1. Faith-Healing Parents Jailed After Second Child’s Death
|Catherine Schaible, Getty Images|
A Pennsylvania mother and father who believe in faith-healing were sent to jail Wednesday for causing the death of their young, sick child by refusing to take him to the doctor. It was the second of Herbert and Catherine Schaible’s children to die under their care.
“You’ve killed two of your children…not God, not your church, not religious devotion — you,” Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple, as he sentenced them to between three and a half and seven years behind bars. The Schaibles pled no contest to third-degree murder in their eight-month-old son Brandon’s death last year from pneumonia.
The Schaibles lost a first child in 2009, a two-year-old who died from pneumonia. They were sentenced to ten years probation for involuntary manslaughter for that death. Part of their probation stated that they must seek medical care if another one of their children became sick.
Herbert Schaible told police last year that medicine violates their religious beliefs. “We believe in divine healing, the Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power,” he said.
The couple belongs to a small Pentacostal community. They have seven surviving children.
PHILADELPHIA PARENTS HERBERT, CATHERINE SCHAIBLE SENTENCED IN SON'S 'PRAYER DEATH'
A couple who believed in faith-healing were sentenced Wednesday to 3½ to seven years in prison in the death of a second child who never saw a doctor despite being stricken with pneumonia.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible defied a court order to get medical care for their children after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009. Instead, they tried to comfort and pray over 8-month-old Brandon last year as he, too, died of treatable pneumonia.
"My religious beliefs are that you should pray, and not have to use medicine. But because it is against the law, then whatever sentence you give me, I will accept," Catherine Schaible, 44, told the judge. She added that her beliefs have since changed.
The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia, where they also taught at the church school. They have seven surviving children.
Judge Benjamin Lerner rejected defense claims that their religious beliefs "clashed" with the 2011 court order to get annual checkups and call a doctor if a child became ill. The order came after a jury convicted them of involuntary manslaughter in Kent's death, and they were sentenced to 10 years of probation.
"April of 2013 wasn't Brandon's time to die," Lerner said, noting the violence committed throughout human history in the name of religion. "You've killed two of your children. ... Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You."
Experts say about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year.
The Schaibles are the rare couple to lose a second child that way. Their pastor, Nelson Clark, blamed Kent's death on a "spiritual lack" in the parents' lives, and insisted they would never seek medical care, even if another child was dying.
"It was so foreseeable to me that this was going to happen," said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted both cases. "Everybody in the system failed these children."
After the first death, she and public defender Mythri Jayaraman agreed that the couple's beliefs were so ingrained that their children remained at risk. They asked the earlier judge to have the family supervised by a Department of Human Services caseworker. Instead, the judge assigned them to probation officers, who are not trained to monitor children's welfare.
Pescatore has called Brandon's symptoms "eerily similar" to Kent's. They included labored breathing and a refusal to eat.
In his police statement last year, Herbert Schaible, 45, said, "We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power."
The Schaibles pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in Brandon's death, and faced a maximum 20- to 40-year term. Pescatore asked for eight to 16 years, while Jayaraman sought less than two years for Catherine Schaible.
"I didn't know what to do when Brandon was sick, because it was much quicker," said Catherine Schaible, who said he died within a few days. "The D.A. is actually right. I feel like I failed as a mother because they're not alive."
Herbert Schaible has already served about a year, while his wife has been free on bail.
A videotape played in court showed her on a weekly supervised visit, when she brought her children their favorite meals, along with games and birthday treats. Six of them are now in foster care, some with relatives. They attend public schools for the first time, and are getting medical, dental and vision care. Several now wear glasses.
The oldest child, who is 18, sat in court with his grandparents, the family pastor and other supporters. They listened as Herbert Schaible's lawyer called the patriarch "a good man, a righteous man, a spiritual man."
"He's still grieving the loss of his two sons," lawyer Bobby Hoof said.
2. Lakeland baby starves in a well-stocked home
|Tivasha E. Logan and Chauncey Gardner, Getty Images|
But not enough for the baby.
Only 2 ounces of formula were found Monday in the home where paramedics pronounced an emaciated 5-month-old girl dead. She weighed just 6 pounds.
Chauntasia Gardner starved to death in a house with more beer than infant formula, investigators said, and the Polk County Sheriff's Office blames the parents. Tivasha E. Logan, 25, and her boyfriend, Chauncey Gardner, 27, were charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
"It is mind-boggling," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "I've done this job my entire adult life, and I've seen a lot of violence against children and babies, but I can't ever remember seeing one starve to death. This child was tortured for days on end until she finally died from starvation."
This wasn't a famine-plagued region. There was no water shortage or crop failure. This was Lakeland.
The family lived a mile from the nearest grocery store and in walking distance of two churches. Logan had Medicaid and received Social Security Income and food stamps. She also participated in the county's Women, Infants & Children program, which provides some formula.
Investigators even found a $674 Social Security check that Logan received on Nov. 1 specifically for the infant.
Still, Logan watered down the formula at a 3-1 ratio, not 1-1 as the label instructed, the arrest report states. She told deputies that she never read the label; she said Gardner told her 3-1 was correct.
"It's absolutely appalling," Polk County Commissioner Ed Smith said. "It's unbelievable that anybody would starve a child to death. Your own flesh and blood; it's just unbelievable."
