Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Faith-Healing Couple Facing Criminal Charges

Faith-Healing Couple Facing Criminal Charges
Trial Begins In September
POSTED: 6:01 pm PDT August 30, 2010
UPDATED: 7:57 pm PDT August 30, 2010

OREGON CITY, Ore. -- A couple belonging to a Clackamas County faith-healing church is facing charges in the death of their baby.

Dale and Shannon Hickman were arraigned Monday on charges of second-degree manslaughter. Their trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 19 at the Clackamas County Courthouse.

The Hickmans are the third couple identified as members of the Followers of Christ Church to face criminal charges in the death of a child during the past two years. The church shuns professional medical help in favor of prayer and anointing the sick with oil.

The Hickman's son was born prematurely and lived less than a day after his birth last September. The baby died from pneumonia and underdeveloped lungs, according to the medical examiner.

About two dozen church members accompanied the Hickmans into the courthouse. The couple's attorneys entered a not guilty plea and requested a jury trial.

The Hickmans, who were released on $250,000 bail earlier this summer, didn't speak in court or comment after the hearing.

The state medical examiner's office has estimated that in the past 30 years, more than 20 children of church members have died of preventable or curable conditions.

In 1999, after debate, the Legislature ended a spiritual healing defense, allowing parents to be prosecuted. Since then, Clackamas County officials have investigated a few deaths of newborns.

The deaths of two relatives in 2008 led to prosecutions.

In March 2008, 15-month-old Ava Worthington died of pneumonia and a blood infection that doctors said could have been treated. Her parents, Raylene and Brent, were acquitted last summer of manslaughter charges. Brent Worthington was convicted of criminal mistreatment and served two months in jail.

In June 2008, 16-year-old Neil Beagley died of complications from a congenital urinary tract blockage, treatable up to the day he died, in the opinion of doctors. His parents, Jeff and Marci, were convicted of criminally negligent homicide and are serving 16-month sentences. They are the parents of Raylene Worthington.

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