Bail for mother in faith healing death

Catherine Schaible must post $250,000.
Catherine Schaible must post $250,000.
Posted: June 22, 2013

Catherine Schaible was freed on bail Friday to await trial in the faith healing death of her infant son.

Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner's ruling came with restrictions: Schaible must pay $250,000 bail and live in her parents' home under electronically monitored house arrest.

Lerner said Schaible may only leave the house to go to court, meet her lawyer, or for court-supervised visits with her children.

No mention was made of leaving the house to attend religious services at First Century Gospel Church, the Juniata Park congregation where Schaible, 43, and husband Herbert, 44, are members.

The church teaches that healing comes from prayer and that reliance on medicine or doctors demonstrates a lack of faith in God.

The Schaibles' adherence to that belief ended with the Rhawnhurst couple's being charged with third-degree murder in the April death of their 8-month-old son, Brandon, who had pneumonia.

When their son died, the Schaibles were on 10 years' probation in the 2009 death of son Kent, 2, who also died of pneumonia while they prayed.

Since Brandon's death, the Schaibles' seven remaining children, ages about 8 to 17, have been in foster care.

"I have to think about the welfare of these children," Lerner said. "These children have one mother and one father, and I don't think it's necessarily a good thing that for months, they have had virtually no contact with either parent."

Defense attorney Mythri Jayaraman said Catherine Schaible was less culpable in her children's deaths because of church teachings that a wife must be "submissive to her husband."

That view was supported by First Century Gospel Church Pastor Nelson A. Clark and Assistant Pastor Ralph Myers, who affirmed the church's teaching about a wife's role.

He and Myers testified that they Herbert Schaible made decisions about the welfare of the couple's children.

"She would have a say," Clark added, "but he would make the decision."

Questioned by Lerner, Clark said he spoke with Herbert Schaible a day or two before Brandon died and suggested that Schaible tell his probation officer that the baby was ill.

"He said that if he called anyone, it would be a denial of his faith that God could heal the child," Clark testified.

Myers testified that Clark asked him to go to the Schaible home and join them in praying over Brandon. The next day, he said, the child's grandfather asked him to come back to the house, saying Brandon had not moved in two hours.

When he arrived, Myers said, the child was dead.

"I called the funeral home," he said.

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore argued that Catherine Schaible should not be treated differently from her husband. On Thursday, Lerner refused to release Herbert Schaible on bail pending trial.

"She was that child's mother, and he was that child's father, and they both have equal responsibility for that child," she said.

Lerner said he was not concerned that Catherine Schaible might flee before trial because her parents posted bail and risked its forfeiture if she fled.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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