OREGON CITY, Oregon — A mom and dad pair of followers of a faith-healing sect have been sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for letting their newborn daughter die without seeking medical help.
Travis Lee Mitchell, 22, and Sarah Elaine Mitchell, 25, both pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and first-degree criminal mistreatment in the March 2017 death of one of their twin daughters.
The Mitchells were members of the Followers of Christ Church, a pentecostal sect, and others from the congregation were present for the births. The church is estimated to have around 1,500 followers in all.
Authorities say Sarah Mitchell gave birth to the twins at her parents’ home in Oregon City, but one of the babies was suffering from breathing complications and died. Afterwards, a church elder contacted the coroner but no one called 911.
The second baby also needed medical help but managed to survive only after authorities convinced the family to allow the child to be taken to a hospital.
The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was due to complications stemming from premature birth.
The Mitchells were each sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. They agreed to sign a letter stating, “We should have sought adequate medical care for our children and everyone in the church should always seek adequate medical care for our children.” The letter will be posted within church facilities, prosecutors said.
The little girl’s death marked the fourth time in recent years that prosecutors have brought charges against church followers for failing to get medical help for their children.
In 2011, Sarah Mitchell’s sister and her husband, Shannon and Dale Hickman, were convicted of manslaughter and sentences to six years for failing to get help for their severely premature daughter.
Three other families connected to the church have been convicted on similar charges since 2009.