16-year-old with ties to controversial faith healing church found dead

KATU, Oregon/June 18, 2008

Gladstone, Oregon - A 16-year-old boy with ties to a controversial faith healing church in Oregon City has been found dead in his home in Gladstone.

Police got the call around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and said the family was at the home when the teen, who has not been identified, passed away.

According to Sgt. Lynne Benton with the Gladstone Police Department, the boy had been sick for about a week and his family did not seek medical care because they are with the Followers of Christ Church and believe in faith healing.

"It's heart wrenching to see this happen," Sgt. Benton said. "Of course, I'm an objective observer, so I don't know details of their faith but just from my own observation, it's very sad."

The boy had been complaining of a stomach ache, shortness of breath and other symptoms before he died. Police said his family refused to get help from doctors, instead anointing him with oil and relying on prayer.

The Followers of Christ Church has been in the spotlight in recent months after two of its members, 28-year-old Carl Worthington and 25-year-old Raylene Worthington, were charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment charges in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava.

The infant died March 2 from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and an infection, both of which the state medical examiner said could have easily been cured with common antibiotics.

And in a twist, police said the teen who died Tuesday evening is the cousin of Ava Worthington.

Police investigators and representatives from the Department of Human Services were at the Gladstone home Tuesday night. They are treating the teen's death as suspicious and will be forwarding their findings to the District Attorney's Office, which will then decide whether criminal charges are warranted.

As for Carl and Raylene Worthington, they pleaded not guilty in their case and are scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 26, 2009.

The Followers of Christ Church has been the center of controversy not only in recent months, but also a decade ago. The church gained national attention back then when the number of child deaths among parishioners was brought to light.

The ensuing media coverage led to the removal of Oregon's spiritual healing shield, which protected parents who used prayer instead of medicine to treat deadly diseases.

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