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Prayer-Healing Couple Charged With 3rd Degree Murder In Death Of Son

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By Al-Qumar Atkins, Mark Abrams, Jenn Bernstein, Diana Rocco

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A prayer-healing couple has been charged with third degree murder in the death of their 7-month-old son.

Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams announced Wednesday afternoon that Herbert and Catherine Schaible had been charged with third degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office says Herbert and Catherine Schaible chose prayer over medical attention.

“The death of 7-month-old Brandon Schaible is a tragedy,” said DA Williams, “and sadly there’s only one reason for it. The criminal action of his parents.”

Herbert and Catherine Schaible’s son Brandon died on April 18th from dehydration and bacterial pneumonia due to a streptococcus infection, sicknesses DA Williams says could have been treated with antibiotics. His death was ruled as a homicide (see related story).

“Instead of caring and nurturing him, they ultimately caused his death by praying his body instead of taking him to the doctor,” said Williams.

The couple did admit to police, Brandon displayed symptoms of his illness several days before he died.

The Schaibles belong to the First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park.

Calls to the church were not immediately returned on Wednesday.

At Wednesday night’s services at the church, there was no talk of the looming attention over the death of one of their youngest parishioners.

The District Attorney says, the church, and the Schaibles do not believe in administering medicine.

“It was our considered opinion…that the murder charge was appropriate given what happened to the young child that died in this family’s care back in 2009,” said Ed McCann, first assistant district attorney.

The Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter after their two-year-old son Kent died of pneumonia in 2009.

They were sentenced to 10 years probation where they were ordered to seek medical attention and follow medical advice for their children if any of them were sick.

The Schaibles turned themselves in Wednesday afternoon.

“Herbert Schaible is a grieving father, as any father would be for the passing of a son,” said said Bobby Hoof, Herbert Schaible’s attorney. “Whatever happened here, it was not any intent on behalf of Mr. Schaible for this to happen to his son.  He would rather have his son back at this point, he’s a grieving father.”

Williams said he will seek to have the couple’s probation revoked and to have them jailed.

The couple’s seven other children were taken from them by authorities after Brandon died in April.

The DA emphasized this is not a case of religion in conflict with the law, but a crossroads where the welfare of a child and a court order requiring the couple to ensure all of their children received proper medical care was violated.

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