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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

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Faith healer parents found guilty of neglecting fatally ill teenage son

A couple who practice faith healing testified they did everything they could for their 16-year-old son before he died, but a jury decided it was not enough, especially just months after the death of their granddaughter.

Jeff and Marci Beagley were convicted of criminally negligent homicide Tuesday after prosecutors argued they failed in their duty to get medical help for their son, Neil, in June 2008.

The teenager died of complications from a congenital urinary tract blockage that doctors testified could have been treated up until the day he died.

The Beagleys’ 15-month-old granddaughter, Ava Worthington, died in March 2008 of pneumonia and a blood infection that could have been treated.

Instead, Neil and Ava were anointed with oil while the family prayed.

The toddler’s parents, Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington, were acquitted of manslaughter last year after a trial that tested a 1999 change in Oregon law resulting from a public outcry about a series of child deaths among members of the Followers of Christ Church.

Brent Worthington was convicted of criminal mistreatment and served two months in jail.

The Beagleys and their daughter and son-in-law are all members of the small church, whose members avoid doctors in favor of faith healing.

Family and church members packed the small courtroom where Clackamas County Presiding Judge Steven Maurer read the verdicts.

The Beagleys face a possible 16 to 18 months in prison, although defense attorneys plan to ask for probation; they remain free pending their Feb. 18 sentencing.

Defense attorneys Wayne Mackeson and Steve Lindsey argued during the two-week trial that Neil Beagley had symptoms more like a cold or the flu, and his parents responded by making sure he rested, was fed and drank plenty of fluids.

But doctors testified the blockage let fluids and toxic waste build up inside the teenager’s body, virtually destroying his kidneys and eventually stopping his heart.

Doctors said it was the first such death in their experience because the problem is usually spotted before a child is born or shortly afterward. But Neil Beagley had never been taken to a doctor, and his mother did not see any doctors before he was born.

Maurer ruled early in the trial that prosecutors could introduce some evidence from the previous Worthington trial, and prosecutors frequently referred to the death of Ava Worthington.

In closing arguments, Greg Horner, the chief deputy district attorney who also prosecuted the Worthingtons, said the Beagleys “ignored the lesson that cost their granddaughter her life.”

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