Faith-healing couple ordered to stand trial for son's 'murder'

Posted: June 13, 2013

IN THE days leading up to Brandon Schaible's April 18 death from bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, the nearly 8-month-old boy suffered through spells of vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty, irritability and a decreased appetite, his parents told homicide detectives.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible, of Rhawnhurst, also spoke of their devout belief in the healing powers of Jesus, and of how they prayed that Brandon's ravaged 14 1/2-pound body would be healed without doctors or medicine.

"Psalms 100:3 says, 'I am the God that heals you.' And another verse says that God does not ever change. So, I believe that he is still the God that heals,' " Catherine, 43, said hours after Brandon's death, according to a statement read yesterday by Detective James Crone at the couple's preliminary hearing.

"It's against our religious beliefs - we believe in divine healing," Herbert, 44, said when asked why they didn't get their baby to a doctor, Detective Brian Peters said, reading from Herbert's statement.

Herbert also said that he had "no regrets" about not seeking medical care, Peters said.

Municipal Judge Charles Hayden then ordered the Schaibles - high-school dropouts and lifelong members of First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park - to stand trial for third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and related counts.

The Schaibles, who have seven living children, have been down this road before.

They were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for the 2009 death of son Kent, 2, who also died of bacterial pneumonia after not receiving medical care.

The couple was sentenced to 10 years' probation and ordered to provide their remaining children with annual medical checkups and medical care when needed.

The fact that they did not do that for Brandon amounts to malice and third-degree murder, said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who also prosecuted the first case.

"They knew. They were on notice. You couldn't be more clear. These are parents who are on probation for doing the same exact thing to a child . . . and they did it once again," Pescatore said after the hearing.

But defense lawyers Mythri Jayaraman, for Catherine, and Bobby Hoof, for Herbert, argued that the charges should be dismissed because their clients had no way of knowing Brandon was so sick that he would die.

They noted that Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Gary Collins testified that the child's symptoms were the same as those caused by the flu or a cold, and he could not say how long the child showed symptoms.

Pescatore said six days; the defense said three days.

"Three days of symptoms is not enough time for a reasonable parent to know that their child is going to die," Hoof said.

Collins also testified that antibiotics and lots of fluids are the standard course of treatment for those with Brandon's illness.

The Schaibles, who are being held without bail, next week have detention hearings and on July 3 will be formally arraigned.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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