Sarah Mitchell, aged 24, and her husband Travis Lee Mitchell, aged 21, are members of an Oregon church that does not accept traditional medicine, opting instead for anointing the sick with oils and favoring prayer over medicine.
The couple was arrested on Monday after their premature baby had died. They are now being accused of criminal mistreatment and murder.
The couple delivered twin girls at her grandparent’s home, but one of the girls had a breathing problem and died a few hours later. This is because of their membership to the Followers of Christ Church, which embraces faith healing.
When called, their relatives hung up on the phone when any attempts to contact them were made on Monday.
The baby’s name was Gennifer and she was several weeks premature. Her lungs were not developed enough for her to breathe unassisted for too long.
No one called 911 as Gennifer was dying while she struggled to breathe.
Authorities said the birth was attended by three midwives, family members and other church members. A deputy medical examiner responding to a call about the death noticed the surviving twin, Evelyn, also was struggling to breathe. Law enforcement persuaded the parents to get her medical treatment, and Evelyn survived. The church, which operates in Oregon and Idaho, has about 1,000 members and is rooted in Pentecostalism, although it is not affiliated with any denomination. Members believe in a literal translation of the Scripture, which states that faith will heal all and if someone dies, it is God’s will. The church drew criticism in 1998 after The Oregonian newspaper analyzed the deaths of 78 children buried in the church’s graveyard since 1955. At least 21 could have been saved by medical intervention, the newspaper found