Murder charges for 12 people who prayed over dying girl

The Sydney Morning Herald/July 5, 2022

By Cloe Read

Members of three families in a tight-knit religious group have been arrested over the alleged murder of an eight-year-old Queensland girl, who police say was denied medical care.

Police on Tuesday arrested 12 people over the death of Elizabeth Rose Struhs, whose body was found in a house at Rangeville in the Toowoomba region, west of Brisbane, in January.

Her parents, Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs and Jason Richard Struhs, had already been charged with murder, torture and failing to provide the necessities of life.

A Queensland man and woman charged with murder and torturing a child have appeared in court for the first time.

The 12 people arrested on Tuesday were members of the same religious group as the parents. Police allege they were also present during the period and were aware of the girl’s medical condition but did not seek medical assistance.

Police will allege the girl was denied diabetes treatment for about six days. They will also allege in court that instead of calling paramedics, the parents gathered members of their church to pray over the dying girl and, eventually, her body.

Police raided a property in Harristown on Tuesday morning, where they arrested seven women and five men, aged 19 to 65. The group were expected to be charged with murder.

Regional Crime Co-ordinator Detective Acting Superintendent Garry Watts said the number of people being charged with the murder of a single child was unprecedented in Queensland.

He said police would allege the 14 people chose to deny the girl her right to medical care.

“I can say...the 12 people were aware of the child’s condition, were present during the course of those six days at the Rangeville address, and did not take any steps to provide medical assistance to the child,” he said.

“In my nearly 40 years I have never faced a matter like this. I’m not aware of a similar event in Queensland, let alone Australia.

“It’s a tragic set of circumstances that brings me here today in relation to the death of an eight-year-old child.”

Watts said police across the Darling Downs district took part in the investigation.

“This investigation was complex, and I applaud the investigators for the effort they’ve put in for the last six months. It’s not the sort of situation we are faced with as investigators quite commonly,” he said.

The 12 people were expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

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