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A Pennsylvania couple was sentenced to three and a half to seven years in prison Wednesday for the death of a second child who died after contracting pneumonia and never saw a doctor.
According to The Christian Post, Herbert and Catherine Schaible refused to heed a court order to get medical care for their children after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009. When their 8-month-old, Brandon, contracted pneumonia in 2013, they made the choice to pray over him and eventually let him die when he could have been treated and healed.
The Schaibles believe in faith healing and reject modern medicine. They are also third-generation members of a small Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church.
Following the death of the Schaibles’ first child, the pastor of First Century Gospel Church, Nelson Clark, blamed the death on a “spiritual lack” in the parents’ lives and stated they would never seek medical attention, even if a child was dying.
"It was so foreseeable to me that this was going to happen. Everybody in the system failed these children,” said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted both cases.
After the death of the Schaibles’ first child, Kent, Pescatore and a public defender, Mythri Jayaraman, felt the couple’s religious beliefs were incredibly deep-rooted, so much so that their remaining children were in danger. They asked the judge who presided over the first case to have the Schaibles assigned a caseworker from the Department of Human Services. However, the judge assigned them to probation officers.
In his police statement last year, father Herbert Schaible said, "We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power."
Philadelphia judge Benjamin Lerner sentenced the Schaibles.
“April of 2013 wasn't Brandon's time to die. You've killed two of your children. ... Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You,” Lerner told the couple during the sentencing hearing, according to the Associated Press.
In court, Catherine Schaible stated that her religious beliefs are to pray and not use medicine. However, she also recognized that her beliefs violate the current law and accepted the punishment given to her. She added that her beliefs have since changed.
The couple expressed remorse for their actions and apologized for violating their court order to seek medical attention for their children, noted the AP.
The couple’s remaining six underage children were moved into foster care.