A young couple that belong to the faith-healing Followers of Christ Church in Oregon were arrested and charged on Monday with the murder of their newborn daughter.
After a week of grand jury testimony, Sarah Elaine Mitchell, 24, and Travis Lee Mitchell, 21, were charged with murder and first-degree criminal mistreatment in the March 5 death of their daughter Gennifer Mitchell, according to Bob Brigham of Raw Story.
No one even called for actual medical help when the newly born baby started to have problems breathing, they waited until the child died, just hours after the home birth, to call authorities.
“A church elder contacted the county medical examiner’s office to report the death, but none of the family or church members present called 911 when Gennifer developed breathing problems,” said Brigham.
Gennifer’s twin sister Evelyn was taken to the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for treatment, shortly after Gennifer’s death was reported.
An autopsy by Oregon State Medical Examiner Karen Gunson found Ginnifer died from complications of prematurity and that her lungs hadn’t developed enough to work on their own, the affidavit said. Her death wouldn’t have occurred suddenly, Gunson told investigators, and there would have been signs that the baby was struggling to breathe including skin discoloration, reported The Oregonian.
“Child deaths have plagued the church for years. Members believe the sick will be anointed by elders and that their faith will heal all ailments. Death, if it comes, is God’s will, they believe.”
The church’s history of child deaths convinced the Oregon Legislature to remove “spiritual treatment” as a defense for homicide charges in situations like this.
Sarah Mitchell’s sister and brother-in-law, Shannon and Dale Hickman, are currently in prison for the 2009 death of their infant son.
“Sarah and Shannon’s father, Walter Matthew White, is believed to be a direct descendant of Walter White, the founder of the Followers of Christ Church congregation,” KOIN reported.
Watch former members of the Followers of Christ Church talk about the church’s pattern of child abuse:
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)