OR faith-healing parents plead guilty in premature baby's death

Evarado Alatorre
Julio 13, 2018

"These are senseless and avoidable deaths, and we keep asking ourselves what will it take" to convince others in the church to get the right medical care for their children, Brock said.

One of the babies had breathing complications and died. Instead, members of the Followers of Christ Church, the church that the Mitchells attend, were at the home, according to KPTV in Beaverton, Oregon.

The two had originally been charged with murder by neglect and criminal mistreatment in the 2017 death of the premature baby, who they chose to not seek medical help for after her premature birth.

The Mitchells took a plea deal Monday, which saw them admit criminal negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment.

Sarah Mitchell's sister Shannon Hickman and her husband Dale Hickman were convicted in 2011 of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for the death of their own newborn son.

Sarah Mitchell, center, and Travis Lee Mitchell, left, the parents of a twin girl who struggled to breath and died a few hours later after a home birth, appear in court in Oregon City, Ore., Monday.

Their daughter's death marked the fifth criminal case in Clackamas County after a child's death in the church community in the last nine years.

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Sarah Mitchell's grandfather founded the church, which traces its roots to the Pentecostal movement of the late 19th century.

Walter White, Sarah Mitchell's father and a leader in the church, signed the statement which will be posted inside the church for all members to read under the terms of the plea agreement.

The medical examiner determined the infant's death was caused by complications from premature birth. A church elder contacted the Clackamas County Medical Examiner's Office, but deputies said nobody called 911.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Bryan Brock said the couple accepting responsibility and issuing a public statement was a "landmark resolution".

The little girl is now 16 months old and has supervised visits with her parents in custody, the newspaper reported. She and the baby's father, Travis Lee Mitchell, 21 at the time, did not know that she was expecting twins because she had not had any prenatal care.

The church, which operates in OR and Idaho, has about 1,000 members and is rooted in Pentecostalism, although it is not affiliated with any denomination. The state medical examiner found the girl's lungs to be "airless".

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