Paramedics went to the house at 2710 Sunshine Drive N in response to a call about a child who was not breathing. When deputies arrived, she was laying on the floor, her ribs and spine visible, her eyes sunken and her skin loose and wrinkled.
Judd said the parents were in denial and couldn't see what they had done wrong. They haven't offered an explanation, he said.
Logan and Gardner never took Chauntasia to the doctor, the arrest report said. The baby was born prematurely on May 11 but released on July 29 at a healthy weight of 7 pounds and 8 ounces.
Three months later, she didn't weigh even that much.
When told the baby's weight, a Tampa pediatrician gasped.
"Oh, my God, 6 pounds?" said Dr. Christina Paulson. "Six pounds would be way, way, way below the third percentile," she said as she looked at a chart. "It's not even on the curve. … If that baby came into the office, we'd have sent them to the hospital."
The average weight for a 5-month-old is about 14 pounds, she said.
Logan told detectives that she tried several times to get an appointment with a doctor but couldn't because none would accept her Medicaid.
However, her mother, Vonda Stewart, told investigators that she confronted Logan two weeks ago and urged her to take the baby to the doctor because of weight loss. Logan told her mom that she had gone to a doctor and that Chauntasia weighed 8 pounds.
When a detective confronted Logan with that statement, she said she had lied to get her mother off her back, Judd said. She then admitted she had noticed her baby losing a lot of weight about two weeks ago, but feared she would get in trouble if she took her to the hospital, the arrest report states. She thought the staff would notify the Department of Children and Families.
Paulson said doctors are required to report suspected abuse and neglect, but DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said the department doesn't immediately remove children in every circumstance. First, it tries to provide support.
"Your child's medical needs, their safety, always comes first," she said. "If there's any way we can support a family and not remove the child, we will."
The infant never made it to the Tuesday doctor's appointment that Logan told detectives she had made.
Hoeppner said that Logan and Gardner have been investigated four times in the past, between 2000 and 2007. Sometimes there were indicators of inadequate supervision, and other times there weren't, Hoeppner said, but there was never enough to warrant removing the children from the home.
For now, the five children are with a relative, and the DCF is working to keep them together, she said.
Three of the children — ages 4, 3 and 2 — belong to both Gardner and Logan, and Logan's two additional children — ages 10 and 6 — also lived with them. Gardner told deputies that he has fathered 10 children.
Gardner and Logan have each previously been convicted of several crimes. Gardner's convictions include possession of cocaine and driving under the influence, and Logan's include driving under the influence and resisting arrest.
They were held without bail.
Lakeland Mom Gets Life for Starving Infant to Death
A Lakeland woman was sentenced Thursday morning to life in prison without parole for starving her infant daughter to death.
Last month, a jury found Tivasha Logan guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen asked Logan whether she wanted to say anything before he imposed her punishment.
Sniffling softly with tears in her eyes, Logan, 27, shook her head slightly.
Her lawyer, Stephen Fisher, said Logan never meant to harm her 5-month-old daughter, Chauntasia Gardner.
"She loved her child, and her death was the last thing she wanted," Fisher said.
The judge didn't have any discretion to impose anything other than life imprisonment for the murder conviction.
Under Florida law, Jacobsen wasn't permitted to also impose a separate sentence against Logan for aggravated manslaughter of a child.
The murder and manslaughter verdicts involved the same death.
The manslaughter guilty verdict will remain "stayed indefinitely."
The judge denied a defense request for a new trial.
During last month's trial, Logan was found criminally responsible for allowing her daughter to starve to death in 2009 after watering down the baby's formula.
The child's father, Chauncey Gardner, continues to face similar charges, and a trial will be held at a later date.
The parents told detectives they didn't know they were giving the baby an improper ratio of powdered formula to water, according to investigative reports.
Logan told detectives she did notice Chauntasia was losing weight, but didn't take the baby to the hospital because she feared authorities would take away her five other children.
Chauntasia was supposed to weigh about 14 pounds, but an autopsy listed her weight at 6 pounds, according to court testimony.
Assistant State Attorney Paul Wallace argued Logan was guilty of first-degree murder because her actions amounted to aggravated child abuse.
Under Florida law, someone can be charged with "felony murder" if he or she commits certain felonies, including aggravated child abuse, and another person dies.
The prosecutor also argued Logan was guilty of aggravated manslaughter of a child, saying her conduct showed a "reckless disregard of human life."
The defense told jurors that Logan's actions didn't rise to the legal definition of "knowing" or "willful" abuse.
Her lawyer argued Logan has mild mental retardation and didn't realize how severe the child's condition was becoming. She decided to wait until a scheduled doctor's appointment for the baby and not go to the hospital.
"In her perception, she had time to wait for the doctor," Fisher told jurors during closing arguments.
The baby was found dead the morning of Nov. 1, 2009, at her family's home on Sunshine Drive in Lakeland. Her doctor's appointment would have been the next day.
Dad Gets 30 Years in Baby's Starvation Death
A Lakeland man was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison for his part in starving his infant daughter to death.
Chauncey Gardner was facing up to life imprisonment in the death of his 5-month-old daughter, Chauntasia.
Gardner insisted that the child's mother was responsible for the death, and he would maintain his innocence "until my last breath if necessary."
"I'm very sorry about what happened to my daughter," he said. "If there was anything in this world that I could give to have just one more day with my child, I would."
