End Time couple placed on probation

Lake City Reporter/September 4, 1992
By Joe Callahan

A Columbia County couple belonging to a faith healing religious group were each sentenced to five years probation today, two months after they were convicted of felony child abuse.

Guillermo and Luz Hernandez, of Little Road, were convicted after a jury ruled the parents medically neglected their one-year-old daughter, Sonia Hernandez, who died of pneumonia in September 1990.

The girl was suffering from a severe case of cerebral palsy. She was blind, deaf and couldn't walk or talk. She weighed 14½ pounds at the time of her death.

The Hernandezes are members of End Time Ministries, a Lake City religious sect, which believes that only God can heal, doctors can't.

Circuit Judge Vernon Douglas sentenced the Hernandez couple to serve five years on probation. They were also ordered to take any surviving minor children to the doctor for routine care.

They were each ordered to pay $500 in public defender fee and over $4,000 in expenses of several medical doctors who traveled from out of state to testify for their defense.

Douglas denied other requests by state prosecutor Scott Cupp, one of which was ordering Hernandezes to take parenting classes in order to recognize any future illness their one minor child or future children may acquire.

The other was to officially rule the parents guilty. Instead, Douglas withheld adjudication, which means the conviction will not be placed on their criminal record. The decision disappointed Cupp.

"I have to respect the judge's decision," Cupp said.

Dennis Robert and Jimmy Hunt, the Hernandezes court-appointed lawyers, for the most part got what they were after.

"I was pleased that adjudication was withheld," Roberts said after the hearing. "It should have been".

Earlier in the hearing Roberts said the Hernandezes are good people who loved their daughter and "may have made a mistake in judgment".

"Anyone could make that mistake," Roberts said. "Your honor, myself or anyone in this courtroom may not have recognized the seriousness of the fever until it was too late. It could happened to anyone".

Cupp was pleased Douglas sentenced the Hernandezes to the maximum probation allowed by law, which he requested.

During the hearing, Cupp blasted Roberts and Hunt with a prepared statement that stated the defense insinuated the state was not professional and never investigated the case thoroughly before going to a grand jury.

"In fact, nothing of significance brought out by the defense at trial was unknown to the stated," Cupp said.

Cupp also criticized the defense for trying to keep pretrial hearings secret.

Roberts responded by telling the court that after the trial the state called on of the defense witnesses and "caused him grief".

"I am sorry the state and our office (public defender) got at odds in this case", Roberts said after the hearing. "I think we were trying to do the best we could for our particular cause. I think the state did a good job and I know we did".

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