Guilty finding for air diet pair

Guilty finding for air diet pair

November 20, 1999
By Judy Sands

A COUPLE who believe it is possible to live on air alone were found guilty of killing a fellow believer yesterday.

A Supreme Court jury in Brisbane took three hours to find Jim Vadim Pesnak, 61, and his wife Eugenia, 63, responsible for the manslaughter of Lani Marsha Rosalind Morris.

Morris, 53, was taking part in a 21-day fasting process at the Pesnaks' Ormiston home, in a bayside suburb east of Brisbane in July last year, as an introduction to Breatharianism.

She had completed the initial six-day period of not eating or drinking and was embarking on a further 14 days of consuming only limited liquids when she had to be taken to hospital.

She died in the Mater Hospital seven days later after suffering a major stroke, renal failure, severe dehydration, pneumonia and the onset of gangrene in her legs.

The court was told she had been vomiting a "black, sticky substance" and was unable to breath normally.

Justice Margaret Wilson heard submissions for penalty yesterday but deferred her sentence until next Friday afternoon.

Prosecutor Charlie Clark said he had found no other similar cases to that of the Pesnaks.

"There was something quite frightening about the way Jim Pesnak described to police how she degenerated without him doing anything at all," he said.

"It's a question of how gross the negligence is and how culpable they are."

He said that although Eugenia Pesnak had not been the principal offender, she had been able to see what was happening to Morris and did nothing.

Mr Clark recommended Jim Pesnak spend up to seven years in jail and his wife up to three years.

But defence barrister Kelly McGroarty said Jim Pesnak, an electrical engineer, and his wife, a tax agent, had led "impeccable lives".

"They have been devastated by what has happened to Mrs Morris both personally and spiritually and, of course, financially," Mr McGroarty said.

He said they had not deliberately disregarded their duty of care, but their belief in Breatharianism had affected their judgment.

"They genuinely believed that what they were doing was what she (Morris) wanted and for her own spiritual good," he said.

Mr McGroarty conceded any sentence would have to deter people from behaving in a similar way in the name of religion.

Mr McGroarty said Jim Pesnak should be given a two-year jail term, partially suspended, and his wife a wholly suspended sentence.

Videotapes played to the court during the trial showed Jim Pesnak telling police, before he had been charged, that doctors could not have helped Morris.

"This is a spiritual procedure not a medical procedure," he said.

"When the question comes up 'should I call a doctor?' the answer is 'no, trust in God'."

The court also was told Jim Pesnak had called a doctor who had been a former Breatharian after Morris's symptoms began to worsen.

Justice Wilson remanded the Pesnaks in custody until Friday for sentencing.

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