Chauntasia was found dead on the morning of Nov. 1, 2009, at her family's home on Sunshine Drive in Lakeland.
Gardner and the girl's mother, Tivasha Logan, were charged with underfeeding Chauntasia and not seeking medical help when the baby became deathly thin.
Logan told detectives that she was afraid the child's condition would get her arrested or her other children would be taken away.
Investigative reports state the baby was being fed improperly mixed formula that was watered down so much that the child couldn't get sufficient nutrition to survive.
Logan, 28, was found guilty last year as charged of first-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter of a child.
She was given a mandatory life sentence for the murder conviction.
This year, Gardner's lawyers argued at his trial that Logan was solely to blame for the baby's death.
Gardner testified that he was no longer living full time in the household, and he didn't know about the child's emaciated condition until it was too late.
He would have faced a mandatory life sentence if he also had been found guilty of first-degree murder.
However, the jury opted for a lesser charge of manslaughter.
The jury also found Gardner guilty of aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child.
At Friday's hearing, prosecutors were seeking enhanced punishment for Gardner based on his past criminal history, which included convictions for grand theft and possession of cocaine.
Assistant State Attorney Paul Wallace requested a life sentence for Gardner.
He argued that Chauntasia's parents were equally responsible for the child's death.
Gardner's lawyer, Austin Maslanik, disagreed, and asked Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen to impose a 30- year prison sentence, which was the lowest permissible punishment under the law.
"It was never his intention at any time for any harm to come to his daughter," Maslanik said.
He said Gardner's past criminal history did not include acts of violence and he should not be given a life sentence.
"Mr. Gardner is not a bad man," he said.
Gardner told the judge that he continues to feel pain since his daughter's death.
"It is shameful and embarrassing, and it hurts very much," he said. "A parent is never prepared for the death of a child, and it has torn me apart both emotionally and mentally."
Gardner continued to maintain that he was innocent and complained that he didn't get a fair trial.
"I feel that I was convicted by a jury and their emotions, and not evidence," he said.
Gardner, who has 10 children from six women, asked Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen for mercy for himself and his children.
"I love my children beyond anything imaginable, and I will always strive to be the best father that I can be," he said.
"However, I do have my flaws both as a man and a father."
The judge concluded Logan was "more culpable" in the baby's death than Gardner.
But he told Gardner that he also shared blame in the child's death and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
"You were there, and had ample opportunity to have observed what was going on and ample opportunity to have intervened and done something about it," Jacobsen said.
3. Vegan couple will serve life sentences for starving baby to death, court rules
|Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas, Getty Images|
The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous decision rejected appeals by Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas.
The two first-time parents in their 20s at the time lived in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. They rushed their infant, Crown Shakur, to the hospital in April 2004 after he began to have trouble breathing. Doctors who couldn't resuscitate him determined he died because of extreme malnourishment or starvation.
Police searching the couple's apartment found a soy milk bottle, an apple juice bottle and a rancid-smelling baby bottle caked with debris.
At the 2007 trial, prosecutors said the soy milk cartons in their apartment stated that it wasn't to be used as a substitute for baby formula. They also contended that the couple intentionally neglected their child and refused to take him to the doctor even as his body wasted away. He was just 3.5 pounds when he died, about as much as a baby weighs at 7 months into a normal pregnancy.
A jury convicted them of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children.
"No matter how many times they want to say, `We're vegans, we're vegetarians,' that's not the issue in this case," prosecutor Chuck Boring said during the trial. "The child died because he was not fed. Period."
Defense attorneys countered that the parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby was in danger until they rushed his emaciated body to the hospital.
"I loved my son—and I did not starve him," Jade Sanders said at her May 2007 sentencing hearing.
In her appeal, Sanders' attorney argued the evidence wasn't strong enough to support the verdict. And Thomas' lawyer claimed his trial attorney was ineffective because he failed to call an expert to support his theory that his son's death was linked to cystic fibrosis and not starvation.
But the opinion, which was written by Presiding Justice George Carley, rejected both arguments. The evidence, the justices concluded, was sufficient to find both parents were "guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted."
4. Baby fed raw vegan diet died from malnutrition
|Garabet Manuelyan, Getty Images|
Nine-month-old Areni Manuelyan died in July last year of bronchopneumonia brought on by malnutrition, weighing just two-thirds of her expected weight at 5.2kg (about 11lb).
Her parents had been feeding her on tomato juice and water and ignored a doctor's warning that she was terminally ill the day before her death.
Her mother Hasmik and father Garabet, both 45, of Staines, Surrey, pleaded guilty to child cruelty by gross negligence at a hearing in July. The crown prosecution service allowed a charge of manslaughter to lie on file.
"This is a most unusual and tragic case, perhaps even unique," Judge David Paget QC told the couple as he sentenced them to three-year community rehabilitation orders. "Your real punishment is that you will have to spend the rest of your lives in the knowledge that your stubbornness caused Areni's death. For loving parents like you that is a crushing burden to bear.
"In addition, your two eldest children have been taken away causing misery for them and you and your marriage has come to an end."
Doctors and dieticians had repeatedly urged the Manuelyans to widen the family's diets, but they insisted that they had to "follow the law of nature".
Mrs Manuelyan's previous health problems and an underlying low level mental disorder had resulted in an "obsession" with eating only organic raw vegan food, said Linda Strodwick, defending.
