READING, Pa. – The parents of a 2-year-old Pennsylvania girl has died of a pneumonia, was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors said she refused to seek medical care for the child on religious grounds.
Jonathan Forster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, were sentenced Friday in Berks County court of child endangerment in November 2016, the death of his daughter Ella Grace in the Upper Tulpehocken Township, The Reading Eagle reported.
The Fosters, who remain free pending sentencing in April, attributed their daughter’s death to “God’s will”, according to a police statement. She told the authorities that She started with the symptoms of a cold two days before she died, including lethargy and a sore throat, but her breathing eventually became laboured, then rapidly, and she died in her father’s arms.
The suspects belong to the Faith Tabernacle of the Congregation, which invites the members to avoid doctors and pharmaceutical drugs. Medical personnel testified that the child likely would have survived had they received the treatment.
Defense attorneys declined comment, but promised to “pursue all appropriate avenues” possibly including the occupation. They argued that their customers thought that their daughter only had a cold. Lawyer R. Davis Younts asked the jury to focus on the facts about what the parents knew that was not the opinion of the experts, or the opinion about it Promotes’ religious beliefs.
Assistant district Attorney Katie Lehman, however, said Grace Foster asked their predecessor, the grandfather of the child, the anoint of the sick child the night before, but not in the other daughter, who also had the symptoms of the common cold, and left her father, the next morning to help care for her.
The prosecutors said they have not decided what sentence to seek, but the standard sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter of his nine to 16 months in prison, with a maximum term of 10 years.
Jurors deliberated more than four hours Thursday without reaching a verdict, then had to start again Friday with a new member of the panel after a juror became sick. The new panel reached a verdict after about 2½ hours of deliberation.
When the verdict was announced that the suspects kept their heads slightly bowed and their eyes closed. More than 80 supporters were also silent in the courtroom, but some muffled cries were heard in the hallway as they comfort each other with hugs and handshakes.
After they were charged, the Fosters gave the authority of the other six children who ranged in age from 1 to 12 years old. Authorities say that the children be kept together, but placed in the care of a family who would ensure that they receive proper medical care.
In December, a judge dismissed an indictment against the church of the pastor of the non-reporting of a suspicion of abuse.