Couple under investigation for second child death

Posted: April 20, 2013

A Northeast Philadelphia couple sentenced to probation for practicing faith-healing after their toddler son died of illness in 2009 are again under criminal investigation for the death of their 8-month-old son Thursday.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible - members of a church that shuns medical care - were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for failing to bring their 2-year-old son to a doctor when he was sick with bacterial pneumonia. They couple prayed over the sick child instead and called a funeral director when he died.

The judge ordered the Schaibles to arrange care for their seven other children by a "qualified medical practitioner."

Now, with the death of another child, the Schaibles face a court hearing next week for possibly violating their parole.

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, would not discuss details of the investigation, but said the terms of the Schaibles' probation were clear.

"All of the children in their care had to have regular doctor's appointments and visits," she said Friday, "and if a child was sick they were required to consult a medical practitioner and follow their recommendations and advice to the letter."

Brandon Schaible was born August 31. It is unclear if the child had medical issues.

Around 8 p.m. Thursday, the couple called the John F. Fluehr & Sons funeral home on Cottman Avenue and told them that the infant had died, according to a police report.

The funeral home notified the medical examiner's office, who then informed police. Paramedics who responded to the Rhawn Street home pronounced the child dead at 8:35 p.m. Investigators processed the home as a crime scene, according the report.

Homicide detectives questioned the Schaibles at police headquarters Friday, said Capt. James Clark of the Homicide Unit.

The couple was released, pending the Medical Examiner's ruling on what cause the child's death, he said.

"The investigation is still in the preliminary stages," Clark said, "Once the medical examiner makes a ruling we will take statements from the parents and confer with the District Attorney's Office to find out what if any charges will be brought against these parents."

No one answered the Schaible front door Friday night.

Bobby Hoof, who represented Herbert Schaible, did not returns calls to his office late Friday. Mythri Jayaraman, who represented Catherine Schaible, also could not be reached.

Kent Schaible died in 2009 after a two-week battle with pneumonia.

Prosecutors alleged that the Schaibles put their religious beliefs in faith healing above the child's best interests, by praying over him instead of seeking medical care.

"We tried to fight the devil, but in the end the devil won," Herbert Schaible told a city social worker investigating the child's death.

None of the children had ever gone to a doctor or received medication.

Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engle Temin sentenced the Schaibles to 10 years probation and ordered them to schedule regular medical exams for their children until they turn 18.

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

It is unclear from court records how often probation officers have since visited the Schaible home.

At the trial, a social worker from the Department of Human Services, Kenneth Dixon, testified that the surviving children appeared healthy and well cared for.

The child welfare agency could not open a case on the family based on religious beliefs alone, Dixon stold the court.

Since Brandon's death, the agency has removed the Schaibles seven remaining children.

"Our job is to make sure the children are physically safe and placed in a secure environment at this point," Alicia Taylor, a DHS spokeswoman said Friday.

At the time of Kent's death, Herbert and Catherine Schaible were members of the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park.

Herbert Schaible was a teacher at the church school.

Catherine Schaible is the daughter of the school principal.

Even before Kent Schaible died, the church had come under scrutiny for the death of a child who died from measles and parents who prayed their child's broken leg after he was hit by a car.

Contact staff writer Mike Newall at 215-854-2759 or


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