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Wis. father on trial in girl's faith-healing death

/ Source: The Associated Press

Opening statements were set to begin Saturday in the trial of a father charged with second-degree reckless homicide for praying instead of seeking medical help for his gravely ill 11-year-old daughter.

Dale Neumann's wife, Leilani, was convicted of the same charge this spring in the 2008 death of Madeline Neumann, called Kara by her parents.

The girl died from undiagnosed diabetes on March 23, 2008, surrounded by people praying at the family's rural home in Weston in central Wisconsin. Someone called 911 when she stopped breathing.

Leilani Neumann, 41, faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 6.

Prosecutors contend Dale Neumann, 47, recklessly killed the youngest of his four children by ignoring her deteriorating health. They claim the girl was too weak to speak, eat, drink or walk and that Neumann had a legal duty to take her to a doctor.

Dale Neumann's attorney said Friday, when an eight-man, six-woman jury was picked to hear the case, that he didn't know whether the father would testify in his own defense.

"It would be just a guess right now," attorney Jay Kronenwetter said. "It's the defendant's right. Who knows how the trial goes?"

An Oregon jury on Thursday convicted a father of misdemeanor criminal mistreatment for relying on prayer instead of seeking medical care for his 15-month-old daughter who died of pneumonia and a blood infection in March 2008. The father and mother were acquitted of a more serious manslaughter charge.

Declining health
In the Wisconsin case, Assistant District Attorney LaMont Jacobson said Neumann's trial likely won't differ much from his wife's.

Doctors testified at the first trial that Madeline's gradually declining health would have gotten acute three or four days before she died as her body began shutting down. But despite being unresponsive and in a coma, the girl could have been saved very late into the day of her death with the proper treatment, the doctors said.

Leilani Neumann said during videotaped testimony that the family believes the Bible says healing comes from God and that she never expected her daughter to die. The Neumanns said the girl had not been to a doctor since she was 3.

A criminal complaint said Dale Neumann told police he believed God would heal his daughter right up until she stopped breathing. He also "professed to believe God was going to bring Madeline back to life."

The Neumanns have said the family does not belong to an organized religion.