Sect Leader Gets Three Years

Associated Press/October 28, 1988

Spokane -- The founder of an athletes' prayer group that prosecutors say became a destructive cult was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for his part in the death of a boy whose parents belonged to the Christian sect.

Doug Kleber, 34, of Champaign-Urbana, Ill., pleaded guilty in October to second-degree criminal mistreatment in the death of Aaron Norman, 10. The boy died of untreated juvenile diabetes Dec. 20, 1987.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge John Schultheis cited Kleber's position of trust and the cruelty of discipline against the boy in going outside the standard 90-day sentence for the crime.

The judge ordered Kleber to serve his sentence in Washington state, rejecting a request by attorney Richard Bechtolt that the sentence be served in Illinois, where Kleber lives with his wife and three children.

Schultheis also swept aside Kleber's plea for mercy.

Speaking in a low, husky voice, Kleber told the court, "It is hard to put into words the pain, the shame, the sorrow of the last year." Kleber said he loved Aaron Norman and was sorry that he participated in, and was responsible for, the events that led to the boy's death.

Bechtolt said an appeal of the sentence would be considered.

Kleber, a former University of Illinois football player, founded the Bible-based prayer group of Christian athletes at the university in 1976.

The group's former Spokane pastor, Jeffrey Siegel, 33, formerly from Illinois, pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment in the case and was sentenced in November to 24 months in prison.

Sentencing for Bobby Norman, 43, Aaron Norman's father, is scheduled for Tuesday. Norman was convicted in October of first-degree manslaughter for failing to seek medical attention for his gravely ill son.

The boy died the day after he was spanked by Kleber and his father during a faith-healing session watched by Siegel and other leaders of the fellowship. The sect believed the beatings were necessary to get the boy to confess his sins and be healed, members testified during Norman's trial.

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