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Couple alleged not to believe in medicine failed to take dying newborn to hospital, police say

Amy Hoenigke, 34, and her husband, Drew Hoenigke, 31, were arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter and other offenses.

A Pennsylvania couple were arrested and charged in connection with their newborn son's death after, police say, they failed to take him to a hospital because they do not believe in modern medicine.

Amy Hoenigke, 34, and her husband, Drew Hoenigke, 31, were arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children, the state attorney general's office said in a news release.

Their friend Brigitte Meckes, 47, was also arrested on the same charges after investigators learned that she was present for the baby's home birth on Jan. 14, authorities said.

State police responded to the Sullivan County home on Jan. 20 after Amy Hoenigke called 911 to report that she had found her son dead in his bassinet, a criminal complaint says. Responding troopers found that the newborn already had signs of decomposition and determined that he had died about three days before the 911 call was made.

Police also found an "infuser and a container with remnants of burned herbs" next to the bassinet, the complaint says.

Amy Hoenigke told investigators that her son started showing signs that he was struggling to breathe and that he was "turning blue" shortly after his birth, according to the complaint.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said that "in a failed attempt to aid the child, Amy Hoenigke and Meckes utilized a peppermint oil infuser and attempted to create a makeshift breathing tube from a water bottle."

"Without proper medical care, the baby died approximately two days after birth," he said.

Authorities said Amy Hoenigke texted a friend about the situation with her son and at one point said Meckes tried for 12 hours to keep the baby breathing. The criminal complaint alleges that Amy Hoenigke tried to use peppermint and "steam teas" to treat her son and that she used a plastic straw to try to clear his nasal passage.

When investigators asked why she did not take the baby to a medical facility, she said that she and her husband do not believe in modern medicine and live an unconventional life in which they do not acknowledge time frames or the days of the week, the complaint says. They also feared that their 2-year-old daughter would be taken. The little girl was also born at home and does not have a birth certificate, the complaint says.

Shapiro said experts believe the parents' actions "resulted in needless suffering" for the baby "and made it impossible for the baby to survive."

"These individuals neglected their responsibilities to care for an innocent child," Shapiro said in a statement. "By failing to get him appropriate medical care, this baby needlessly suffered and died."

The criminal complaint further alleges that police found a wooden makeshift coffin in the Hoenigke's home. Drew Hoenigke is alleged to have told investigators that the ground was frozen from the snow, so they could not bury the child.

It was not clear whether the defendants have obtained attorneys who can speak on their behalf.