Judge in Oregon City faith-healing case sentences Rebecca, Timothy Wyland to jail, probation

The Oregonian/June 24, 2011

A Clackamas County judge brushed aside pleas for leniency Friday and sentenced two members of an Oregon City faith-healing church to 90 days in jail and three years probation for failing to get medical care for their infant daughter.

"Your prayers should complement not compete with proper medical care," said Clackamas County Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Jones, in his brief and sternly worded comments.

A jury convicted the Wylands of first-degree criminal mistreatment earlier this month. The couple's daughter Alayna, now 18 months old, has an abnormal growth of blood vessels, known as a hemangioma. Shortly after birth, the hemangioma grew and engulfed her left eye.

Timothy Wyland was taken into custody and immediately started serving his sentence. When he is released, Rebecca Wyland will start her term.

Prosecutor Christine Landers urged Jones to give the Wylands the 90 days in jail and three years' probation -- the maximum penalty allowed under Oregon's sentencing guidelines. "This is a case about child abuse," said Landers, asserting that Alayna is extremely unlikely to regain normal vision.

Alayna arrived at the courthouse with her parents, wearing a polka dot dress. The hemangioma was noticeable above her left eye but greatly reduced in size. She grasped a couple of small stuffed animal toys as she was held by Rebecca before proceedings began.

Jones admonished the Wylands for attempting to bring Alayna to the hearing.

"It is fairly stunning that the child was brought to this courtroom or to the courthouse," Jones said after the sentencing.

Alayna remains under state supervision but is placed with her family. The custody arrangement will be reviewed at a hearing scheduled next month.

Among their probation requirements, the Wylands must follow all medical recommendations, take Alayna to doctor's appointments and notify probation officers when spiritual healing methods are used on Alayna.

The Wylands told investigators that before they were arrested they never considered taking Alayna to a doctor. Instead, they relied on the faith-healing practices embraced by their church: prayer, anointing with oil and the laying on of hands.

The Wylands knowingly denied care and knew they faced legal consequences for doing so, Landers said. Three other members of Followers of Christ were tried and convicted for failing to provide medical care to their children around the time Alayna was born.

The Wylands' attorneys urged Jones to forgo the jail sentence and keep the family intact. They said the Wylands were an otherwise law-abiding couple who fully cooperated with investigators, caseworkers and doctors.

The Wylands were motivated by "strong religious convictions," not by "evil intent," said John Neidig, Rebecca Wyland's attorney.

Mark Cogan, who represented Timothy Wyland, said "the Wylands have suffered enormously." The ordeal of losing physical custody of their daughter for three months -- she was placed in a foster home while she received medical care -- sent a "lifelong message" to the couple, Cogan said.

Child welfare workers took legal custody of the child last summer and she received extensive medical care. Alayna spent five nights as a patient in Doernbecher Children's Hospital has been treated by several specialists. The hemangioma shrank but left Alayna with poor vision in the eye.

The damage "could have been prevented if the mother and father had protected rather than neglected and failed their daughter," Jones said. He made it clear that he was addressing his comments both to the Wylands and members of their church.

A restitution hearing is set for Aug. 29 to consider whether the Wylands should reimburse the state for court-ordered medical care.

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