Their two elder children, a nine-year-old boy and six-year-old girl, were placed on the child protection register in 1996 because of concerns about their health, but the Manuelyans moved first to Armenia, where they both grew up, and then to France.
Areni was born shortly after their return to Britain in 1999. But she developed slowly and her health deteriorated dramatically when the family went to live in a vegan commune in Spain.
In July last year they returned to the UK to get medical help, taking Areni to a private practitioner for oxygen treatment. He told them she would die without immediate intravenous feeding and they said they would think about it. By the following morning, she was dead.
The Manuelyans are to separate and their children are living with foster parents while care proceedings continue.
The couple were too upset to comment yesterday. Earlier in the week Mr Manuelyan, who gave up his job as a bus driver following his daughter's death, said the events were "a terrible trauma for us, like a bad dream."
Baby death parents spared jail
The parents of a nine-month-old girl who died after being fed a fruit-based diet have been spared a jail sentence.
Areni Manuelyan died of a chest infection, brought on by malnutrition in July 2000 weighing just eleven and a half pounds, six pounds less than she should have.
At her post mortem she was found to be markedly thin, dehydrated and to have severe pneumonia - all of which could be linked to malnutrition.
At their trial, her parents, Garabet and Hazmik Manuelyan, both 45, pleaded guilty to child cruelty.
That would normally have resulted in a prison sentence.
But at the Old Bailey on Friday, Judge David Paget said what had happened to the family was punishment enough.
The Armenian couple, from Staines, Surrey, described as "loving but misguided" in court, were placed under a community rehabilitation order for three years.
Mrs Manuelyan still sleeps on the blanket that last held Areni.
She was described by Linda Strudwick who was defending her as "a mother who cared passionately for her children. Perhaps she cared too much."
The couple's two other children have been taken into care.
Judge Paget said: "This is a wholly exceptional and tragic case.
"You have been punished and will continue to be punished by the consequences of your actions."
The couple were vegans, but in 1996 switched to a fruitarian diet consisting of raw vegetables fruit and nuts.
After Areni's birth on 8 September 1999, the family saw a paediatrician who said the baby was not developing properly, and that her mother's breastmilk was nutritionally deficient.
Other doctors and social workers warned against the diet.
But the court was told the couple had shown a "stubborn refusal", and would not follow the advice.
Later, the family went to live on a vegetarian commune in Spain, where they believed Areni's Vitamin D deficiency would be cured by sunlight.
The couple believed all Areni needed was "sunshine and fruit".
They returned to the UK in July 2000 when Areni became seriously ill.
A doctor who the couple went to see, who specialised in oxygen therapy, told Areni's parents she needed to be taken to hospital immediately.
But Mr Manuelyan, a bus driver, was said to be worried about the chemicals his daughter may be treated with, and the couple ignored the advice.
On July 5, 2000, an ambulance was called to the family home because Areni had stopped breathing. She was taken to hospital and later certified dead.
A nutritionist said even if she had been taken to hospital the day before her death, she could have survived.
Nutritionists say a fruitarian, or fruit-only diet, is completely ill-advised for such a small child.
They add that even adults need to be careful not to stick to a fruit-only diet for too long.
Catherine Collins, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, (BDA) said some fruitarians did eat raw vegetables or pulses.
But she said: "The main problem for a nine-month old child is that they need a very high calorie to weight intake."
Without that, she said babies of that age - and younger - would not have the fuel they need for muscle growth, organ growth and brain development.
They would miss out on proteins, iron, calcium, essential fatty acids and raw fibre, which will all affect their development.
BDF paediatric dietician Nicole Dos Santos said babies would also need the fat and nutrients they would receive from breast or bottle milk, and it was important babies received one or the other.
She said a fruit-only diet was unsuitable for a child. "This is not a diet a child should be put on."
5. Parents Of Boy Who Died Of Meningitis Allegedly Treated Him With Maple Syrup
|David and Collet Stephan's son, Getty Images|
David and Collet Stephan, of southern Alberta, pleaded not guilty on Monday to failing to provide the necessaries of life, CBC News reports. Their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel, died of meningitis in March 2012.
Prosecutors say the toddler had fallen ill a couple of weeks earlier, but his parents only called for medical help when Ezekiel stopped breathing. He died in a hospital after five days on life support.
The Stephans had allegedly tried to cure their son earlier with a slew of home remedies that included maple syrup mixed with water and apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot pepper, onion, garlic and ginger root, according to the CBC.
Prosecutors played a police interview in which Collet Stephan said that a nurse friend told the couple Ezekiel could have meningitis. The mother said she and her husband had obtained a treatment for meningitis from a “naturopathic doctor” and gave it to their son.
“I’m not saying they killed him, abused him or ignored him — they loved him,” Crown Prosecutor Clayton Giles said in court Monday, according to the Global News. “They didn’t take him to a doctor until it was too late — far too late.”
When police first charged the couple in February 2013, David Stephan released a statement to the Calgary Herald, noting that Ezekiel appeared to be improving before his condition quickly deteriorated and he stopped breathing.
“Like any other good parents, we attended to the matter and treated him accordingly to standard practices and recommendations like millions of parents do each year,” he said. Medical responders took 40 minutes after the 911 call to reach Ezekiel and they lacked the necessary equipment to support breathing for a small child, he added.
David Stephan’s father, Anthony, told the Herald that Ezekiel had really only been sick for a few days before the couple called doctors. He said the boy only had flu-like symptoms and his parents believed it was just a minor ailment.
