Christian Parents In Oregon Found Guilty Of Neglecting Ill Son

Filed under: In The News

Jeff Beagley listens to testimony during his trial last month in Oregon City, Ore. Credit: Randy L. Rasmussen, Pool / AP


Prosecutors argued that Jeff and Marci Beagley of Oregon refused to get their 16-year-old son traditional medical treatment. Instead, they supposedly put his fate in the hands of God.

Now the couple's fate is in the hands of a judge.

Neil Beagley died in 2008 from complications from a urinary tract blockage. An Oregon City jury found his parents guilty Feb. 2 of criminally negligent homicide.

Judge Steven Maurer is scheduled to pass sentence on the couple Feb. 18. Statutory sentencing guidelines for criminally negligent homicide call for 16 to 18 months behind bars.

The Beagleys belong to the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, whose members espouse faith healing over traditional medicine. An Oregon law, passed in 1999, does not allow religion as a defense in most manslaughter and criminal mistreatment cases.

Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington, center, leave Clackamas County Court Feb. 2, in Oregon City. Ore. Credit: Rick Bowmer, AP

The couple's lawyer, Wayne Mackeson, tells the Associated Press the case was never about church doctrine.

"It's never been a referendum on the church," he says. "This case involves parents who didn't understand how sick their child was."

Mackeson insisted throughout the trial that Neal Beagley had cold and flu-like symptoms, and his parents failed to realize this illness was life-threatening. He tells the AP the couple is considering appealing the verdict.

Yet members of the congregation in Oregon City (just south of Portland) are well known for their belief in faith healing. Portland's daily newspaper, The Oregonian, reports the church's doctrine helped motivate the 1999 law. Authorities noticed an unusual number of church members' children died at an early age from treatable illnesses, according to the paper.

The Beagleys are also the parents of Raylene Worthington, who along with her husband, Carl, were acquitted of manslaughter last year in the March 2008 death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava. The child died from pneumonia and a blood infection. Carl Brent Worthington was convicted of misdemeanor criminal mistreatment.

The Associated Press reports the Beagleys were present at the death of their granddaughter. They reportedly laid hands on her after anointing her with oil and praying for her to be healed instead of seeking medical care.

Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Greg Horner argued that the Beagleys should have known that their son's seemingly mild symptoms could have been something worse -- especially after what happened to their granddaughter.

Related: Urinary Tract Infection in Men

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