A Rhawnhurst couple, who prosecutors said prayed over their sick 7-month-old son instead of seeking medical attention for him, remain in jail on charges of third-degree murder, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for June 12.
Attorneys for Herbert and Catherine Schaible, of the 2200 block of Rhawn St., argued unsuccessfully on Friday in front of Common Pleas Court Judge Ben Lerner that their clients should be freed, at least until their preliminary hearing.
Instead, Lerner ruled that the Schaibles — he is 44, she is 43 — should stay behind bars because they are potential flight risks. They are also charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child in the April 18 death of their son Brandon.
The couple are lifetime members of First Century Gospel Church, located at 4557 G St. in Juniata. The church believes in prayer, not medical care, for physical healing. Lerner said that he didn’t want church members around the country with similar views harboring them from justice.
“It was absolutely appropriate in this case,” said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore.
Defense attorneys Bobby Hoof, for Herbert Schaible, and Mythri Jayaraman, for his wife, said the preliminary hearing date could change.
“It’s kind of early to say if we’ll be ready for that day,” said Hoof, noting that they just received the autopsy report for Brandon Schaible.
Brandon died of bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and strep after several days of being sick. Prosecutors, who charged his parents on May 22, said he could have easily been treated with antibiotics.
The youngster is the second child in his family to die.
Back in January 2009, 2-year-old Kent Schaible died of bacterial pneumonia after developing a cold that included congestion and a sore throat.
Hoof and Jayaraman represented them at that time. Pescatore was the prosecutor.
At that time, the Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child and sentenced to 10 years probation by Judge Carolyn Engel Temin, who said, “A prison sentence is not called for in this case.”
Pescatore agreed with the sentence back then, but is taking a hard line this time.
“Their second child is dead. Dead,” she said in court, adding that the Schaibles thumb their noses at the law.
Temin also ordered them to take their other children to a medical practitioner when they are sick.
After leaving the courtroom on Feb. 2, 2011, Herbert Schaible was asked whether he would comply with that order. He replied, “We have no comment.”
The Schaibles have seven other children, four sons and three daughters, who are in temporary foster care. They are ages 3 to 17.
Lerner, during Friday’s 30-minute hearing, indicated that he might allow the Schaibles, accompanied by sheriff’s deputies or prison guards, to see their children outside a prison environment.
Jayaraman said her client is “still grieving for her son.”
Hoof described his client as “resolute” and “a father, just like the rest of us,” who takes his sons to Phillies games.
“He’s a solid citizen. He’s a good father to his children,” the attorney said.
District Attorney Seth Williams is outraged at the couple’s failure to seek a doctor’s care for their son Brandon.
“The death of 7-month-old Brandon Schaible is a tragedy,” he said during a May 22 news conference. “Sadly, there is only one reason for it — the criminal actions of the parents. Instead of caring for and nurturing him, they ultimately caused his death by praying over his body instead of taking him to the doctor.” ••
Dave Warner contributed to this report.
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org