Brad Stephan, Ezekiel’s uncle, told The Canadian Press that the toddler seemed fine just hours before he stopped breathing. “He was playing with his dad,” he said. “He was eating. Everything seemed good.”
The family runs the supplement company Truehope Nutritional Support, which Anthony Stephan founded in 1996. But Brad Stephan said authorities have incorrectly portrayed them as being against all mainstream medicine.
“We’re not anti-establishment or anti-medicine” he told The Canadian Press. “Some people like to paint us with that brush.”
David And Collet Stephan Trial: Alberta Couple Sentenced In Son's Meningitis Death
A couple who failed to get proper medical treatment for their son who died of bacterial meningitis are going to spend time in custody.
A judge in southern Alberta has sentenced David Stephan to four months in jail and his wife, Collet, to three months of strict house arrest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She will only be allowed to go out for medical appointments and church.
Both will be on probation for two years after they complete their sentences and will have to complete 240 hours of community service by 2018.
The Stephans, whose family helped start a nutritional supplements company, were found guilty in April of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son.
They thought he had the croup or flu and treated him instead with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish — even though a family friend who was a nurse said she thought 19-month-old Ezekiel might have meningitis.
Justice Rodney Jerke said that although both parents were "wilfully blind" to the boy's condition, the father was especially so.
He also said David Stephan, 33, seemed more concerned about being punished than about his inaction when his son was sick.
"Mr. Stephan's post-conviction actions demonstrate a complete lack of remorse. To this day he refuses to admit his actions had any impact," Jerke told the court in Lethbridge.
The judge said David Stephan also had greater moral culpability because he called his father instead of 911 when the toddler stopped breathing.
Jerke described the Stephans as usually being "caring and attentive parents," but not at the time Ezekiel was ailing.
"Any reasonable and prudent person would have taken action," he said.
"This is far beyond a child that has the sniffles."
He addressed the couple, who both broke into tears upon hearing the judge's decision: "By your conduct, you affected many people. It left a chilling impact on all of us."
The prosecution had asked for a sentence in the range of three to 4 1/2 years, but Jerke said that was too much. But he also said he could not comply with the defence request for a suspended sentence because of the aggravating factor that Ezekiel was a "vulnerable young child."
The Stephans were given a hero's welcome by tearful supporters when they arrived at the courthouse Friday with their three children.
People in a crowd of about 70 shouted "We love you" as the couple hugged and thanked supporters. David Stephan told them he appreciated their love at a time when what he called "misinformation" had turned people against him and his wife.
A handful of counter-protesters, most of them medical doctors, set up across the courtyard.
"You can not impose your personal views on your children in a way that endangers their life,'' said Dr. Kirsten Jones, a general surgeon from Lethbridge. "Those children have a right to grow up to become independently thinking adults and to form their own moral judgments at that time."
At the sentencing hearing, David Stephan said it was important for his three other children to have a father "who'll help raise them up."
"Looking back at it, had I known that it could possibly end up in this situation, I would not have put my child at risk,'' he told court.
Collet Stephan, 36, said her only purpose in life is to be a mother.
"My children are everything to me and I'm everything to my children,'' she said. "I am incredibly sorry I did not take him to the hospital.
"I just loved him so much."
The trial heard the little boy was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when his mother drove him from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge to pick up an echinacea mixture.
The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He was rushed to hospital, but died after being transported to Calgary Children's Hospital.
6. MMO Parents Take Care of Virtual Toddler While Real One Starves
|The video game Kim Jae-beom and Kim Yun-jeong were addicted to, Getty Images|
The couple allegedly raised a virtual toddler in a game similar to Second Life, called Prius Online (pictured) while leaving their real one home alone each day with just a single bottle of milk for nourishment. One day they came home to find the child dead and called the cops, claiming they found the child dead when they had awakened. Investigators noted the child's dehydrated condition and weren't buying it. An autopsy later said the child died of starvation.
This all happened back in September actually. After the infant's funeral the couple disappeared and were only recently arrested. Don't think they were bingeing on the MMOs however: ""Due to our sense of guilt, we have not been to a PC gaming room over these five months," they told an investigator. Mighty damn big of them.
The Story Of A Couple Who Played Video Games While Their Child Died
One day in March 2010, news began to surface that police in South Korea had arrested a couple for the death of their daughter Sarang, the Korean word for "love." She was only three months old. By the time her parents called local authorities to report her death, she was severely underweight—dropping from her birth weight of 6.4 pounds to 5.5. An autopsy revealed that she died of malnutrition.
Her death attracted international attention once police revealed its cause: Sarang had slowly starved due to negligence. Her parents, both unemployed and living in relative poverty, would leave her alone for six to twelve hours at a time while they visited local PC cafes to play Prius, a massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game that was popular in the country at the time.
The tragic irony of Sarang's death is that her parents neglected proper attention and care because they were playing a game that allowed its players to foster virtual children known as "Anima." Massively, an MMO-focused gaming site, described the Anima as "the raison d'etre for Prius" in a 2011 story about a presentation discussing the game at that year's Game Developers Conference.
