Authorities consider investigating Church of God pastor's brother

Free Press/February 14, 2002
By Jonathan Sher

Manitoba authorities may again investigate the brother of Aylmer pastor Henry Hildebrandt because the death of his newborn last year may have been his second child to die under questionable circumstances.

Amanda Hildebrandt died less than two hours after her premature birth last June after her parents, David and Judy, ignored their midwife and refused to go to hospital, according to Manitoba officials.

The second death surprised Manitoba officials.

"We closed the case in July, but we weren't aware of the second child dying," said Dennis Schellenberg, head of the agency that oversees Manitoba's family and children's services, adding the case could be reopened.

Several sources in the Church of God, including former pastor David Kauenhowen, say the Hildebrandts lost a young child a few years ago to a lung ailment in Mexico after they refused to place the child on oxygen.

That wasn't known last year when the province investigated the safety of two surviving children.

But the agency may re-open the case to examine what The Free Press has learned may have happened in Mexico, an official said.

David Hildebrandt has refused comment and his brother, Henry, has not returned phone calls.

The practices of the Church of God and its clashes with authorities in several provinces and U.S. states were exposed last year by The Free Press and are expected to get more American ink as early as today by the Los Angeles Times.

On July 4, Family and Children Services in Elgin County took away seven children from their Aylmer parents over allegations of medical neglect and excessive corporal punishment.

Two days later, a California toddler, whose parents belong to a sister church, died of meningitis, a death caused in part by medical neglect, a coroner ruled.

Three previous pregnancies by the California couple, formerly of Aylmer, ended in miscarriages or stillbirths. The parents were charged with involuntary homicide and wilful cruelty to a child.

Amanda Hildebrandt's death didn't lead to charges -- a provincial medical examiner ruled the girl was so ill with infection, she'd have almost certainly died, even in a hospital.

The fate of the seven Aylmer children will be determined in a trial scheduled to begin May 27.

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