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Prison For Phila. Couple Who Chose Prayer Over Medical Care For Dying Son

By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia couple was sentenced today to 3½-7 years in prison in connection with the death last year of their seven-month-old son.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible had previously pleaded "no contest" in connection with the death of their son, Brandon, who died of pneumonia and dehydration as the couple prayed for him to be healed but never took him to a doctor or a hospital for medical care (see related story).

As he passed sentence, Judge Benjamin Lerner today told the couple that they had killed their own son last April in a repeat of a similar situation a few years earlier, in which a two-year-old son died.

The judge said the parents had chosen prayer over medicine, but added that "it was not Brandon's time to die.  God didn't decide the time" -- they did.

It was one of the most emotional and painful sentencing hearings in memory.

Tears in her eyes, Philadelphia assistant district attorney Joanne Pescatore had told the court she is "haunted" by the picture of the young, dead victim.  She said the boy died a slow, painful, horrible death.  She said she was incredulous that parents could watch as their helpless son died -- let alone do it twice.

"They still don't get it; they promised the judge this would never happen again. They promised the same thing to Judge Temin, but here we stand -- now two of their children are now dead," Pescatore said.

Prosecutors had asked for 8-16 years in prison for the couple.

The defense claimed that the Schaibles are good parents, have shown remorse for their behavior, and acknowledge they will never again have custody of their remaining children.

The defense showed a video of Catherine Schaible making a joyous (albeit supervised) visit to see her other children in foster care.  The scene is an apparent world away from the situation described by prosecutors in the case, in which the parents prayed over Brandon -- sick, suffering, and crying -- as he died.

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