"A large part of Prius' gameplay revolves around getting to know your Anima's personality as well as gauging her moods and persuading her to help you with your game goals and various quests," Massively wrote. The virtual child was a central feature of many different aspects of the game's combat and leveling system. Getting to know the Anima's particular personality and backstory was considered an integral part of the game's story. gPotato, the company that supported the game's online services, hailed the Anima as "a quantum leap when it comes to MMORPG pet design, as she not only requires character progression of her own apart from your main avatar but also serves as a gateway to the game's crafting implementation."
Sarang's parents weren't able to support their real child. But their devotion to Prius suggested that the concept of genuinely successful parenting wasn't foreign to them, either. So why did the couple fail in their real-world responsibilities when they were enthralled by like-minded virtual ones?
The criminal investigation and ensuing trial ultimately concluded that it was because both of them were suffering from a crippling addiction to the video game. The court judging Sarang's parents ultimately gave them a lenient sentence that involved no prison time. The father, awash with guilt, ended up volunteering himself for incarceration as an act of profound contrition.
The story of Sarang and her parents is at the center of Love Child, a new documentary directed by Valerie Veatch that will first air on HBO tonight at 9pm Eastern. I would recommend the movie for anyone unfamiliar with the story or the many nuances of South Korea's game industry and culture more generally. It's a comprehensive and refreshingly diplomatic approach to an issue that's often so fraught with cultural panic that just trying to talk about it in a reasonable way can be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.
Whether or not you think that Sarang's parents deserve any of the sympathy that the authorities showed them, Love Child makes a strong case for the cultural and political significance of their story. The fact that they weren't viewed as criminals through and through has some intriguing implications in particular. Andrew Salmon, one of the first journalists who covered the story for an international audience and a central character in Love Child, explains early on in the film that the criminal sentencing established "a far-reaching legal precedent" to treat video game addiction "as a mitigating factor in crimes" similar to "psychological problems, drug addiction, and drunkenness."
Love Child shows how this "legal precedent" has already started to work its way into many aspects of South Korean gaming culture in the four years since Sarang's tragic story first came to light. Many popular video games now contain time-lock features that block players (particularly young ones) from playing for too long or during certain times of the day. Legislation has been drawn up to address compulsive game-related behavior in similar ways to other kinds of addiction or mental illness. Rehabilitation centers and treatment programs have popped up across the country to help struggling gamers address damaging or compulsive behavior.
One rehab center that is detailed in the movie shows a young man rigged up to an intricate series of screens and monitors and administered a sort of aversion therapy that looked sort of like a less scary, dystopian version of the notorious movie theater scene from Clockwork Orange. The patient is shown a series of nature-themed videos set to soothing music. Afterwards, they're shown footage of a video game while harsh, discordant music is played alongside the video.
Love Child is at its best when it sticks to these specific examples detailing the intricacies of the Korean video game industry and the elements that have sprung up to respond to its excesses. But this is not a perfect movie. Veatch spends remarkably little time with the family at the heart of her documentary, and we never hear from the parents directly. For a story that's moving because of its tragic, human details, the absence of the actual people who were most closely involved is unfortunate.
When I asked Veatch about this, she told me that she didn't include the parents partly out of respect for their privacy. But she also said she just didn't think they were "very good characters."
Why make a movie about them, then? Obviously the drama of Sarang's tragic death is a major pull for an investigation into an overarching issue that affects both gamers and the people close to them. When it came to actually speaking to her parents, however, Veatch said that she ran into hurdles communicating with them effectively. She told me that throughout the 8 weeks she gave to reporting and filming in Korea, she spent one afternoon actually talking to the couple face-to-face. She was more interested in focusing on the broader cultural questions at play in the story, she reasoned.
This is troubling for no other reason than that it seems to blur the line, intentionally or not, between a personal story and a societal one. Veatch consults with experienced lawyers, doctors, and psychologists in her movie. But addiction is something that is only ever truly experienced on a personal level. Understanding it in a way that would allow us to truly empathize with the people who are genuinely suffering would require getting at least some access to their inner life.
Since it doesn't provide much of a window into the lives of Sarang's parents, Love Child carries an unresolved tension throughout its story. The movie presents two different views of video game addiction: a genuine malady, and an unwieldy concept that causes unnecessary controversy and ultimately distracts us from the real issue—whatever that may be. After raising both as compelling possibilities, it never settles on one over the other.
Veatch, meanwhile, makes some disturbing implications in her film. A passage on the economic importance of South Korea's game industry suggests that the country didn't respond to Sarang's death as decisively as it should have for questionable reasons. Throughout the movie, there's a lingering insinuation that game developers feel a financial impetus to keep players hooked into their games despite legitimate concerns about the health and well-being of their audience. Love Child stops short of making any strong statements about any of these intimations, however.
Speaking to Veatch, it sounded like she was more interested in raising big questions than trying to answer all of them. She told me that she's not even sure that "addiction" is the proper term to use when discussing video games, for instance. It's a "flawed paradigm" that invites misinterpretation and unnecessary panic, she argued.
Leaving fruitful questions open for further discussion isn't a bad thing, necessarily. But it's become too easy to leave any inquiry into the addictive power of video games to the "expert" class of lawyers and doctors like the ones Veatch consults in her film. It's time that we start proposing clear answers—artistic and ethical ones. Because if we don't, I'm scared what the future of video games might look like.
As for the story of Sarang's parents? Prius was shut down in 2013 after years of waning popularity. The two of them have another child now. The father has a real job, outside of any MMO, and the mother stays at home tending to her child. A lawyer for the family says that the couple has sworn off video games for good.
