An Oregon couple whose teenaged son died from a burst appendix because they don't believe in modern medicine accepted a plea deal to avoid jail.
Last December, Austin Sprout became sick with flu-like symptoms. Instead of taking the 16 year old to a doctor, his mother and stepfather chose to pray for his recovery.
Sprout's condition deteriorated over more than a week, however, and an autopsy revealed that an infection from the burst appendix killed him, the Crewsell Chronicle reported.
In exchange to pleading guilty on Tuesday to negligent homicide, "faith healers" Russel and Brandi Bellew will be on probation for five years.
The deal also stipulates that their six other children will be closely monitored by the state's Department of Human Services, according to KVAL. Anytime a child misses a day of school due to illness, the family must consult a doctor, the Register-Guard reported.
The Bellews are members of the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, which heeds a passage in the Gospel of James calling for the faithful to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil, ABC News said.
Prosecutors met with congregants this summer to inform them that the state won't give a free pass to parents who deny their children healthcare for religious reasons. A state law says only people 18 or older can make decisions about seeking medical treatment.
After the sentencing, Brandi, 36, and Russel, 40, Bellew had their first chance to talk since they were arrested in February. A judge had ordered them to have no contact before the trial, which meant they were never at home together in the last eight months. The couple hugged when the rule was lifted in a courtroom filled with other congregants and neighbors.
Similar cases have popped up in Oregon over the years and last year Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a law eliminating spiritual reasons as a defense in homicide cases, according to the Register-Guard. In one case, another couple belonging to the Church of the First Born received 75-month prison sentences, because their son died hours after being born at home, ABC News said.
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