Grand Junction -- The parents of a 13-year-old girl who died because they failed to provide her medical care based on their religious beliefs pleaded guilty Wednesday to criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Randy and Colleen Bates won't be sentenced to prison, but they will face lengthy probation and possible jail or work-release time.
Amanda Bates, 13, died at her home on Feb. 5 of complications of untreated diabetes. Infection had set in and gangrene was evident in her toes, according to medical reports.
No physician's help was sought because the family belongs to a small sect that believes in faith healing -- the General Assembly and Church of the First Born.
The case sparked an outcry in the legislature, which subsequently eliminated the faith-healing exemption from state child abuse laws. "I hope we never have another (case) but if we do, it won't be muddied by the old law," said Mesa County District Attorney Frank Daniels.
In entering their plea Wednesday in a courtroom crowded with fellow church members, the Bateses didn't admit outright guilt. Rather, they used an "Alford plea" that allowed them to avoid admitting wrongdoing while acknowledging the likelihood of conviction in a trial.
The charge was one of four felonies initially filed against the couple and carried a possible prison sentence of up to 32 years. However, under the plea agreement, Daniels is required to recommend probation. Daniels said he hasn't decided yet what he will ask the judge to order when sentencing takes place on Nov. 2.
The Bateses' 12 other children remain under the protection of the Mesa County Department of Human Services, so their health can be monitored. Final conditions of the arrangement, including whether all the children will remain at home, are to be determined by another judge in a later proceeding.
Daniels said Wednesday he believes the parents did not know their daughter had diabetes, but they knew she was quite sick. "But they never called for help until she was dead, when they called 911," Daniels said.