Parents Who Treated Infant's Illness With Prayer Get Jail Time

Couple's Religion Played Role In Treatments Decision

Note: This church is independent and not affiliated with the Church of God congregations.

NBC4.TV/September 15, 2003

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. -- A couple whose infant daughter died of meningitis after they treated her with prayer instead of medicine were sentenced to a year of weekends in jail.

Richard Wiebe, 30, and Agnes Wiebe, 31, were sentenced Friday and were to surrender next month. They pleaded no contest last month to child abuse and involuntary manslaughter.

They also were placed on five years' probation and ordered to attend parenting classes. Superior Court Judge Gerard Brown agreed to suspend a six-year state prison sentence.

The couple, members of the Church of God in Upland, treated their 11-month-old daughter's high fever, vomiting and convulsions with home remedies and prayer instead of taking her to a doctor.

Julia Wiebe died in July 2001 of what doctors said was a treatable form of bacterial meningitis. The couple said their religion shuns modern medical treatment.

The Wiebes also have a 20-month-old son.

Prosecutors wanted prison sentences.

"The level of care they attempted to give (their daughter) fell far short of the care they should have sought from a medical professional," Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Carrasco said.

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