Ore. faith-healing couple convicted in felony case

June 8, 2011 - 1:14 AM
Faith Healing Trial

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland react after the jury finds the couple guilty of first-degree criminal mistreatment for failing to provide medical care for their daughter in the State of Oregon v. Timothy and Rebecca Wyland trial in Oregon City, Ore. The Wylands belong to the Followers of Christ church, which embraces faith healing and rejects medical care. The penalty for first-degree criminal mistreatment is a maximum five years in prison. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Brian Feulner, Pool)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon jury took just an hour Tuesday to convict a couple of felony criminal mistreatment for relying on faith healing instead of taking their infant daughter to a doctor.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland's daughter Alayna, born in December 2009, developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that covered her left eye and threatened her vision. Now 1 ½ years old, she has improved under state-ordered medical care. She remains in state custody but lives with her parents.

The Wylands belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City congregation that relies on faith healing. Rather than taking their daughter to a doctor, they relied on prayer, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

The couple testified during a juvenile court custody hearing last July that they wouldn't have willingly taken Alayna to a doctor because it would violate their religious beliefs. Jurors heard a recording of that hearing.

Timothy Wyland slipped his arm around his wife's waist as the verdict was read, The Oregonian reported. The couple made no comment as they walked from the courtroom, surrounded by about 20 supporters from their church, some of them crying. Defense lawyers Mark Cogan and John Neidig declined comment.

Sentencing was set for June 24.

The penalty for first-degree criminal mistreatment is a maximum five years in prison but the Wylands are considered likely to receive probation or possibly some jail time.

Cogan told jurors the Wylands were the victims of inflexible bureaucrats and religious persecution because of their faith-healing beliefs.

The defense also focused on the couple's actions after the state intervened last summer. They portrayed the Wylands as loving parents who fully cooperated with court orders, taking the child to doctor's appointments and giving her prescribed medication.

However, lead prosecutor Christine Landers told jurors in her closing argument that the defense was just a smokescreen.

The couple had 6 ½ months to seek medical attention before the state intervened but they did not, Landers said. Because of their faith, "they never would have," she said.

In the past two years, Clackamas County has prosecuted two other couples from the same church whose children died from untreated ailments.

Jeff and Marci Beagley were convicted of criminally negligent homicide last year and sentenced to 16 months in prison after their 16-year-old son, Neil, died of complications from an untreated urinary tract blockage.

In 2009, the Beagleys' daughter, Raylene Worthington, and her husband, Carl Brent Worthington, were acquitted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of their young daughter, Ava, who died in 2008 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. Brent Worthington was convicted of the lesser charge of criminal mistreatment and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com