Parents convicted of manslaughter in pneumonia death of girl

The parents of a 2-year-old Pennsylvania girl who died of pneumonia have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors said they declined to seek medical care for the child on religious grounds.

Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, also were convicted Friday in Berks County court of child endangerment in the November 2016 death of daughter Ella Grace in Upper Tulpehocken Township, The Reading Eagle reported.

The Fosters, who remain free pending sentencing in April, attributed their daughter’s demise to “God’s will, ” according to a police affidavit. They told authorities that Ella began presenting symptoms of a common cold two days before she died, including lethargy and a sore throat, but her breathing eventually became labored, then rapid, and she died in her father’s arms.

The defendants are all part of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which informs members to avoid the physicians and pharmaceutical medications. Medical personnel testified that the child likely would have survived had she been given treatment.

Defense lawyers declined commentary but vowed to “pursue all appropriate avenues” maybe including appeals. They argued that their clients guessed their daughter only had a cold. Attorney R. Davis Younts asked the jury to focus on the facts about what the parents knew , not the opinions of expert witness or any feelings about the Fosters’ religious beliefs.

Assistant District Attorney Katie Lehman, however, said Grace Foster asked their clergyman, the child’s grandfather, to anoint the sick child the night before but not another daughter who also had cold symptoms, and her parent left run the next morning to assist care for her.

Prosecutors said they haven’t decided what sentence to try but the standard sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter are nine to 16 months in prison, with a maximum allowed term of 10 years.

Jurors deliberated for more than four hours Thursday without reaching a verdict, then had to start over Friday with a new is part of the panel after one juror became sick. The new panel reached a verdict after about 21/2 hours of deliberation.

When the verdict was announced the defendants kept their heads slightly bowed and closed their eyes. More than 80 supporters also were silent in the courtroom, but some muffled sobbings were heard in the hallway as they comforted one another with hugs and handshakes.

After the latter are charged, the Fosters gave up custody of six other children who ranged in age from 1 to 12 years old. Authorities said the children would be kept together but placed in the care of a family that would ensure that they receive proper medical care.

In December, a magistrate rejected a charge against the congregation’s clergyman of failure to report suspected abuse.

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