Three of the six surviving children of Herbert and Catherine Schaible sat with their maternal grandmother yesterday during closing arguments in the couple's manslaughter trial.
The children, a girl and two boys, heard a city prosecutor accuse their parents of being responsible for the death of their brother, 2-year-old Kent Schaible, because they had prayed for him instead of getting him to a doctor when he fell ill in January 2009.
The Schaible children also heard two defense attorneys describe their parents as loving and still grieving over Kent's death from bacterial pneumonia inside the family's Rhawnhurst home.
Defense attorneys said during impassioned closing statements that religion played no part in the Schaibles' decision not to seek a doctor because they thought he had a cold or the flu.
By early afternoon, the jury of eight men and four women began deliberating the fates of Herbert, 42 - who teaches at the school run by First Century Gospel, the family's fundamentalist Christian church - and Catherine, 41, a stay-at-home mother.
Both are on trial in Common Pleas Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child. Deliberations were to resume this morning.
"Ask yourself: Do you go to the doctor every time you have flu-like symptoms? No. Is that negligence? Is that criminal intent? No," attorney Mythri Jayarman said in defense of Catherine.
How, Jayarman asked, could Catherine have known that Kent was at death's door when he was awake and eating hours before?
"The commonwealth is using religion to get around the fact that there is no way that Mrs. Schaible could have known that her son was dying," Jayarman said.
Attorney Bobby Hoof, for Herbert Schaible, said his client is no religious zealot, but rather a man who stayed home from work to help nurse Kent by rocking him and feeding him ice cream and yogurt.
"This is not the fanatic that the commonwealth is trying to make him out to be," Hoof said. "Sure, he has his beliefs. We all have our beliefs. I ask that you not hold that against him."
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said the Schaibles, not the commonwealth, injected religion into the case when, shortly after Kent died, they told a homicide detective and a city social worker that they had not sought medical help because they relied on faith-healing to cure their son.
Pescatore said that only after the Schaibles had been arrested and ended up in court did their attorneys say that the couple hadn't known how sick Kent was.
"If you want to be a martyr yourself and you don't want to go to the doctor or the dentist or the eye doctor, that's your power," she said. "We're in America. But you must take care of your children."
Hoof and Jayarman noted the testimony given earlier by forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, who testified for the defense that Kent's pneumonia did not become deadly until the last 12 to 24 hours of his life, rather than the last seven to 10 days, as a prosecution expert witness had said.
Wecht said that if Kent had been taken to a doctor and received antibiotics, he may have survived but that he could not be certain of that.