The death of the 8-month-old son of a Northeast Philadelphia faith-healing couple already on probation for the negligence death of another child has been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.
Brandon Scott Schaible died last month of bacterial pneumonia, severe dehydration, and infection at his parents' Rhawnhurst home after the parents withheld medical care, according to a report by Assistant Medical Examiner Gary Collins.
The baby had had difficulty breathing, was irritable, and had little appetite for three days before his death, the report said.
"By the parents' own admission, they did not seek or provide medical care for their child," Collins wrote.
The medical examiner's findings and the results of a police investigation of the case have been forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for review. Criminal charges against the infant's parents, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, are likely, law-enforcement sources said, and could come as early as this week.
In statements to police, the Schaibles said they did not seek medical help for their son because of their faith in God's power to heal.
As members of a Juniata Park church that shuns medical care, the Schaibles called an assistant pastor to their home to anoint and pray for their child, but never sought medical help even though they were obligated to do so under the terms of probation in the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son, Kent.
That child died after being stricken with bacterial pneumonia and ailing for a week while the parents prayed but did not summon a doctor.
The Schaibles also face potential prison time for violating the most explicit condition of their 2011 manslaughter conviction in Kent's death: to call a doctor for a sick child.
In Brandon's case, the Schaibles called a funeral home on April 18 and said the baby was dead. The funeral home notified the Medical Examiner's Office, which called police.
The Schaibles' remaining seven children, who range in age from about 8 to 17, were immediately placed in temporary foster care. They have been allowed to visit their parents during supervised visits and were permitted to attend a recent church service.
Bobby Hoof, an attorney for Herbert Schaible, said Tuesday he would not comment until any charges were announced. Mythri Jayaraman, who represents Catherine Schaible, could not be reached.
At a hearing last month, Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner said the couple "knowingly, intentionally . . . and callously" ignored court-ordered instructions to get medical care for a sick child.
At the Schaibles' sentencing in 2011, a different judge ordered the probation department to supervise the children's medical needs rather than the city's child-welfare agency, a decision child advocates have criticized.
Brandon was examined by a doctor 10 days after his birth in August 2012, the last time the child saw a doctor, court records show.
As members of the First Century Gospel Church, the Schaibles believe that trust in medicine and doctors is a sin.
The church pastor, Nelson Clark, told The Inquirer last month that the Schaible children died because of a "spiritual lack" on the part of the parents.
On Tuesday, when he was told that Brandon's death, like his brother's, had been ruled a homicide, Clark said Herbert Schaible and his wife would stay firm in their faith.
"He realizes he has to have total trust in God," Clark said.