Spokane -- A jury yesterday convicted the former deacon of a faith-healing sect of first-degree manslaughter in his son's death from untreated juvenile diabetes.
Bobby Dan Norman, 43, was charged in the death of his 10-year-old son, Aaron, at the family's home near Spokane on Dec. 20, 1987. A similar charge against his wife, Judith, was dismissed before the case went to trial.
The Spokane County Superior Court jury received the case Wednesday after nearly three weeks of testimony, and the verdict was announced late yesterday afternoon after about 10 hours of deliberation.
The Normans were members of a nameless faith-healing Christian sect that eschewed conventional medicine and practiced strict discipline of both children and adults.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Clark Colwell declined to say whether he will ask for a sentence outside the standard 31- to 41-month range for first-degree manslaughter.
In closing arguments, Colwell depicted Norman as a "fanatic" who recklessly failed to seek medical attention for his son, who exhibited symptoms of juvenile diabetes in the days before his death.
But defense attorney Roger Peven argued that Norman was a man whose life was controlled by sect leaders and said religious fervor blinded his client to the boy's illness.
Witnesses testified the gravely ill boy was spanked and harshly interrogated by his father and sect founder Doug Kleber the day before his death. The beatings were an effort to get the boy to confess sins, which the men believed were making him ill, witnesses testified.
Kleber and former Spokane pastor Jeffrey Siegel, both 34 and from Champaign-Urbana, Ill., pleaded guilty earlier to second-degree criminal mistreatment. Three other former elders of the fellowship, which disbanded shortly after the boy died, face trial on similar charges next year.
Before the sect disbanded in February, it claimed about 300 adult members in fellowships in Washington, Illinois, Texas and New Jersey.