Couple: Internet gaming addiction led to baby's death
A South Korean couple whose three-month-old daughter died of malnutrition while they were raising a virtual child in an online game pleaded guilty to negligent homicide on Friday.
Kim Jae-beom, 40, and his common-law wife, Kim Yun-jeong, 25, will be sentenced on April 16.
Prosecutors are seeking a five-year sentence for the couple, whose defense included a statement alleging gaming addiction.
The pair is expecting a second child in August. Their first daughter's name, Kim Sa-rang, means "love" in Korean. She died in September of malnutrition while they were engaged in overnight sessions at a PC Bang, or a 24-hour Internet cafe. The couple would allegedly put her to bed and leave for 10-hour gaming sessions.
They were playing Prius Online, a 3-D fantasy game in which players raise an online girl who gains magic powers as she is nurtured and grows older.
"I think of our baby in heaven," the father responded when asked if he had anything to say. "I will be guilty until the day I die."
The father -- a slight, gray-haired man and the mother -- a visibly emotional woman -- were dressed in pale green detention center uniforms. They appeared nervous and timid; neither had previous convictions. The father was a taxi and truck driver, while the mother was unemployed.
They said they met in 2008 and the father introduced Kim to online gaming. Sa-rang was born prematurely in July last year and died a few months later. At the time of death, she weighed 5.5 pounds (2.5 kgs), the court heard. She was 6.4 pounds when she was born.
"When she cried, I cuddled her, but I noticed she was getting thinner," the mother said, adding that she had not learned about baby care at the hospital nor had she read any books on the subject.
The couple reported the baby's death to police, who become suspicious about her low weight. They were subsequently arrested and investigated.
"They were addicted to Internet gaming; they put their baby to sleep and came home early in the morning," said their attorney, Kim Dong-young (no relation) of the Korean Legal Aid Corp. "They regret it, but Ms. Kim is pregnant, please consider this."
Speaking about his unborn child, the father said: "There will be no second mistake."
Korea has arguably the world's most advanced broadband infrastructure, a $5 billion gaming industry and an evolving culture built around gaming. Companies such as Samsung sponsor pro-teams that compete in leagues.
Given the wide availability of the Internet -- there are 21,500 PC Bangs nationwide -- Web addiction has been widely noted in South Korea, though questions remain on the most appropriate treatment.
The case could set an important legal precedent if it establishes that gaming addiction is a mitigating circumstance in crime.
Korean law accepts drunkenness as such on the basis that the perpetrator is not acting according to his own will. With neither defendant having psychological problems beyond game addiction, the judge may set a precedent.
"Since they were addicted, the judge could make it a factor in cutting their sentence," the lawyer said.
Even if he does, Korea is not a litigious society, the lawyer said, and the chances of businesses such as PC Bangs or game developers being sued are low.
The case has sparked interest in the gaming industry.
"I have been reading the articles," said an employee of "Tony's," a PC Bang in Suwon, near the court. But, he said, the case would not have any ramifications for the industry.
The trial lasted just over half an hour in a near-empty courtroom in Suwon, a satellite city an hour south of Seoul best known as home to the factories of Samsung, a leading electronics company.
7. Tamara Lovett trial: court hears landlord thought her son was faking illness
|Tamara Lovett's son, Getty Images|
A Calgary woman wept through much of her initial interview with police before she was charged in the death of her seven-year-old son.
Tamara Lovett, 47, is on trial charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life and with criminal negligence causing death.
Ryan Alexander Lovett died in March 2013 after getting a strep infection that kept him bedridden for 10 days. The trial has heard the seven-year-old was treated with dandelion tea and oil of oregano. He died from massive organ failure.
“Oh God. My poor little boy,” Lovett said in an interview with police hours after he died at Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“It’s just flashing back. Why is this going on?” she asked in the interview played in court Thursday.
“I’m a failure. You do everything you can for your kids.”
Much of the interview was unintelligible as she choked back the tears.
Lovett told the officer that her son had flu symptoms that worsened a couple of days before his death. He was complaining of pain in his legs, his skin became jaundiced, his urine was dark and he was having trouble standing.
She said he complained of stomach pains and she helped him into the bathroom.
“I put him back to bed and that’s when I noticed his speech was starting to slur and I said, ‘We’re taking you to the hospital.'”
Lovett said as she was getting him dressed he collapsed and she called 911. He died later that morning in hospital of sepsis.
She said she wished she had put him in the car and taken him to hospital herself instead of waiting for paramedics to arrive.
“I know it’s nobody’s fault but it’s just so unfortunate.”
“When I saw Ryan, he looked more angry and depressed. Personally, I actually thought he was faking it,” said Lovett’s friend Frank Keller, who was also the manager of the building she and Ryan lived in.
“This kid was going into a clingy-like panic attack. He would not let go of his mother. I was pissed off at Tamara for being over-nurturing, over-mothering, having to do everything for the kid, keeping herself glued to the kid.”
Keller said Lovett had lived at the apartment for about five years and he knew her from the arts community. He said she was unable to find full-time work because she was caring for Ryan, and was $3,000 behind on her rent.
“I feel really, really bad with myself because I stood there on that last day looking out the window and looking at that kid and I’m pissed off that this kid’s faking it. I’m looking at the kid and I’m saying, ‘Why do you want to do this to your mother?'”
