Father told police he doesn't believe in doctors

Associated Press/July 1, 2009

As 15-month-old Ava Worthington's pneumonia worsened, she was given watered-down wine and members of her parents' church used faith-healing rituals at her bedside. But there was no thought of calling a doctor, according to an interview played at the parents' manslaughter trial on Wednesday.

Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington of Oregon City are members of the Followers of Christ Church and are accused of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the March 2008 death of their child, Ava.

Detectives interviewed the parents the night Ava died of pneumonia, and the interview was played in court Wednesday.

During the interview, Carl Worthington said members of the church had gathered at the home, but no one considered calling for a doctor.

"I don't believe in them," said the 29-year-old.

Worthington said of the church members who came to the house: "They all knew that she was not doing too good."

He described his daughter's final hours as ones of prayer, application of ointment and laying on of hands by church members. The girl was also given watered-down wine, he said on the tape.

He said people in the room with the girl "kept her stirred up to keep her breathing. We moved her around."

The girl had a cyst-like growth on her neck, but one church member recalled someone having a growth like that and he survived, Worthington said in the interview. Prosecutors say Ava's growth was caused by her lymphatic system struggling against infection.

At the end of the interview, Worthington told detectives: "I suppose you've never seen anything like this."

In testimony later Wednesday, a medical examiner showed autopsy photos of the girl and described the growth on her neck.

Dr. Christopher Young, who performed the autopsy, described the growth as a multicystic mass filled with fluid and extending from the girl's right lower ear to the shoulder blade. He said it had pushed the girl's air passage strongly to the left.

He also said that when she died Ava had the height and weight of a 6-month-old, rather than that of a 15-month-old. Ava weighed 15 1/2 and was 22 inches long, he testified.

Defense attorneys put up a chart showing the girl's height was proportionate to her weight, but Young said that was misleading because it didn't take her age into account.

The trial opened on Monday, with lawyers for the parents saying the couple thought the girl was getting better as they and other members of the church went through faith healing rituals.

It is the first case brought under Oregon's 1999 law that rejects a religious defense for most abuse cases and was drafted mostly in response to groups such as the Followers of Christ Church.

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