Faith-healing trial begins with opening arguments

Faith-healing trial begins with opening arguments »Play Video
Tim and Rebecca Wyland listen to opening arguments Friday during their trial. They are accused of medically neglecting their baby and are members of a church that shuns modern medicine in favor of prayer.

Note: Some may find the photograph of 18-month-old Alayna Wyland difficult to look at.

OREGON CITY, Ore. – Opening arguments Friday in the trial of two parents accused of medically neglecting their baby were very much like the two previous trials involving members of the Followers of Christ Church.

Prosecutors described how it is the parents' legal responsibility to get sick and injured kids to a doctor, and the defense set up its case based on what the parents believe.

Tim and Rebecca Wyland are members of the church, which teaches members to shun modern medicine and pray for healing instead. They are accused of criminal mistreatment, which is a charge that could get them prison time.

The Wylands attorneys say the only thing the state accomplished was breaking up a family. But, according to the prosecution, the Wylands neglected their child's needs when they didn't get 7-month-old Alayna to a doctor even after a potentially blinding growth formed on her eye last year.

"This child would have lost all vision in her left eye because of the way it proliferates and then involutes," said deputy prosecutor Christine Landers. "Her vision would have remained obstructed for many, many more months."

"The only thing that Alayna gets is her parents being the subjects of an official law enforcement investigation," said defense attorney Mark Cogan.

He said friends and family of the Wylands led them to believe the growth would simply go away and that Alayna would be fine.

If the defense can prove the Wylands had no idea Alayna was in real medical danger that could be enough to sway jurors.

But the prosecution showed a series of photos confiscated from the family’s home after the parents were arrested. Those photos demonstrate how that growth started just after birth and grew. By two months, Alayna’s eye was starting to shut.

The Department of Human Services took custody of the couple’s daughter last June after someone saw the growth on her face and reported it. Prosecutors say DHS got Alayna treatments that made the growth go away.

But the defense says the couple was misled by a sheriff’s deputy and a paramedic who visited their home the day before the state took custody and reassured them there was no emergency.

"The deputy told them: 'Just wait. Don’t do anything now. DHS will contact you tomorrow,'" said defense attorney John Neidig.

The next day the defense says two case workers and at least five deputies took Alayna.

"Basically, they tell Mr. and Mrs. Wyland, 'This is our child now. You’re not the parents anymore. The government is taking your child,'" said Cogan.

Prosecutors say even then the Wylands said they would never call a doctor unless the state forced them to. Landers recalled what the Wylands said.

"'Sometimes God heals, and sometimes God lets even children die.'"

The trial resumes Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend. It’s expected to last into the following week.