Faith-healing couple sent to prison for death of second son

C. Schaible
C. Schaible
Posted: February 21, 2014

SAYING THAT IT was they who killed their son and not God or religious devotion, a judge yesterday sentenced a Rhawnhurst couple to 3 1/2 to 7 years in state prison for praying for their pneumonia-stricken baby instead of following a court order to take him to a doctor.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible each apologized for the April death of 7-month-old Brandon and said despite their religious beliefs in prayer over medicine, they would take their surviving children to doctors in the future.

Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner also sentenced the couple to 30 months of supervised probation after they are released from prison.

Although Lerner said he believed a strong bond of love existed between the parents and their surviving seven children, he chastised them for ignoring state law and letting Brandon become the second of their children to die because of a lack of medical care.

"You've killed two of your children. That's it in a nutshell. Not God, not your church, not religious devotion," Lerner said.

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, at times appearing on the verge of tears, denounced the couple for the deaths of Brandon and Kent, 2, who died in 2009 of the same ailment and under the same circumstances.

For Kent's death, the couple were tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter in December 2010 and sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to get medical care for their surviving children on a regular and as-needed basis.

Pescatore asked Lerner to sentence the couple to eight to 16 years in prison for Brandon's death.

"God gave you these children to protect, to take care of. They are precious," said Pescatore, who also prosecuted the couple on the prior involuntary-manslaughter convictions.

"They didn't even give that baby Tylenol. What were you thinking?" she demanded of the downcast pair.

Pescatore contended that the entire city government had failed Brandon, including herself, now-retired Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Engel Temin - who sentenced the couple after Kent's death - probation officers and the Department of Human Services.

Brandon died at the family's home April 18 of bacterial pneumonia. He suffered for several days while his parents prayed for him but did not get him medical attention.

At the time, the Schaibles were still on probation for the death of Kent, who also died at their home.

Herbert, 45, and Catherine, 44, lifelong members of the faith-healing First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, pleaded no contest in November to third-degree murder, child endangerment and conspiracy in Brandon's death.

Catherine, in a soft, fragile voice, said the deaths of her sons were "the most horrible thing in my life." She said that she agreed with Pescatore's rebuke and that she felt "like I failed because they are not alive."

Her attorney, Mythri Jayaraman, said Catherine's crimes were the result of a clash between her wanting to follow the court order to seek medical care for her sons and her commitment to following her husband's lead and their religious beliefs.

Defense attorney Bobby Hoof said that Herbert was a devoted father who took his children to cheer on the Eagles, Flyers and Phillies and that he was still grieving his two deceased sons.

Herbert, who stood to address the court, said that he wished he could trade places with his two sons and that he looked forward to the day when he was reunited with his surviving children, six of whom are minors and now living in foster care.

"We have our faith, but we have to follow the law," he said.


On Twitter: @MensahDean

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