Praying Parents Charged in Child’s Death
Posted by shadmia on April 30, 2008
Dale and Leilani Neumann, parents of Madeline Kara Neumann, were charged with second-degree reckless homicide, Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad announced. If convicted, the couple could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Madeline Kara Neumann,11, of Weston, Wisconsin died of diabetic ketoacidosis. Her parents, believed so strongly in the power of prayer, that they refused to seek medical attention for their daughter until it was too late to save her life. Read the entire story here.
District Attorney Jill Falstad in preparing the charges against the Neumanns looked at the “progression of the illness” and the response of the parents:
“By that Saturday (the day before the girl’s death) you had an 11-year-old child who wasn’t eating, so she wasn’t getting any nourishment, she wasn’t taking in any fluids, she wasn’t walking, she was struggling to get to the bathroom,” Falstad said. “She really was very vulnerable and helpless. And it seemed apparent that everybody knew that. As her illness progressed to the next morning being comatose . . . it just is very, very surprising, shocking that she wasn’t allowed medical prevention (attention).
“She had a disease that was treatable and her death could have been prevented,” Falstad said.
The Neumanns are represented by their attorney, Gene Linehan, who declined to comment on the charges. However, it seems as if the Neumanns knew that their daughter was very sick but they were determined to heal her through prayer. Leilani Neumann said in a written statement to police that she never considered taking the girl, who was being home-schooled, to a doctor, even when her husband Dale made such a suggestion:
“We just thought it was a spiritual attack and we prayed for her. My husband Dale was crying and mentioned taking Kara to the doctor and I said, ‘The Lord’s going to heal her,’ and we continued to pray,” she wrote.
The Neumanns did reach out to the Unleavened Bread Ministries, founded by David Eells. In an email they requested that Eells pray for their daughter to be healed, which he did. Like the Neumanns, Eells says his church does not believe in medical intervention. Eells also wrote that the Neumanns have posted testimonials on their Web site but are not “‘under‘ our ministry.”
Falstad, the district attorney, said the case is likely to be precedent-setting in Wisconsin.
“There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the availability of a ‘religious defense’ in this case,” Falstad said in a prepared statement to announce the charges. “In our nation, we have a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. We also give parents leeway in matters of child rearing. However, neither is absolute. In this case, it was necessary to weigh freedom of religion and parenting rights against the state’s interests in protecting children.”
Wisconsin state law appears to allow an exemption from child abuse charges for parents who engage in treatment by spiritual means through prayer. But the exemption applies only if the use of prayer alone is the basis for charges. Prosecutors say that exemption does not extend to homicide cases.