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updated: 2/19/2014 11:03 AM

Pa. couple face prison after sons' prayer deaths

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Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- A Pennsylvania couple who believe in faith-healing face 20 years or more in prison in the death of a second child who died without seeing a doctor.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible are being sentenced Wednesday in the death last year of their 8-month-old son, Brandon. At the time, they were under court orders to seek medical care for their children after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died of untreated pneumonia in 2009.

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The Schaibles are third-generation members of a small Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia.

A lawyer for Catherine Schaible, 44, plans to explore their religious beliefs at the sentencing. Her 45-year-old husband's lawyer argues that no malice was involved.

The Schaibles have pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in Brandon's death. They have seven surviving children.

"We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power," Herbert Schaible said in a 2013 police statement. Medicine, he said, "is against our religious beliefs."

A jury had convicted both parents of involuntary manslaughter in Kent's death, and they were put on 10 years of probation that included orders to seek medical care if any other child got sick.

After Brandon's death, an irate judge found they had violated parole.

Prosecutors have described the boys' symptoms as "eerily similar," and said they included labored breathing and a refusal to eat. Catherine Schaible's lawyer, though, said her client tried to feed Brandon during his illness and applied baby powder to keep him comfortable.

Their pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a "spiritual lack" in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death.

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