There are these parents, Catherine and Herbert Schaible. Their two-year-old son died of treatable pneumonia in 2009 after they “treated” him with prayer instead of medical care. They were under a court order not to do that again (which seems a good deal too generous, frankly). They did do it again, and another child died of pneumonia.
The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia, where they also taught at the church school. They have seven surviving children.
Judge Benjamin Lerner rejected defense claims that their religious beliefs “clashed” with the 2011 court order to get annual checkups and call a doctor if a child became ill. The order came after a jury convicted them of involuntary manslaughter in Kent’s death, and they were sentenced to 10 years of probation.
“April of 2013 wasn’t Brandon’s time to die,” Lerner said, noting the violence committed throughout human history in the name of religion. “You’ve killed two of your children. … Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.”
And that court order that didn’t work, and the decision to let them go on being parents to those eight children, who are now seven.
“It was so foreseeable to me that this was going to happen,” said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted both cases. “Everybody in the system failed these children.”
After the first death, she and public defender Mythri Jayaraman agreed that the couple’s beliefs were so ingrained that their children remained at risk. They asked the earlier judge to have the family supervised by a Department of Human Services caseworker. Instead, the judge assigned them to probation officers, who are not trained to monitor children’s welfare.
Jeez. The prosecutor and the defender agreed that the children were at risk, and on what should be done about it? Yet the judge didn’t take their advice. Well that’s a pity.