Faith-healing couple sentenced to more than six years in prison

Faith-healing couple sentenced to more than six years in prison

OREGON CITY, Ore. - The parents of a newborn who died while they and Followers of Christ members prayed for him to be healed have received the maximum jail terms allowed by law and three years of post-prison probation following their conviction on manslaughter charges.

Dale and Shannon Hickman, who are members of the controversial church and are related to the founder, received their sentence Monday. They were both sentenced to six years and three months in prison.

The Hickmans' baby, David, was born two months premature at home in 2009 with church midwives advising them. No medical personnel were present and nothing besides prayer was used when the baby began to struggle to survive just hours after birth.

David died about nine hours after delivery. The Hickman's attorney claimed religious persecution and said there was no evidence medical care would have saved the baby.

The jury in the case deliberated on their verdict for less than a day and was unanimous in the conviction.

The Hickmans were ordered to serve 75 months in prison and will then be under "post-prison supervision" for another three years following their prison terms.

There was no immediate word if the Hickmans could be released early on parole. The family has other children but what will happen to them has not been revealed.

Both Dale and Shannon Hickman made statements before the court prior to sentencing.

"I'm sorry.  I ask that you find it in your heart for some mercy for my wife, above probably all else, our children," Dale Hickman said. "We are willing to do anything that the court sees fit.  We were very honest during the trial."

"I'm begging you to have mercy on me and my husband for my children's sake," Shannon Hickman said.

Depite their pleas, Judge Robert Herndon handed down a heavy sentence.

"This was a death that just simply did not need to occur. You're responsible for what happened." he said.

"This idea that there has to be a miracle, it just seems wrong-headed to me and it's just not in keeping with what the law is in this country," Herdon added.

Herndon said during the trial there wasn't a day he didn't wake up and think about the crime.

Members of the The Followers of Christ Church have been taken to court numerous times over the past several years for cases related to the death or medical conditions of children in the church.

Prosecutors said they hope Monday's strict sentence will send a message to other church members.

The church's small cemetery has numerous graves belonging to children. Church members believe only in prayer to treat illnesses and reject modern medicine, but a rift has reportedly formed in the church over the issue of health care.

Church members who leave the organization are shunned my members and families, according to ex-members interviewed by KATU News.

The Hickmans' defense attorneys declined to comment on the sentence.