Oregon faith-healing parents fight to get baby back, face criminal charges

The Oregonian/July 22, 2010

Oregon City - A Beavercreek couple who left their infant daughter's fate to God rather than seek medical treatment for a mass that grew over her left eye will face charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Prosecutors revealed Thursday during a custody hearing that a grand jury has indicted Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ church.

The Wylands' 7-month-old daughter, Alayna, was placed in state custody earlier this month after child-welfare workers received a tip about the untreated and ballooning growth. Doctors said that the condition could cause permanent damage or loss of vision.

The Wylands were indicted within the past few days and probably will be arraigned next week, said Colleen Gilmartin, the deputy district attorney handling the custody case in juvenile court.

Under Oregon law, it is a crime for parents to intentionally and knowingly withhold necessary and adequate medical attention from their children. First-degree criminal mistreatment is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Wylands and their church reject medical care in favor of faith-healing - anointing with oil, laying on of hands, prayer and fasting. The parents testified at a juvenile court hearing last week that they never considered getting medical attention for Alayna.

According to court documents, Rebecca Wyland anointed Alayna with oil each time she changed the girl's diaper and wiped away the yellow discharge that seeped daily from the baby's left eye.

Thursday's hearing was procedural and reached no resolution.

The Wylands' attorneys, John Neidig and Thurl Stalnaker Jr., offered a plan they said would guarantee the child would receive medical care recommended by doctors, with options such as regular visits from state workers, having a trusted individual occupy the Wyland home and monitoring the family with Skype, an Internet program used for video conferencing.

Attorney Michael Clancy, who represents Alayna, also urged that the girl be sent home.

Clancy, however, was skeptical that prosecutors or child-protection authorities would accept any plan to quickly reunite the family.

"There is no plan, even if we came up with 100 pages of stuff ... that is going to be satisfactory," he said.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Douglas Van Dyk noted that doctors treating Alayna haven't reviewed the Wylands' plan and said he wouldn't approve the proposal without hearing from the physicians.

But Van Dyk also said Alayna should be returned home once a plan is in place "that makes the community feel secure about the care."

He told all the attorneys to submit their proposals to him next week and said he would work out a suitable agreement at a July 30 hearing.

"That's where this case is going as far as this judge is concerned," Van Dyk said.

There could be a complication.

Prosecutors said that a child usually is not returned to parents accused of criminal mistreatment. It is not clear whether the district attorney's office will seek a no-contact order or if one would be granted.

Gilmartin, doctors and DHS workers want assurances that Alayna will get treatment that will minimize damage to her eye and address any complications that arise.

Alayna had a small mark over her left eye at birth.

The area started swelling, and the fast-growing mass of blood vessels, known as a hemangioma, eventually caused her eye to swell shut and pushed the eyeball down and outward and started eroding the eye socket bone around the eye.

It's rare to see a child with an advanced hemangioma because the condition typically is treated as soon as it's detected, said a doctor who testified at a hearing before Van Dyk last week.

"They never get this large," said Dr. Thomas Valvano, a pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. "This was medical neglect."

Investigators who interviewed the Wylands noted the grotesque swelling that led DHS to act.

"Alayna's left eyeball was completely obstructed, and you could not see any of it. The growth was multiple shades of red and maroon and appeared to me to be between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball," said Clackamas County Detective Christie Fryett in a search warrant affidavit that included pictures of the growth on Alayna's face.

Alayna is the Wylands' only child.

Timothy Wyland was a widower when he married Rebecca Wyland two years ago.

Wyland's first wife, Monique, died of breast cancer in 2006. She had not sought or received medical treatment for the condition, said Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner who signed the death certificate.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.