An Indiana couple who chose to pray over their dying newborn daughter rather than seek medical care for her were sentenced Friday to six years in prison for reckless homicide.
But a judge suspended most of those prison terms for Dewayne and Maleta Schmidt, instead ordering the couple to serve about a year each at a work-release center.
Their daughter, Rhianna Rose Schmidt, died in August 2003, less than two days after she was born at the couple’s home, from an infection typically treated with antibiotics.
The Schmidts’ church, the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, advocates prayer and faith healing over medical intervention but does not require members to shun medical care.
“Rhianna would be alive today if not for the actions and inactions of her parents,” Johnson County Superior Judge Cynthia Emkes said.
The Schmidts’ probation includes a directive to seek medical help for their two other children should they suffer life-threatening health problems.
Rhianna was the third child of parents attending the Schmidts’ church to die since 1998 after family members refused medical treatment, according to published reports. The church is in Morgantown, about 30 miles south of Indianapolis.
Children born to members of the church in Colorado and Oregon also have died after their parents refused medical treatment.