PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia jury has found a faith-healing couple guilty of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child in the 2009 pneumonia death of their 2-year-old son.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible could face a maximum of five to 10 years in prison on the manslaughter charge when they are sentenced early next year by Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Engel Temin.
The endangering charge is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison. A third charge of criminal conspiracy was dropped during the trial.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible told police and a city social worker shortly after 2-year-old Kent Schaible died in January 2009 that they prayed for his recovery rather than seek medical help because they believed in faith-healing.
During the trial, however, their attorneys argued that they didn't seek a doctor because they thought Kent wasn't very sick, only suffering from a cold or a flu. Religion played no part in couple's actions, the defense attorneys said.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore reminded the jury of that discrepancy and argued that the couple had, in fact, broken the law by putting their faith before acting in the best interest of their son.
Herbert, 42, is a teacher at the school run by the family's Christian fundamentalist church, First Century Gospel, and Catherine, 41, is a stay-at-home mother.
The couple live with their six surviving children in Philadelphia's Rhawnhurst neighborhood.
On Sunday, prayers were offered for the Schaibles during morning service at First Gospel, where the 500 members are taught to turn to prayer instead of medicine and doctors, said the Rev. Nelson Ambrose Clark, whose grandfather founded the church in 1925.
After service, Herbert Schaible's uncle, David Schaible, said of the couple: "Their faith in God is intact even though the persecution is as heavy as can be. They depend upon God for the answer, they depend upon God for the victory — and we shall overcome."