Judge Refuses to Throw Out Murder Charges for Faith-Healing Couple

A Philadelphia Municipal Court judge decided Wednesday that the third degree murder charges will remain in the case of a faith-healing couple, who have been accused of allowing their second child to die of pneumonia without seeking medical care due to their religious beliefs.

On Wednesday, lawyers for Herbert and Catherine Schaible of northern Philadelphia attempted to convince Judge Charles Hayden that the parents did not know their baby was sick enough to die, but prosecutors argued that the two Schaible children were sick for two weeks with pneumonia before they died in April.

Judge Hayden refused to throw out the third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, arguing that prosecution provided sufficient evidence to prove that the couple knew the seriousness of their child's sickness and still refused to get medical help.

The couple remains in jail without bail awaiting their next hearing in July, and will face formal charges of third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and conspiracy charges.

In 2009, the Schaibles lost their 2-year-old son, Kent, to bacterial pneumonia after refusing to have him medically treated due to their Christian faith.

Then on April 18, 2013, the Schaibles lost their second child, 7-month-old Brandon, who also died of bacterial pneumonia, as well as severe dehydration and strep after not receiving medical treatment.

The main sticking point for prosecutors on Wednesday was arguing that regardless of whether the Schaibles knew Brandon was sick enough to die, they had violated their probation by not taking him in to receive medical care.

Following Kent's death in 2009, the couple was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a jury and put on a 10-year probation which required them to take their remaining children to annual medical check-ups and to seek professional medical help should their child fall ill.

Still, at Wednesday's hearing, Herbert Schaible's defense attorney, Bobby Hoof, argued that his client "did not know this baby was sick enough to die," according to Philly.com.

Additionally, Hoof argued that the child had only been showing symptoms for three days, according to his autopsy, which he argued was a reasonable amount of time to wait before seeking medical help.

Additionally, Mythri Jayaraman, defense attorney for Catherine Schaible, argued that her client did not act with malice regarding her child's death, reportedly feeding Brandon and applying baby powder to his skin to make him more comfortable in the time leading up to his death.

"This was a mother who certainly, until the very end, was giving this child a lot of love. To take from that that she acted with malice was more than just a stretch," Jayaraman said after the hearing, according to The Associated Press.

The Schaibles are third generation members of the First Century Gospel Church, located in northern Philadelphia, which teaches the observance of faith-healing over medical care.

The small, Christian church believes that all medical issues can be cured by the power of divine healing, and seeking professional medical care for ailments would be considered a sign of disloyalty or lack of faith in God.

Herbert Schaible, 44, said in a police statement recited in court on Wednesday that seeking medical intervention "is against our religious beliefs."

"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," Schaible added, according to AP.

Catherine Schaible reportedly added that faith-healing means "that we pray and ask to be healed the way that Jesus did when he was on Earth."

The Rev Nelson Clark, who leads the 525-member First Century Gospel Church, said in a recent interview with Reuters that Herbert Schaible felt "like any kind of a call was a lack of faith on his part."

"He felt, I guess, he would be being disloyal to God," the reverend stated.

The Schaibles, who will return in court on July 3 for their formal arraignment, have seven surviving children, all of whom have been placed in foster care after the death of Brandon.

According to Reuters, if found guilty of third degree murder, the couple could face 40 years in prison, as well as an additional 10 years for involuntary manslaughter.