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Wisconsin father found guilty in prayer death case

Sunday, August 2, 2009 | 4:33 p.m. CDT

WAUSAU, Wis. — A central Wisconsin man accused of killing his 11-year-old daughter by praying instead of seeking medical care was found guilty Saturday of second-degree reckless homicide.

Dale Neumann, 47, was convicted in the March 23 death of his daughter, Madeline, from undiagnosed diabetes. Prosecutors contended he should have rushed the girl to a hospital because she couldn't walk, talk, eat or drink. Instead, Madeline died on the floor of the family's rural Weston home as people surrounded her and prayed. Someone called 911 when she stopped breathing.

Sitting straight in his chair, Neumann stared at the jury as the verdict in a nearly empty courtroom was read. He declined comment as he left the courthouse.

Defense attorney Jay Kronenwetter said the verdict would be appealed. He declined further comment.

Prosecutors also declined comment, citing a gag order.

Leilani Neumann, 41, was convicted on the same charge in the spring. Marathon County Circuit Judge Vincent Howard set Oct. 6 for sentencing both parents, who face up to 25 years in prison.

Their case is believed to be the first in Wisconsin involving faith healing in which someone died and another person was charged with a homicide.

Last month, an Oregon jury convicted a man of misdemeanor criminal mistreatment for relying on prayer instead of seeking medical care for his 15-month-old daughter who died of pneumonia and a blood infection in March 2008. Both of the girl's parents were acquitted of a more serious manslaughter charge.

Neumann's jury — six men and six women — deliberated about 15 hours over two days before convicting him. At one point, jurors asked the judge whether Neumann's belief in faith healing made him "not liable" for not taking his daughter to the hospital even if he knew she wasn't feeling well.

Neumann, who once studied to be a Pentecostal minister, testified Thursday that he believed God would heal his daughter and he never expected her to die. God promises in the Bible to heal, he said.

"If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God," Neumann testified. "I am not believing what he said he would do."

The father testified that he thought Madeline had the flu or a fever, and several relatives and family friends said they also did not realize how sick she was.

Assistant District Attorney LaMont Jacobson told jurors in closing arguments Friday that Neumann was "overwhelmed by pride" in his interpretation of the Bible and selfishly let Madeline die as a test of faith.

Neumann knew he should have taken his daughter to a doctor and minimized her illness when speaking with investigators, Jacobson said, calling Neumann no different than a drunken driver who remarks he only had a couple of beers.

Doctors testified that Madeline would have had a good chance of survival if she had received medical care, including insulin and fluids, before she stopped breathing.

Kronenwetter told the jury that Neumann sincerely believed praying would heal his daughter and he did nothing criminally wrong.

"Dale Neumann was doing what he thought would work for his daughter," Kronenwetter said. "He was administering faith healing. He thought it was working."

 


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