THE NORTHEAST Philadelphia "faith-healing" couple whose 2-year-old son died after they failed to seek medical treatment for the child were charged yesterday with third-degree murder in the death of another of their children.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible were also charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and child-endangerment in the April 18 death of their 7-month-old son, Brandon. Authorities said that the infant began to show signs of distress three days before he died of bacterial pneumonia at the family's Rhawnhurst home, and that the couple told detectives they did not seek medical treatment for him.
The Schaibles are on probation after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son, Kent. As part of their probation, they were ordered to seek medical treatment if any of their other children became ill.
"We really considered very carefully whether the murder charge would be appropriate in this case, but it was our concerted opinion . . . that the murder charge was appropriate given what happened to the young child that died in this family's care back in 2009," First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann said yesterday at a news conference.
The couple surrendered to police last night and may be arraigned this morning.
Catherine Schaible's defense lawyer said the murder charge is too harsh.
"To suggest that Catherine somehow had an extreme indifference to her children's life is preposterous," said public defender Mythri Jayaraman. "She's a loving mother and she's mourning for the death of Brandon like any [parent] would."
Jayaraman said the parents had taken Brandon to the doctor when he was born, but she could not say whether he had received treatment recently.
The Schaibles belong to the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, which preaches faith-healing.
At their sentencing in the previous case, the couple agreed to allow periodic checks by probation officers and to open their children's medical records.
It is unclear how often probation officers visited the Schaible home, but McCann said the system should not be blamed for Brandon's death.
"To call it a system failure is probably not fair, because I think even if [probation officers] had been in that house consistently, this child could've died," he said.
The couple's seven surviving children are in the custody of the Department of Human Services.
The husband and wife will also face a probation-violation hearing next month. They could be sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison for the violations, prosecutors said.