PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Philadelphia couple charged with murder after their baby died without medical care must be held in jail whether or not they make bail, a judge ruled on Friday.
The couple, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, believe in faith healing, and those who share their beliefs might be willing to harbor them if they decide to flee, Judge Benjamin Lerner told a court hearing in Philadelphia.
The Schaibles were charged with third-degree murder on Wednesday after the April 18 death of their seven-month-old son Brandon from bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and strep.
The Schaibles were already on probation for involuntary manslaughter stemming from the death of another child, Kent, who died in 2009 at the age of two, also of bacterial pneumonia.
The judge ruled that while Herbert Schaible, 44, and his wife, who is 43, may not be wealthy enough to flee on their own, they might be able to find others around the country who do not think they did anything wrong.
“There is a community around the country that might be willing to harbor them,” the judge said.
The Schaibles are members of a Philadelphia church, the First Century Gospel Church, which, according to its website, is committed to relying on God alone for physical healing, with no drugs or human remedies.
Defense attorneys argued that neither Schaible was a flight risk, and attorney Mythri Jayaraman, representing Catherine Schaible, said her client had turned herself in.
The judge said the couple could face up to 50 years in prison if they are convicted.
The Schaibles have seven other children, all older than the two who died. They have been in foster care since Brandon’s death.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and David Brunnstrom