Death of teen in sect probed

Denver Post Western Slope Bureau/February 7, 2001
By Nancy Lofholm

For the third time in two years, Mesa County authorities are investigating the death of a child whose parents belong to a church that believes illnesses and injuries should be treated with prayer rather than medical care.

Amanda Bates, 13, is the latest child of members of the General Assembly Church of the First Born to die after medical care apparently was withheld for a life-threatening illness.

Amanda died Monday night at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, where she had been flown after being taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. She was hospitalized after paramedics were called to the family's home in Clifton early Monday morning on a report of a girl not breathing.

Janet Prell, a spokeswoman for the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, said she did not know who called 911. Mesa County District Attorney Frank Daniels said he believes Amanda suffered from diabetes and died from complications of the disease.

Amanda's body is being returned to Grand Junction, where Mesa County Coroner Dr. Rob Kurtzman will perform an autopsy today to determine the exact cause of death. Daniels said he will be considering whether to file charges in the case when he has more information.

The last child of First Born parents to die in Mesa County was a 3-day-old infant who was born with a heart defect. No charges were filed against the parents of Billy Ray Reed, who died last July 9 after church elders prayed over him. Charges were not filed because Kurtzman could not determine if Billy Ray's symptoms would have been severe enough to alert the parents to his critical state or if medical intervention could have saved him.

The parents of an 18-day-old who died in February 1999 were prosecuted for criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death. Warren Glory died of complications of pneumonia and meningitis, and investigators determined his symptoms would have been recognized as life-threatening. Parents Joshua and Mindy Glory are serving a 16-year probation sentence in that case.

There have been six other known deaths or stillbirths in Colorado of Church of the First Born children after medical treatment was withheld. Parents were prosecuted in one of those other cases.

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