Oregon faith-healing parents fight to get baby back, face criminal charges
OREGON CITY -- A Beavercreek couple who left their infant daughter's fate to God rather than seek medical treatment for a mass that grew over her left eye will face charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment.
Prosecutors revealed Thursday during a custody hearing that a grand jury has indicted Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ church.
The Wylands' 7-month-old daughter, Alayna, was placed in state custody earlier this month after child-welfare workers received a tip about the untreated and ballooning growth. Doctors said that the condition could cause permanent damage or loss of vision.
The Wylands were indicted within the past few days and probably will be arraigned next week, said Colleen Gilmartin, the deputy district attorney handling the custody case in juvenile court.
Under Oregon law, it is a crime for parents to intentionally and knowingly withhold necessary and adequate medical attention from their children. First-degree criminal mistreatment is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The Wylands and their church reject medical care in favor of faith-healing -- anointing with oil, laying on of hands, prayer and fasting. The parents testified at a juvenile court hearing last week that they never considered getting medical attention for Alayna.
According to court documents, Rebecca Wyland anointed Alayna with oil each time she changed the girl's diaper and wiped away the yellow discharge that seeped daily from the baby's left eye.
Thursday's hearing was procedural and reached no resolution.
The Wylands' attorneys, John Neidig and Thurl Stalnaker Jr., offered a plan they said would guarantee the child would receive medical care recommended by doctors, with options such as regular visits from state workers, having a trusted individual occupy the Wyland home and monitoring the family with Skype, an Internet program used for video conferencing.
Attorney Michael Clancy, who represents Alayna, also urged that the girl be sent home.
Clancy, however, was skeptical that prosecutors or child-protection authorities would accept any plan to quickly reunite the family.
"There is no plan, even if we came up with 100 pages of stuff ... that is going to be satisfactory," he said.
Clackamas County Circuit Judge Douglas Van Dyk noted that doctors treating Alayna haven't reviewed the Wylands' plan and said he wouldn't approve the proposal without hearing from the physicians.
But Van Dyk also said Alayna should be returned home once a plan is in place "that makes the community feel secure about the care."
He told all the attorneys to submit their proposals to him next week and said he would work out a suitable agreement at a July 30 hearing.
"That's where this case is going as far as this judge is concerned," Van Dyk said.
There could be a complication.
Prosecutors said that a child usually is not returned to parents accused of criminal mistreatment. It is not clear whether the district attorney's office will seek a no-contact order or if one would be granted.
Gilmartin, doctors and DHS workers want assurances that Alayna will get treatment that will minimize damage to her eye and address any complications that arise.
Alayna had a small mark over her left eye at birth.
The area started swelling, and the fast-growing mass of blood vessels, known as a hemangioma, eventually caused her eye to swell shut and pushed the eyeball down and outward and started eroding the eye socket bone around the eye.
It's rare to see a child with an advanced hemangioma because the condition typically is treated as soon as it's detected, said a doctor who testified at a hearing before Van Dyk last week.
"They never get this large," said Dr. Thomas Valvano, a pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. "This was medical neglect."
Investigators who interviewed the Wylands noted the grotesque swelling that led DHS to act.
"Alayna's left eyeball was completely obstructed, and you could not see any of it. The growth was multiple shades of red and maroon and appeared to me to be between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball," said Clackamas County Detective Christie Fryett in a search warrant affidavit that included pictures of the growth on Alayna's face.
Alayna is the Wylands' only child.
Timothy Wyland was a widower when he married Rebecca Wyland two years ago.
Wyland's first wife, Monique, died of breast cancer in 2006. She had not sought or received medical treatment for the condition, said Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner who signed the death certificate.
Judge won't return baby to Followers of Christ parents for now
A judge Wednesday refused to return a 7-month-old girl to her parents, members of an Oregon City church that embraces faith healing, after hearing testimony that the child could lose vision in one eye because she didn't get medical care.
Details of the child's condition emerged during a four-hour Clackamas County Circuit Court hearing.
The parents, Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, asked Judge Douglas V. Van Dyk to return the child, now in foster care, and promised that they would provide whatever treatment was required by the court or the state Department of Human Services.
But Van Dyk denied the request, noting that doctors are still assessing the child's condition and devising a treatment plan. "The risks are great for this child," he said.
Meanwhile, the Wylands could face criminal charges.
"There is still an ongoing criminal investigation" and the case is likely to be presented to a grand jury, said Colleen Gilmartin, the deputy district attorney handling the juvenile court case.
The Wylands belong to the Followers of Christ church, which rejects secular medicine and relies on faith-healing rituals -- laying on of hands, anointing with oil, prayer and fasting -- to treat illnesses. The state medical examiner's office has reported that during the past 30 years more than 20 children of church members have died of preventable or curable illnesses.
The Wylands' daughter, Alayna, had a small discoloration over her left eye when she was born.
The area started swelling and the fast-growing mass of blood vessels, known as a hemangioma, eventually caused her eye to shut, pushed the eyeball down and outward, and affected the eye socket, said Dr. Thomas Valvano, a pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University.
"This was medical neglect," said Valvano, who testified at the hearing. Alayna could lose vision in her left eye and probably will need surgery, he said.
The Wylands said they never considered getting medical attention for the growth and would not have if DHS had not intervened.
Attorneys for the Wylands said the couple weren't given a chance to obtain medical care after DHS got involved in the case late last month and have been largely excluded from medical appointments.
Gilmartin asked Rebecca Wyland why she didn't take Alayna to a doctor.
"Because I believe in God and put my faith in him," she replied.
"If DHS never came into your lives ... at what point would you have accessed medical care," Gilmartin asked Timothy Wyland.
He did not answer the question directly and said he puts his faith in God. If his daughter did not improve, "that's his will," he said.
Child welfare workers got a tip in June that Alayna was suffering from an untreated medical problem. A DHS caseworker took the child to the hospital June 30, and Alayna has been in a foster home since being discharged July 5.
Valvano said he was skeptical of the Wylands' ability to provide care. "We just don't know if she's going to get the treatment she needs," he said. "We don't have anything to go by other than the Wylands' say-so."
The judge said he found the Wylands to be motivated to follow the court-ordered directives. "I take them at their word" that they will do what is required, Van Dyk said.
"If you tell me that's what I have to do, that's what I'll do," Timothy Wyland said.
Van Dyk said the family should be reunited but, due to the severity of Alayna's injury, that should wait until a definitive treatment plan exists and monitoring is in place to guarantee that the parents will follow the plan.
sure if it was god's will that your baby have a huge growth over their eye, why use faith healing to get rid of it if god wants it there? surely curing disease is the work of satan.