Shortly after Kent Schaible died of bacterial pneumonia at his family's Northeast Philadelphia home in January 2009, a city social worker and a nurse visited to check on the well-being of his five siblings.
During that visit, Kenneth Dixon, of the Department of Human Services, asked Herbert Schaible if he had sought medical treatment for his 2-year-old son, Dixon said.
"He said that him and his wife were faithful to their religion and they believed in God to make their son healthy," Dixon testified for the prosecution yesterday, the second day of the manslaughter trial of Schaible, 42, and his wife, Catherine, 41.
Charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child, the couple could be incarcerated for up to 24 years if they are convicted on all counts.
The Schaibles are members of the First Century Gospel Church, in Juniata Park, which shuns medicine and doctors in favor of prayer to heal the sick.
Dixon's testimony appeared to contradict the opening statements that the defense attorneys delivered Tuesday.
Bobby Hoof, Herbert's attorney, and Mythri Jayarman, Catherine's attorney, told the jury that religion played no part in their clients' decision not to seek medical treatment for Kent.
The attorneys said that the Schaibles did not seek help because they simply didn't know how sick Kent was, believing that he had either a cold or the flu.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore told the jury that Kent would still be alive if his parents had gotten him to a doctor to get antibiotics instead of remaining in their home and praying for his recovery for seven to 10 days.
During those days, Kent suffered from a battery of symptoms, including a sore throat, coughing, congestion, dehydration, diarrhea and lethargy.
Famed forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht is scheduled to testify on behalf of the Schaibles this morning that Kent likely would have died even if he had gotten medical care because the bacterial pneumonia that killed him is resistant to antibiotics.
Dixon told the jury that the Schaibles were cooperative during the home visit and allowed the children to be checked by the nurse, who found them to be in good health. (Another child has since been born.)
The family's home, on Rhawn Street near Bustleton Avenue, in Rhawnhurst, had toys in the basement, a computer area with games and a slide set, said Dixon, who concluded that a safety plan wasn't needed.