WAUSAU, Wis. – A Wisconsin man accused of killing his daughter by praying instead of seeking lifesaving medical help considered her illness "a test of his faith," a prosecutor told jurors Saturday.
Dale Neumann, 47, is a "full-Gospel Christian," who did not know his 11-year-old daughter had diabetes, his defense attorney said. There's also not "a shred of evidence" Neumann knew his prayers would fail to help his daughter or cause her death, the lawyer said.
Neumann is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the 2008 death of his daughter Madeline Neumann, called Kara by her parents. His wife, Leilani, was convicted of the same charge this spring and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 6.
The girl died from undiagnosed diabetes on March 23, 2008, surrounded by people praying at the family's rural home in Weston in central Wisconsin. Someone called 911 when she stopped breathing.
Prosecutors contend Neumann recklessly killed the youngest of his four children by ignoring her deteriorating health. They claim the girl was too weak to speak, eat, drink or walk and Neumann had a legal duty to take her to a doctor.
Marathon County Circuit Judge Vincent Howard scheduled opening statements during a rare Saturday court session to try to make sure the trial ended by Friday. An eight-man, six-woman jury begins hearing witness testimony Monday.
An Oregon jury on Thursday convicted a father of misdemeanor criminal mistreatment for relying on prayer instead of seeking medical care for his 15-month-old daughter who died of pneumonia and a blood infection in March 2008. The father and mother were acquitted of a more serious manslaughter charge.
Marathon County Assistant District Attorney Lance Leonhard stood next to a picture of a smiling Madeline Neumann on a large TV screen as he told the jury the sweet, mild-mannered child liked arts and crafts and loved her God.
"This case is not about parents having the right to raise their children as they see fit or the right to pray," he said. "This case is about Madeline Kara Neumann's needless suffering and death."
Her parents knew the child was gravely ill — they had used a large syringe to squirt chicken broth in her mouth to give her nourishment, Leonhard said. Still, he said, "They depended solely on God to heal her."
Dale Neumann told a Bible study friend he considered his daughter's illness "a test of his faith," Leonhard said.
No one can survive untreated diabetes, but medical statistics show 998 out of 1,000 people in the same stage of illness as Kara can be successfully treated with fluids and insulin, he said.
Defense attorney Jay Kronenwetter told jurors the efforts of the ambulance attendants or doctors who eventually cared for Kara might have caused her death. It's also not certain the girl would have lived if she had gotten to doctors earlier, he said.
"Quite likely, what they would have done, the standard procedures, would have hastened her death because of the way diabetes was operating in her body," Kronenwetter said. "Not every tragedy is a crime."
Neumann tried to help his daughter, the defense attorney said.
"Dale Neumann solicited the help of numerous individuals to pray," Kronenwetter said. "He did that because of his faith, because he believed that was what would save his daughter."