Death of Faith-Healing Couple's Son Ruled a Homicide

A Philadelphia faith-healing couple is again under scrutiny after the death of their eight-month old baby was ruled a homicide. NBC10's Rosemary Connors reports the couple was already under probation after the death of another sick child who didn't get medical treatment. (Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013)

The death of the son of a local "faith healing" couple has been ruled a homicide.

Brandon Schaible, an 8-month-old boy, died on April 18 shortly after 8:30 p.m. His parents, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, are fundamentalist Christians who believe in the power of prayer instead of modern medicine.

They were previously sentenced to 10 years of probation after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009 from pneumonia. Prosecutors said that he could have been saved with basic medical care -- probably even over-the-counter medication -- but the couple relied on prayer instead.

Defense attorneys argued that their clients did not know how sick the child was, and their beliefs played no role in their decision.

As part of their probation, the judge ordered them to take their seven other children, ranging in age from 8 to 17, to the doctor for regular checkups or whenever a child showed any sign of illness.

After Brandon's death, a judge ruled that the couple had violated their probation by failing to take him to the hospital. The judge ordered that their remaining children be removed from their Northeast Philadelphia home.

On Monday, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner revealed that Brandon died from bacterial pneumonia and dehydration due to a Group B Streptococcus infection. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Authorities have yet to file criminal charges in Brandon’s death.

Catherine Schaible's attorney, Mythri Jayaraman, cautioned against a rush to judgment, and said the couple are good parents deeply distraught over the loss of another child.

"What we do know is Mr. and Mrs. Schaible are distraught, they are grieving, they are tremendously sad about the loss of their most recent baby," she said.

After Brandon's death, prosecutors sought to have the couple jailed, but a judge permitted them to remain free because their seven other children had been placed in foster care.

"He feels they are a danger to their children -- not to the community, but to their own children," Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted the couple in 2010, said Tuesday.

Pennsylvania law says parents have a legal duty to protect their children's health and safety, although the law does not specify if or when medical care must be sought.