The second “prayer death” of eight-month-old Brandon Schaible, who died from treatable pneumonia because his parents tried to cure him with prayer instead of medicine, has resulted in a prison sentence for the child’s parents according to a Feb. 19, 2014, The Washington Post report. In 2009, Brandon’s brother Kent had died at the age of two when his parents also used prayer instead of medicine.
On Wednesday, the parents of Brandon and Kent were sentenced to “3½ to seven years in prison.” Herbert Schaible, the children’s 45-year-old father, and Catherine Schaible, the children’s 44-year-old mother, pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in Brandon’s death.
The second “prayer death” of Brandon could have been prevented. The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia. They have seven surviving children and are part of a community.
“It was so foreseeable to me that this was going to happen,” said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted the death of both Kent and Brandon. “Everybody in the system failed these children.”
After Kent’s death in 2009, a jury convicted his parents of involuntary manslaughter, and they were sentenced to 10 years of probation. Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore and public defender Mythri Jayaraman had asked the judge to have the family supervised by a Department of Human Services caseworker, but instead the judge assigned them to a probation officer who is not trained to monitor the welfare of a child.
Last year, Brandon’s father said, “we believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power.”
Pastor Nelson Clark blames the parent’s failure to cure their son’s pneumonia with prayer on the parents’ “spiritual lack.”
Brandon’s mom, Catherine Schaible, told the judge on Wednesday that she is taking responsibility for the death of her son. “My religious beliefs are that you should pray, and not have to use medicine. But because it is against the law, then whatever sentence you give me, I will accept.”
Judge Benjamin Lerner did not accept the defense attorney’s argument that the parent’s religious beliefs “clashed” with the law. “April of 2013 wasn’t Brandon’s time to die,” he commented and mentioned the violence committed throughout human history in the name of religion. “You’ve killed two of your children. … Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.”
The second “prayer death” of eight-month-old Brandon, which could have been prevented if his parents would have provided him with medical care, is a reminder that “about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year.”