Schaibles lose bid to dismiss homicide charges

Catherine and Herbert Schaible allegedly prayed over their sick son Brandon, 8 months, instead of seeking medical help. He died in April.
Catherine and Herbert Schaible allegedly prayed over their sick son Brandon, 8 months, instead of seeking medical help. He died in April. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 09, 2013

A Philadelphia judge refused Wednesday to dismiss murder and manslaughter charges against Herbert and Catherine Schaible, the Rhawnhurst couple who allegedly prayed over their infant son as he died of bacterial pneumonia.

"We've been here before, they've been here before under strikingly similar circumstances," Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner told Herbert Schaible's defense attorney, Bobby Hoof, referring to the 2009 death of another child.

Later, in a separate hearing, Lerner made the same ruling in Catherine Schaible's case. Lerner told defense attorney Mythri Jayaraman that a jury could easily infer malice, or criminal intent, because the Schaibles were already on 10 years' probation for involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of son Kent, 2, also from bacterial pneumonia.

"The [baby's] breathing symptoms are extremely serious," Lerner said. "It's becoming more and more labored, and you have experienced this already."

Herbert Schaible, 45, and Catherine, 44, are charged with third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and conspiracy in the April 18 death of their 8-month-old son, Brandon.

The Schaibles are members at First Century Gospel Church, a Juniata Park primitive Christian congregation that teaches that healing comes from prayer and that relying on medicine or doctors is a lack of faith in God.

Lerner reminded Hoof that the Schaibles' probation required them to get medical care for their children for illness or injury.

"They promised never to let something like this happen again," Lerner said. "But when push came to shove, they prayed, with no more attention to that promise than a puff of air."

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who also prosecuted the 2009 case, said the sentencing judge made it clear that regardless of their beliefs, the Schaibles were to take their children to a doctor at the first sign of illness.

"That meant any sign, a sign of anything. As a mother, I would have taken a child to a doctor if it stubbed a toe," Pescatore said. "But that kid [Brandon] was sick. It was so sick that it died, and they don't get that."

Herbert Schaible will remain in prison pending trial, with bail set at $250,000. Catherine Schaible posted the required 10 percent of her $250,000 bail and was released June 25 on electronically monitored house arrest at her parents' home in Summerdale.

Schaible may leave her parents' house only for court, to meet her lawyer, and to go to court-supervised visits with the couple's seven surviving children, ages about 8 to 17, who have been in foster care since Brandon died.

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

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