Jury indicts midwife in June death of newborn

Associated Press/November 16, 2005

Martinsville – A grand jury has indicted a Morgantown woman on a charge of practicing midwifery without a license in connection with a newborn's death in June.

Doris White, 72, pleaded not guilty to the charge Monday and was released without bond from the Morgan County Jail after her initial hearing.

Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said White has agreed not to assist with the births of any infants while the criminal case against her is pending.

White's indictment arose from the death of Sarah Leeman, who was delivered about two months premature by White at the newborn's parent's Martinsville mobile home.

White and the child's parents are members of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, where many members turn to prayer rather than medical care.

Investigators said the infant, born May 28, weighed less than 3 pounds, and received no medical care. An autopsy showed the baby died of bacterial meningitis.

Prosecutors impaneled a grand jury to look into the infant's death.

Sonnega said the grand jury interviewed more than 25 people before indicting White. Jurors also looked at the role of the parents, Louis and Patricia Leeman, but declined to charge them.

During Monday's hearing, White said she understood the charge, but did not understand why she was charged because she had "done this for 30 years and never been questioned before."

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from White's attorney, Bill Van Der Pol.

In May, a Johnson County jury found another couple belonging to the same church guilty of reckless homicide for refusing to seek medical treatment to help their newborn daughter in 2003.

A judge sentenced both Dewayne and Maleta Schmidt to spend one year at a work release facility.

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