Rhawnhurst couple guilty in son's faith-case death

Posted: December 11, 2010

Herbert and Catherine Schaible were stone-faced yesterday as the jury foreman said each was guilty of causing the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son by praying for him instead of taking him to a doctor to treat his bacterial pneumonia.

The Christian fundamentalist husband and wife were found guilty of two felonies: involuntary manslaughter, which carries a five-to-10-year maximum sentence, and endangering the welfare of a child, which carries maximum 3 1/2 to seven years in prison. A conspiracy charge was dropped.

Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Engel Temin allowed them to remain free on bail and set Feb. 2 as their sentencing date.

"No comment," Herbert Schaible, a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair, said as he and his wife left the courtroom shortly after 5:30 p.m.

"My client accepts the jury's verdict. He respects the jury's decision," said defense attorney Bobby Hoof, who represented Herbert Schaible, 42. Hoof said a decision had not been made on whether to file an appeal.

Defense attorney Mythri Jayarman declined to comment on behalf of her client, Catherine Schaible, 41.

"We're hurting now. That should not have been. That's not what we really wanted to hear - not involuntary manslaughter," said the Rev. Nelson Ambrose Clark, pastor of First Century Gospel Church, in Juniata Park, where the Schaibles were taught to pray for healing in lieu of medicine and doctors.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible told police and a city social worker shortly after Kent died on Jan. 24, 2009, that they had prayed for his recovery for about 10 days rather than seek medical help because of their religious beliefs.

During the trial, however, Hoof and Jayarman argued that the Schaibles hadn't sought a doctor because they thought Kent wasn't very sick, only suffering from a cold or the flu. Religion played no part in couple's actions, the attorneys said.

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore reminded the jury of that discrepancy and argued that the couple had broken the law by putting their faith before acting in the best interest of their son, whose symptoms included a sore throat, chest congestion, diarrhea and trouble sleeping.

"It's a tragedy. A 2-year-old is dead at the hands of his own parents, technically. So, it's nothing to be happy about. I just hope that, maybe, their other seven children can now be protected through the court," Pescatore said.

Besides any prison time Temin might impose, Pescatore said, she would also ask the judge to require the couple to take their surviving children for regular medical checkups as part of their probation.

Herbert Schaible teaches at the school that is run by First Century Gospel Church. Catherine is a stay-at-home mother.

The couple live with their surviving children in Rhawnhurst.

To those like the Schaibles who believe in faith-healing, Pescatore said: "The law is what it is. You have to take care of your children. It's not enough to pray for them. It's not enough to feed them and clothe them. You also have to give them care when they need it."

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