Parents that shunned traditional medicine in favour of prayer and anointing the sick with oils have pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment in the death of their newborn daughter.

The baby struggled to breathe for hours as family and friends prayed over her but did not seek medical care.

Sarah Mitchell and her husband, Travis Lee Mitchell, had originally been charged with murder by neglect and criminal mistreatment in the 2017 death of the premature baby.

They each were sentenced to almost seven years in prison, with credit for 13 months in custody awaiting trial and credit for good behaviour.

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It marked the fifth criminal case in Clackamas County, south of Portland, involving the death of a child from the religious community known as the Followers of Christ Church.

At a hearing in Clackamas County Circuit Court, the Mitchells’ defence attorney, Stephen Houze, read from a statement saying, “Everyone in the church should always seek adequate medical care for our children,” The Oregonian reported .

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

“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.

The Mitchells’ other twin daughter, Evelyn, survived after a deputy medical examiner called to the house for the other baby’s death noticed that she also was struggling to breathe.

The little girl is now 16 months old and has supervised visits with her parents in custody, the newspaper reported.

Share your comments below

  • In actual fact the parents tortured both babies and only one survived due to intervention. The smell from the oils may actually made it more difficult for the babies to breathe.
    The 16 month old girl may when she is older ask why she is only allowed to visit her parents not live with them as other children do with their parents. I dread the damage that could do to the girl if she does and is told the truth.


  • Very sad. I’m all for praying and anointing with oil, but it should go hand in hand with seeking medical care.


  • What a horrendous case of neglect. How could they think it was okay?


  • Wow. These poor kids!! They didn’t deserve it


  • Amazed that no-one else stepped in and got medical attention for this poor little baby.


  • Just shows the depths of brainwashing religion causes


  • What a tragedy. Poor little girl. And luckily that they were able to save the twin sister, or they would have lost her too.


  • This is just heartbreaking and awful in every way. So pleased the other little one got medical attention.


  • They tortured that poor baby by not seeking medical assistance. I’m all for praying but when your child is suffering & medical treatment is required, I’d do anything to make my child better. I’m glad the twin survived & got medical treatment in the end but she lost her other half when it could have been avoided


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