Faith healers plead not guilty to criminal mistreatment of their infant daughter

The Oregonian/July 30, 2010

Two members of an Oregon City faith-healing church were charged Thursday with first-degree criminal mistreatment for failing to provide medical care for their infant daughter.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance before Clackamas County Circuit Judge Robert D. Herndon and were released without bail.

The charges were expected. During a custody hearing last week, a prosecutor disclosed that the Wylands had been indicted by a grand jury.

Child-protection authorities took custody of the couple's 7-month-old daughter, Alayna, after she developed a growth over her left eye that ballooned over several months to the size of a tennis ball and threatens her vision.

The Wylands did not speak in Thursday's hearing. Rebecca Wyland previously testified that she anointed Alayna with oil but never considered taking her daughter to a doctor.

Prosecutor Christine Landers asked Herndon to impose a no-contact order that would limit the Wylands to supervised visits with Alayna. In criminal mistreatment cases, no-contact orders are commonly used to separate victims and defendants.

Herndon denied the request and deferred to Circuit Judge Douglas V. Van Dyk, who will hold a hearing today in the related juvenile dependency case.

Van Dyk, attorneys and prosecutors are scheduled to work out an agreement that would allow Alayna to return home. Van Dyk indicated at previous hearings that he would like to see the family reunited, providing there are safeguards that assure the girl continues to receive medical treatment.

Alayna is in temporary custody of the Oregon Department of Human Services and lives in a foster home while medical professionals treat her condition and develop a care plan. The child welfare agency placed the girl in protective custody June 30 after receiving an anonymous tip that she was in peril.

The area above Alayna's left eye started swelling shortly after birth. She developed a hemangioma - a fast-growing mass of blood vessels - that bulged out and pushed the eyeball down and outward. Oregon Health & Science University doctors who examined the girl said that without treatment, she could lose sight.

Alayna's condition has improved since she started treatment but was not discussed at Thursday's hearing.

Last week Rebecca Wyland's attorney, John Neidig, said the swelling is subsiding and the child's eye has begun to open. "There is no blindness," he said.

Alayna's medical status, treatment options and the Wylands' role in following the care plan will be the focus of today's hearing.

The Wylands are members of the Followers of Christ, a congregation that rejects doctors and favors spiritual treatments such as anointing with oil, prayer and laying on of hands.

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 have no criminal record and, if convicted, are unlikely to receive lengthy prison terms.

The couple voluntarily appeared at the Clackamas County Jail on Thursday afternoon to be booked. Landers noted they have close ties to the community and are not a flight risk.

In a pre-emptive move, Timothy Wyland's attorney, Mark Cogan, filed a motion Tuesday to disqualify Clackamas County Presiding Judge Steven L. Maurer from hearing the case, saying he could not provide a "fair and impartial hearing."

Maurer presided at trials involving other members of the Followers of Christ - Carl and Raylene Worthington and Jeff and Marci Beagley - who were charged with failing to provide care to their children. The children, 15-month-old Ava Worthington and Neil Beagley, 16, died from untreated medical conditions.

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