Toddler Dies Of Pneumonia After Medical Care Refused For Religious Rounds

March 26, 2018
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The parents of a 2-year-old Pennsylvania girl who died of pneumonia, have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors said they declined to seek medical care for the child on religious grounds.

Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, were convicted on Friday in Berks County court of child endangerment in the November 2016 death of daughter Ella Grace in Upper Tulpehocken Township, The Reading Eagle reported.

The Fosters, who remain free pending sentencing in April, attributed their daughter’s death to “God’s will,” according to an affidavit.

They told authorities that Ella started showing symptoms of a common cold two days before she died, including lethargy and a sore throat, but her breathing eventually became labored, then rapid, and she died in her father’s arms.

The defendants are members of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which instructs members to avoid doctors and pharmaceutical drugs.

During the trial, Medical personnel testified that the child likely would have survived had she been given treatment.

The Defense attorneys declined comment but vowed to “pursue all appropriate avenues” possibly including appeals.

They argued that their clients thought their daughter only had a cold.

Attorney R. Davis Younts asked the jury to focus on the facts about what the parents knew, not the opinions of expert witnesses or any feelings regarding the Fosters’ religious beliefs.

Assistant District Attorney Katie Lehman, however, said that Grace Foster asked their pastor, the child’s grandfather, to anoint the sick child the night before but not another daughter who also had cold symptoms, and her father left work the next morning to help care for her.

Prosecutors indicated that they haven’t decided what sentence to seek but the standard sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter are nine to 16 months in prison, with a maximum allowed term of 10 years.

Jurors deliberated for more than 4 hours without reaching a verdict, then had to start over the next day, with a new member of the panel after one juror became sick. The new panel reached a verdict after about 2 hours of deliberation.

When the verdict was announced the defendants reportedly kept their heads slightly bowed and closed their eyes.

About 80 supporters also were silent in the courtroom, but some muffled cries were heard in the hallway as they comforted one another with hugs and handshakes.

After they were charged, the Fosters gave up custody of 6 other children who ranged in age from 1 to 12 years old.

Authorities said that the children would be kept together but placed in the care of a family that would ensure that they receive proper medical care.

In December, a judge had dismissed a charge against the congregation’s pastor of failure to report suspected abuse.

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