Faith-Healing Parents May Face Charges After Baby Dies

Associated Press/June 14, 2004

A grand jury will decide whether to charge the parents of a newborn who died last year after the couple for religious reasons did not seek medical treatment for an infection, a prosecutor said.

Rhiana Rose Schmidt was less than two days old when she died Aug. 19, 2003, at the home of her parents, who are members of a church that advocates faith healing instead of medical intervention, police said.

Autopsy reports showed the girl died of puerperal sepsis, a general infection acquired at birth and typically treated with antibiotics.

Elders of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn in Morgantown were called to the rural Franklin home of DeWayne and Maleta Schmidt to pray for the child, but no one sought medical help.

Maleta Schmidt said Sunday that she and her husband had no comment on the grand jury investigation.

In similar cases in Indiana and nationwide in the 1980s, parents were charged or convicted of child neglect, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide, said Daylon Welliver, a Johnson County deputy prosecutor.

"The decision was made that we don't take the death of a child lightly, and we felt like a grand jury would be the best vehicle to explore the responsibility of the parents in what happened," Welliver told the Daily Journal for a Sunday story.

The infant's death was the third involving untreated children whose parents are members of the church, the paper reported.

Tom Nation, an elder at the church about 20 miles south of Indianapolis, said the about 150 members trust in God to cure illnesses.

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