Couple face manslaughter charge in baby's death

AP News
Posted: Sep 15, 2011 6:15 PM
Couple face manslaughter charge in baby's death

A couple prayed and rubbed olive oil on their sick infant rather than seek medical care for the dying boy, prosecutors argued in the latest criminal case against members of an Oregon church that believes in faith healing.

Dale and Shannon Hickman are accused of manslaughter in the death of their son David, who was born prematurely in 2009 with underdeveloped lungs. The boy developed a bacterial infection and lived for less than nine hours, The Oregonian reported (

The Hickmans are members of the Followers of Christ church, a Clackamas County church that practices faith healing and rejects doctors. The trial is the fourth time in recent years that members have faced criminal accusations that they let their children get seriously ill or die.

When David's skin turned ashen and he could barely breathe, the Hickmans did not call for help, prosecutor Mike Regan said during opening statements Wednesday. Instead, he said, Dale Hickman anointed the baby with olive oil, a common church ritual for treating the ill.

"They were never going to call _ ever," Regan said. "Failure to act is a crime."

Members of the church in three previous cases have claimed that they were unaware that their children faced serious or deadly medical conditions. Prosecutors argued that the parents had ample warning but refused to act for religious reasons.

The Hickmans' lawyers said witnesses to the boy's birth will testify that the baby showed no sign of distress until minutes before his death. And even if the Hickmans had called 911, the infant would have died before help arrived, they said.

The couple was being tried for their faith, said lawyer Mark Cogan.

"You, ladies and gentlemen, are our protection against tyranny," Cogan told jurors. "There are times like this, when law enforcement has gone too far and has strayed into persecution of innocent people. We are calling upon you ... to bring that to a stop."

Similar cases against other church members have resulted in convictions for five of six defendants.


Information from: The Oregonian,