Couple sent to jail over breatharian-fast death

The Australian, November 27, 1999
By Geoffrey Newman

A COUPLE who claimed people could live on air were sentenced to prison yesterday for allowing a woman to become critically ill during a "spiritual cleansing" process from which she died.

Jim Pesnak, 61, was jailed for six years and his wife Eugenia, 63, for three years.

A Supreme Court jury took three hours to convict the pair last week of the manslaughter of Lani Morris, who died in hospital last July, 11 days into a 21-day induction fast for the "breatharian" movement.

Ms Morris had been in the Pesnaks' care in their home in Ormiston, Brisbane.

Justice Margaret Wilson said yesterday Pesnak's "recklessness was of a high order" and his wife had "actively assisted and encourage him".

"It is important other members of the community be deterred from dangerous, cruel and inhumane conduct, albeit in the pursuit of spiritual beliefs," the judge said.

The couple had neglected Ms Morris despite the "demonstrable decline" in her health.

The 53-year-old from Melbourne fell ill six days into the fast but the Pesnaks did not call an ambulance for five days. She died a week later in a coma.

Justice Wilson told the Pesnaks: "You are entitled to your spiritual beliefs . . . However, the death of Ms Morris has demonstrated how dangerous this 21-day process was and how misguided you were."

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