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Herbalist sentenced to jail after death of 13-year-old diabetic boy he treated

The teen's mother said the herbalist told her "not to trust" doctors," and that she felt "absolutely" brainwashed by him.
Image: A herbalist was sentenced to 120 days in jail after a 13-year-old diabetic boy died under his care in Harbor Gateway, California, in 2014.
A herbalist was sentenced to 120 days in jail after a 13-year-old diabetic boy died under his care in Harbor Gateway, California, in 2014.KVEA

A Los Angeles herbalist convicted of practicing without a license was sentenced to four months in jail for child abuse in the same case in connection with the death of a 13-year-old diabetic boy, the city attorney said.

Timothy Morrow, 84, was found guilty of one count of practicing without a license at a jury trial Feb. 20 and pleaded no contest Monday to a connected charge of misdemeanor child abuse likely to produce great bodily injury or death, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement.

Morrow, a self-described "master herbalist" based in Torrance, California, began treating Edgar Lopez for Type-1 diabetes in early 2014 by directing that the teenager take herbs in lieu of the insulin prescribed by his pediatrician, Feuer said.

A medical examiner would later determine that Lopez would have survived had he been given proper medical care.

The victim's parents alleged Morrow came to their home in south Los Angeles in August 2014 after their son became severely ill and "semi-comatose" due to complications from his diabetes.

The herbalist again advised the parents to administer the herbs he was selling and urged them not to give Edgar his insulin, the parents told prosecutors, according to Feuer's statement.

Edgar went into cardiac arrest shortly after, and died the next day at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, according to prosecutors.

NBC Los Angeles reported that Maria Madrigal, the teen's mother, told the jury through a Spanish interpreter that Morrow had told her "not to trust" doctors," and that she felt like he "absolutely" brainwashed her. She also said she began giving her son supplements and products he prescribed only after she met with Morrow.

Defense attorney Sanford Perliss countered Madrigal's testimony at the trial, saying nobody forced the parents to withhold insulin.

"Nobody held a gun on Edgar. Nobody held a gun on Edgar's mom. Nobody stole insulin from that house so Edgar's mom couldn't use it," Perliss said in his closing argument. "Edgar's mom wanted to do what Edgar's mom wanted to do."

Perliss said Tuesday that his client took the plea deal because he is "very elderly" and the trial process was "difficult" for him. The attorney claimed Madrigal was giving her son herbs before she met his client.

Daniel Lopez, the victim's older brother, said that the family is not commenting at this time.

In addition to spending 120 days in county jail, Morrow was ordered to serve 48 months of probation and pay a $5,000 fine and restitution to the victim’s family for funeral expenses. He is scheduled to surrender for jail March 22.

He was officially advised that if he continues in such acts and they cause or lead to the death of another human being, he can be charged with murder, Feuer's office said.

The court also required Morrow to take down his YouTube videos, where he promoted herbal treatment as opposed to traditional medicine. In one video, titled 'Shots, They're Killing Me! Part 1,' the herbalist claims vaccinating children is like injecting them with "absolute poison."

"This case underscores the serious health and safety risks of taking medical advice from someone who lacks a license and the proper training that goes with it," Feuer said in the statement Monday.