Faith-Healing Parents Who Let Their Daughter Die Don’t Want Jurors To Know About Their Religious Motive

Travis and Wenona Rossiter, an Oregon couple, are among a special type of shitty parents: those who let their kids die of a treatable disease, rather than take them to a doctor.

The Rossiters belong to the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist outfit that holds that prayer is the way to making sick people better.

Does it work? Like hell it does. Their daughter Syble died of complications from diabetes a little over a year ago. She was 12. Prosecutors say the girl would likely be alive today if it wasn’t for the parents’ wishes to deliver her to the care of Jesus, rather than the care of a trained medical team.

Now the Rossiters, accused of manslaughter, claim that it would be “prejudicial” for the jury to learn of the religious beliefs that killed their daughter.

Defense attorneys for Travis and Wenona Rossiter, an Albany couple accused of manslaughter for the death of their 12-year-old daughter in February 2013, are seeking to exclude evidence of religious beliefs or practices during their trial. …

Mark Heslinga, defense attorney for Wenona Rossiter, said evidence of religious beliefs would be prejudicial.

My client is requesting he be tried for the actions of that day, not for his religious beliefs,” said Tim Felling, Travis Rossiter’s attorney.

Judge Daniel Murphy may well be sympathetic to that argument. He has already ruled that the jury is to be kept unaware of the death of Wenona Rossiter’s brother, Anthony.

Anthony Hays, 7, died of leukemia in 1994, after his parents failed to provide medical care for him. In 1996, a Linn County jury convicted his father, Loyd Hays of Brownsville, on charges of criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to five years’ probation. …

Murphy said the two children died of completely separate causes, so he didn’t see the relevance.

Well, Judge, the relevance would be that in this family, there is a pattern of criminal religious misconduct that is demonstrably claiming children’s lives. The Rossiters have two other children. Are you saying, Judge, that you’re prepared to let those kids get Schaibled?

Wenona Rossiter was a child herself when her parents let her brother die. She obviously bears no culpability in his murder. But if I were a juror, I’d like to know that she learned so little from the event that she blindly — and fatally –  repeated it when it came time to take care of her own sick child. Her history, Judge, would tell the jury that there is a high likelihood of Ms. Rossiter letting her other children die if they get dangerously sick. And I’d rather, you know, keep her away from them if that’s the case. Preferably behind bars.

It gets worse.

Murphy also ruled against allowing evidence of prior bad acts regarding a lack of medical care for Syble Rossiter. “It doesn’t prove they acted recklessly in this case,” he said.

Objection, Your Honor. The same one as before. Knowing there’s been a pattern of neglect would help assess both Ms. Rossiter’s guilt in the matter and the probability of her endangering her other children in the future.

If justice is to be served, the jury — along with the public — has a right to know.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.


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