Deputies take newborn from couple

Richard and Agnes Wiebe have been charged with willful cruelty to a child and manslaughter in connection with daughter's death in July.

Los Angeles Times/January 11, 2002
By Gene Maddaus

Rancho Cucamonga -- Sheriff's deputies Wednesday seized the 12-day-old child of Richard and Agnes Wiebe, who are accused of allowing a previous child to die of meningitis instead of seeking medical care because of religious convictions.

Richard Wiebe, 28, and his wife Agnes, 29, are members of the Church of God in Upland and allegedly allowed their daughter, Julia, to die July 6 at the age of 11 months. At the time, Agnes Wiebe was pregnant. An anonymous informant told the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department that Agnes Wiebe gave birth on Dec. 28, department spokesman Chip Patterson said.

Detectives went to the Wiebes' home in the 9600 block of Deerbrook Street to check on the newborn boy's welfare, Patterson said. On the advice of their attorney, David Goldstein, the Wiebes refused to talk to the detectives or let them inside.

Detectives left but came back later with a warrant.

"Based on the current charges against them, the judge agreed with us that the child could be in jeopardy," Patterson said.

Detectives found the boy inside and tried to learn his name and medical condition, but the Wiebes did not cooperate, Patterson said.

"They and their attorney and others who were present would not acknowledge our questions," Patterson said. "Had they been cooperative from the beginning, the situation probably would have turned out differently."

The child was taken and placed in a foster home approved by the county's Department of Children's Services.

"They did not try to physically prevent us from taking the child, but they did not cooperate," Patterson said. The child seemed to be healthy, Patterson said.

Julia Wiebe was born at home and detectives have not been able to determine if the newborn boy was born at home or at a hospital, Patterson said.

The Wiebes will have a hearing today in which they will try to get the child back, Patterson said.

The Wiebes have been charged with willful cruelty to a child and manslaughter in connection with Julia's death.

They face a preliminary hearing in that case next week. Judge Michael Gunn previously delayed the hearing until after Agnes Wiebe's due date.

Goldstein did not return calls for comment Thursday, nor did the Wiebes, who have previously declined to be interviewed about their case. Agnes Wiebe has previously delivered two stillborn boys, in 1996 and 1999.

Patterson said the family has declined to seek medical attention because they take certain portions of the Bible literally. "The church does not believe in intervening when people are sick," he said.

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