Woman who relied on faith healing charged with neglect after son dies

Tulsa World, Oklahoma/December 28, 2010

A woman was charged with child neglect Tuesday in connection with the death of her 9-year-old son, for whom she had not sought medical attention because of her religious beliefs, court records state.

Susan M. Grady, 42, formerly of Broken Arrow, prayed with others over her son, Aaron Gregory Grady, when he became ill on June 2, 2009, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court. His condition worsened, and he died June 5, according to the affidavit.

The medical examiner listed complications of diabetes mellitus as Aaron's cause of death, the affidavit states.

Susan Grady told Detective Mikka Mooney that she is a member of the Church of the First Born and "believes in faith-based healing through prayer," according to the affidavit, which was written by Mooney.

The circumstances in this case are rare, said First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond, who said he hasn't seen a case with similar facts in his 14 years with the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office.

Drummond filed the charges Tuesday and declined to comment further on the pending case.

Grady could face up to life in prison if convicted.

After Aaron's teacher in the Broken Arrow school system noticed that he was urinating frequently, the teacher had a school nurse contact Grady, according to the affidavit. The teacher, identified in the document as Christine Deitz, reportedly told investigators that the mother said Aaron had seen a doctor about the urination problem and that the doctor said it was psychological in nature.

The affidavit also says Grady had taken Aaron to a doctor about two months before he died to have him tested for attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder, at his school's request, but she told police that she didn't see the purpose of that visit as for healing.

Witnesses told police that in the days before he died, Aaron had trouble breathing and he was vomiting, but that had stopped, which led Grady to believe that her son was getting better, according to the affidavit.

According to several witnesses who spoke with Broken Arrow police detectives, Aaron was able to eat pureed vegetables and drink chicken broth and orange juice, and he felt somewhat better but was still weak.

On June 4, Aaron looked very sick and "needed to be carried to the bathroom but was eating chicken broth," a witness told police.

On June 5, his condition worsened, and he was not talking or responding, so his mother and others continued to pray, according to the affidavit.

Grady's brother, Kevin Branham, told police that when he visited the Grady's home that day, Aaron's father, Aaron Grady Sr., spoke to Susan Grady about getting medical intervention for the child, the affidavit says. "However, the defendant chose to continue to pray and ‘leave this in the hands of the Lord,' " Branham told police.

The boy died that afternoon.

Susan Grady told detectives that she did not consider taking Aaron to the doctor. She told them that "I was trying to live by faith and I felt like God would heal him," according to the affidavit.

Maj. Mark Irwin, a spokesman for the Broken Arrow Police Department, said investigating the case is difficult because it touches on sensitive subjects, but he said that ultimately, the authorities' responsibility is to ensure the safety of the child.

However, police had "no prior knowledge of the situation," Irwin said. "This is a real touchy case."

Irwin said Grady had an address in Broken Arrow, but that he thinks she has moved from the area. Calls made to the Church of the First Born in Tulsa were not answered Tuesday evening.

Oklahoma statutes allow parents to rely on prayer to try to heal their children up to the point that the child's life is in danger or may face "permanent physical damage."

According to the law, it is a misdemeanor if parents refuse to obtain care and a felony if the child dies.

If parents refuse to seek medical help for their children, the courts can intervene on the child's behalf.

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