Nine months after their teenage son died of an infection from a burst appendix, a Creswell couple who chose prayer over medical care for the boy admitted criminal responsibility for his death.
Russel and Brandi Bellew each pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court to charges of criminally negligent homicide, as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
The Bellews — who are members of a church that generally believes in using prayer instead of modern medicine to treat illnesses — avoided jail in the plea deal, but will spend the next five years on probation. During that time, they will be required to contact a doctor whenever any of their six surviving children suffer from an ailment that causes them to miss school for more than one day.
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This is a very thorough piece on faith vs medical care for children. I encourage you to read the whole piece if interested in this topic.
Had the couple been convicted of manslaughter, they each would have faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of six years and three months. They pleaded guilty to the less-serious felony charge of criminally negligent homicide. It was disclosed that their son, Austin, had indeed died of the infection after being sick for a while before. He had refused medical treatment himself in line with his faith, but he was a minor and could not legal make that decision.
The incident has resulted in extensive outreach to the church members by local law enforcement who have made it clear that medical neglect of a child won’t be tolerated by Lane County authorities. State laws were explaned and they urged parents to call a doctor whenever there is a health-related concern regarding a child. They report that the church has been very cooperative.
This result is in contrast to this earlier conviction also in Oregon.