THE LEADERS of a Juniata Park church that preaches faith healing appeared to distance themselves yesterday from a church couple accused of murdering their pneumonia-stricken baby by praying for him instead of getting him medical care.
The pastor and assistant pastor of First Century Gospel Church testified during a detention hearing for Catherine Schaible, 43, who is charged with husband Herbert, 45, in the April 18 death of their 7-month-old son Brandon.
Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner ruled that Catherine Schaible can post bail and leave jail, where she has been since the couple was arrested May 22. Lerner rejected Herbert's bail request Thursday.
First Century Gospel Church Pastor Nelson Clark testified that he spoke to Herbert by phone twice in the days before Brandon died. When he told Herbert he might want to call his probation officer, Herbert rejected that, he recalled.
"If he would call anyone, it would be a denial of his faith in God's ability to heal the child," Clark said, paraphrasing Herbert. "I felt that he could let someone know [the child was sick] without denying his faith."
First Century Assistant Pastor Ralph Myers said that although the church teaches its members to put their faith in God for healing, members have sought medical care and not been shunned. The Schaibles, he said, would not have suffered repercussions had they taken Brandon to a doctor.
"The belief is that if we misplace our trust on anything but God, then we betray God," said Myers, who went to the family's Rhawnhurst home to pray for Brandon the day before he died.
Lerner had denied the couple the ability to pay bail because Brandon's death violated a 2011 court order that they get medical care for their children. The order stemmed from their involuntary manslaughter convictions in the death of another son, who died in 2009 without medical care.
Catherine, a thin, pale woman, said nothing during the hearing. She will live with her parents on Roosevelt Boulevard under house arrest but will be allowed supervised visits with her childern, who are in foster care. Her father, William Richard Wakefield, testified that he would put up the required 10 percent of her $250,000 bail.
The Schaibles are facing third-degree murder and related charges for Brandon's death.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said Catherine Schaible should not be allowed to post bail because she was as responsible for Brandon's death as her husband.
"She was that kid's mother, and he was that kid's father, and they both have equal responsibility - no matter what that church teachers," Pescatore said.
The couple's next court date is Aug. 7.