit after an illness of more than a week.

    The Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in his death and placed on 10 years of probation, which included the requirement to get annual medical checkups and other medical care as needed for their children. Brandon was seen by a doctor when he was 10 days old and deemed healthy, Hoof said. But he acknowledged the boy did not see a doctor when he became ill.

    "A reasonable parent probably would wait three days to take their child to a doctor," Hoof said. "Unfortunately, this infectious organism can ... become fatal the same day. ... It's arguable (whether), even if he had taken his son to the doctor, he would have survived."

    The Schaibles' pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a "spiritual lack" in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death. He has also faulted officials for trying to force his members into "the flawed medical system."


  11. Faith-healing couple sent to prison for death of second son

    BY MENSAH M. DEAN, Daily News Staff Writer February 19, 2014

    Saying that it was they who killed their son and not God or religious devotion, a judge Wednesday sentenced a Philadelphia couple to three and a half to seven years in state prison for praying for their pneumonia-stricken baby instead following a court order to take him to a doctor.

    Herbert and Catherine Schaible, of the city's Rhawnhurst section, each apologized for the April death of 7-month-old Brandon and said despite their religious beliefs in prayer over medicine, they would take their seven surviving children to doctors in the future.

    Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner also sentenced the couple to 30 months of supervised probation after they are released from prison.

    Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, at times appearing on the verge of tears, denounced the couple for Brandon's death and for the death of another son, Kent, 2, who died in 2009 of the same ailment and under the same circumstances.

    She asked Lerner to sentence the couple to eight to 16 years in prison.

    "God gave you these children to protect, to take care of. They are precious," said Pescatore, who won involuntary manslaughter convictions against the couple for Brandon's death.

    "They didn't even give that baby Tylenol. What were you thinking? What were you thinking?" she demanded of the couple, who sat silently listening.

    Herbert, 45, and Catherine, 44, lifelong members of the faith-healing First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, pleaded guilty in November to third-degree murder, child endangerment and conspiracy in Brandon's death.

    The baby died at the family's home April 18 of bacterial pneumonia. He suffered for several days while his parents prayed for him.

    At the time, the Schaibles were on probation for the death of Kent, who also died at their home.

    After Kent's death, the couple was tried and convicted in December 2010. They were sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to get medical care for their surviving children on a regular and as-needed basis.