WAUSAU, Wisc. — The mother of an 11-year-old girl who died of undiagnosed diabetes as the family prayed for her to get better testified Tuesday that she believes sickness is caused by sin and can be cured by God.
Leilani Neumann told the jury in her husband's trial that she thought her daughter's March 2008 illness was a test of her religious faith and she didn't take the girl to a doctor because that would have been "complete disobedience to what we believe."
Dale Neumann, 47, is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the 2008 death of his daughter Madeline Neumann, called Kara by her parents. His wife was convicted of the same charge this spring and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 6.
Prosecutors contend Dale Neumann recklessly killed the youngest of his four children by ignoring her deteriorating health. They claim Neumann had a legal duty to take her to a doctor.
Leilani Neumann testified for nearly five hours Tuesday, describing the events leading up to her daughter's March 23, 2008, death on a mattress on the floor of the family's rural Weston home as people surrounded her and prayed. Someone called for help when she stopped breathing.
The mother said that she and her husband believed their daughter's deteriorating condition may have been the result of a falling out with another couple, and called them once the girl was unconscious and persuaded them to come pray for the girl.
Illness viewed as 'something spiritual'
The family does not belong to an organized religion, and Leilani Neumann said they have nothing against doctors. But, she said, she believes in spiritual healing and viewed Madeline's March 2008 illness as "something spiritual."
Leilani Neumann also said that she did not realize her daughter was seriously ill until the day before her death, when the girl was weak and pale and had trouble speaking.
"I asked her if she loved Jesus," the mother testified. "She might have said yes. I know for sure she was acknowledging it. What sounds came out, I don't remember. She was making noises. ... My focus definitely was to pray."
She said she never once believed the girl would die.
"We thought even the lifelessness was something that she would come out of," the mother said. "Everything for us is about faith. It is about trusting in God. We either believe in God's word or we don't."
A pediatric expert on diabetes told the jury Monday that even right before her death, doctors might have been able to save the girl's life had she been brought to a hospital.
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