Harold Pendergrast, another of Lovett’s neighbours who described himself as a portraitist, said he took care of Ryan the day before he died.
“He was usually a vibrant young man. He wasn’t as vibrant,” testified Pendergrast, who said he thought the boy was dealing with an “emotional burden” rather than something physical.
“I did not see sunken eyes and a child on the edge of death at all. Did I see anything physically wrong with that boy? Energy level. He wasn’t out just ripping it up.”
Lovett did not seem overly dismissive of conventional medicine, even though she used natural remedies to treat the boy, her friends said. They said she had taken antibiotics herself when a spider bite became infected.
Keller said it was obvious Lovett thought Ryan had a cold or the flu and treated him as she thought was appropriate.
“She went through everything in life on her own. I think she was really convinced this was a cold and she could beat it with whatever she was doing.”
Doctors have testified treatment with an antibiotic would have saved Ryan’s life.
Lovett described Ryan to police as a healthy and happy boy.
“Smart, funny and always playing practical jokes. He liked to do art and he won’t be doing any more art. Oh my God.”
8. More Details Arise on Parents Charged with Homicide in Child’s Death
|Christine and Ebed Delozier's daughter|
The investigation, initiated by the Criminal Investigation Unit members of the state police and the Bradford County Coroner’s Office, determined the cause of death was homicide.
Yesterday, June 10, charges were filed against the child’s parents, Ebed S. Delozier, 29, and Christine E. Delozier, 34, both of Wyalusing. The two have been charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter, graded as a felony of the second degree, and endangering the welfare of children, graded as a felony of the third degree.
Both defendants were afforded a preliminary arraignment before Magisterial District Judge Timothy Clark and released on non-monetary bail. However, Ebed Delozier had an active bench warrant issued in the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas for his arrest.
As a result, he was remanded to the Bradford County Correctional Facility without bail pending a hearing before a Court of Common Pleas Judge.
According to a criminal affidavit from Magisterial District Judge Fred Wheaton’s Office, the couple was staying at a camper along Hiduk Road in Herrick Township, a property owned by the Hope Baptist Church. Ebed Delozier brought the toddler to the hospital, who was found to be in cardiac arrest.
Despite efforts made by the medical staff to save her, the child was pronounced dead a short time later. No immediate cause of death was noted.
Criminal investigators were told by a registered nurse on staff that the victim’s mother, Christine Delozier, and aunt, Rebecca Delozier, arrived at the hospital shortly after the victim. The nurse said that the victim’s parents made it clear they were against antibiotics and other chemicals associated with modern medicine.
While emergency room staff worked on the toddler, who was not breathing, the nurse said she overheard Christine Delozier making statements such as, “You’re putting holes in her” and, “You’re putting chemicals in her.”
The nurse said that while speaking with the family, they related the child had been sick for two weeks and was displaying symptoms consistent with an earache, headache and a fever. She told police the family indicated they had been treating the little girl with a homeopathic approach and were using herbal treatments to care for her.
The Deloziers also reportedly said they had financial difficulties and would not be able to pay the hospital bill.
An autopsy performed on March 26 at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, NY, conducted by Dr. James Terzian, indicated that the 18-month-old toddler had died of “streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis”, which caused a cerebral abscess and terminal cerebral edema. The meningitis reportedly originated in a left ear infection, which had been left untreated by conventional antibiotic therapy.
Dr. Terzian noted “a simple antibiotic would have saved the victim’s life.”
Based upon these findings, Bradford County Coroner Thomas Carman ruled the death as a homicide.
Interviews conducted with Christine Delozier on March 24 and March 30 found that her child had been born at home without the use of a midwife and from there on, had never seen a medical doctor, nor did she receive any vaccinations. She said her views against modern medicine stem from her childhood as she was raised without taking pills or receiving shots.
She told police she has done her own research on vaccinations and found they can be related to death, SIDS, autistic disorders, immune disorders and shaken baby syndrome. While her views are not religiously motivated, she said she does feel God is the ultimate healer.
Delozier admitted her daughter had been sick for approximately three weeks prior to her death, having a fever that varied between 99 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit and occasional vomiting.
She said the ear infection lasted for a couple of weeks and an abscess that eventually formed had ruptured and fluid drained from the toddler’s ear for approximately five days.
Delozier kept treating the child with natural and herbal treatments to boost her immune system. On the day of the toddler’s death, Delozier laid the little girl down for a nap. Roughly one hour later, she observed her daughter’s breathing to be labored and shallow, taking one breath approximately every 10 seconds. The toddler eventually stopped breathing and went limp.
“I watched her die,” Delozier told police.
She performed CPR on the victim for approximately 30 minutes, at which time Ebed Delozier arrived home and took the child to the emergency room.
Ebed, who was interviewed on the same days as his wife, told police he has similar views on modern medicine. Although, he said if he has been aware his daughter was so ill, he would have taken her to a doctor. Ebed related he had EMT training while he lived in Vermont.
In May, police investigators met with Dr. Paul Bellino, who is the director of the pediatric residency program at Geisinger-Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. Bellino reviewed the pathology report prepared by Dr. Terzian as well as the investigative details and photographs associated with the victim’s death. Bellino agreed the child could have been saved with a vaccination or simple antibiotic. The doctor also noted the victim appeared to be malnourished and dehydrated.
A preliminary hearing for the Deloziers is scheduled for June 16 at Judge Clark’s office.