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Sunday, March 30, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Parents indicted in faith-healing case

Oregon City couple are charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of their daughter

An Oregon City couple whose 15-month-old daughter died this month of medically treatable conditions surrendered to police Friday night hours after a Clackamas County grand jury indicted them.

They are at the heart of a case testing a state law that bars faith healing when it could endanger a child's life.

Based on the jury's findings, arrest warrants were issued for Carl Brent Worthington, 28, and Raylene Worthington, 25, on charges of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree criminal mistreatment in the March 2 death of their daughter, Ava.

At 8:30 p.m., the pair voluntarily surrendered at the Clackamas County Jail, said Detective Jim Strovink, a sheriff's office spokesman. They were held on $250,000 bail each.

Television reporters soon descended on the jail's entrance, reacting to a tip that the husband and wife would post the $25,000 apiece needed to avoid spending the weekend in jail.

Their first court appearance was set for 1:30 p.m. Monday in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

A deputy state medical examiner determined that Ava died for lack of medical care. The girl suffered from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection -- both treatable or preventable with antibiotics.

The parents are members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian church that has seen dozens of children buried since the 1950s in the parish cemetery south of Oregon City. Many of them could have been saved by medical intervention, according to a 1998 analysis by The Oregonian.

The cluster of deaths prompted the 1999 Oregon Legislature to debate the issues of religious freedom, parental rights and public responsibility to protect children, culminating in the law allowing prosecution in preventable deaths.

The Worthingtons are the first congregation members to face criminal charges for failing to seek medical treatment for a gravely ill child.

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