Why Did the Schaibles Let Their Children Die?

The DA says Herbert and Catherine Shaible, members of the First Century Gospel Church, watched their two sons die because they refused to let them see a doctor. The Schaibles have another explanation: It was God’s will.

Brandon Schaible first seemed really ill on Monday, April 15th. He had vomited from Friday night into Saturday morning, had some diarrhea, but neither seemed serious. On Monday he was still drinking milk, but his breathing wasn’t right. He scratched his head—remnants of a yellow, scaly rash, possibly cradle cap, that he’d had for months. Cathy had looked it up in the dictionary.

Brandon had been to a doctor just once: He was born at home, but when he was 10 days old, Cathy and Herbie took him to a city health-care clinic on Cottman Avenue to have him checked out—part of the terms of their probation after Kent’s death in 2009.

Kent’s pneumonia had started with what the Schaibles thought was a cold. For better than a week, they prayed for him; on the 11th day, Herbie found him dead in his crib. Herbie called a funeral director, who is required to inform the city’s medical examiner’s office when the deceased is a young child, which moved the ball to the district attorney’s office. In a preliminary hearing, the medical examiner noted that Kent’s pneumonia had been treatable. The Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years’ probation, with the stipulation that they take the rest of their children for regular medical examinations and seek medical help should one fall seriously ill.




By Tuesday night, April 16th, Cathy was a little concerned. Brandon was growing restless, fussy. She told Herbie that Brandon’s breathing had gotten heavy; his nose was stuffed up. He was eating less. That night, she laid him next to her in bed.

Brandon woke up every hour. He was crying a lot. Cathy would coax him back to sleep.

That night, Herbie called Pastor Clark and asked him to pray with them, over the phone, for Brandon to be healed.

Assistant pastor Ralph Myers, Cathy’s maternal uncle, came to their house on Rhawn Street Wednesday morning a little after eight, after getting a call from Pastor Clark. Brandon’s breathing had gotten worse. Cathy and Herbie were going to ask Pastor Myers to anoint Brandon, but Herbie decided not to. Instead, the pastor and Herbie and Cathy stood together, and the pastor prayed for Brandon to be healed. The pastor was there for about 45 minutes.

Herbie stayed home from teaching that day. Through Wednesday, Brandon’s breathing got worse. He was crying and fidgety. Most of the time, Herbie and Cathy took care of him in the living room. They rocked him on the recliner. Herbie asked his brother Dave to call their other siblings to pray for Brandon.

Herbie called Pastor Clark again, and asked him, too, to pray for Brandon. Pastor Clark testified in June that he said that maybe Herbie could call his probation officer, given the terms of their probation about seeking medical help. During sentencing in the 2010 trial, Cathy’s lawyer had pleaded with the judge for active DHS oversight of the Schaibles to make sure the remaining children got medical care, because it was obvious the parents would continue turning to God instead of doctors. The judge rejected that idea out of hand. Mandating social-service oversight, she said, wasn’t the role of the courts.

Now Herbie said to Pastor Clark that if they called anyone, it would be a denial of faith in God to heal Brandon.

The boy’s breathing, Wednesday into Thursday, became more labored; he took a few ounces of whole milk, and some water. Herbie and Cathy thought the milk might be too strong. He wasn’t eating solid food. They took turns holding Brandon. They had to hold him because he was fussy and kept trying to scratch his scaly scalp.

From about 12:30 on during the day on Thursday, Herbie looked after his son. Brandon took only a few swigs of milk. His coloring was bad.

A little after 4:15, Cathy was in the living room, and Herbie told her to pray. It seemed that Brandon had stopped breathing, but they weren’t going to give in. He was still warm, and they prayed for him. They had all of their children pray that their baby brother would be restored.

Herbie called Cathy’s parents, and they came from their house on Roosevelt Boulevard. Herbie’s brothers Dave and Richard came, too. Herbie was holding Brandon. He had to be strong for his other children. He couldn’t break down crying.

Pastor Myers got the call from Cathy’s father: Brandon hadn’t shown any movement for two hours. Herbie wanted him to come.

Pastor Myers called Pastor Clark and told him that Herbie thought Brandon had passed, that he was going to the house and would let Pastor Clark know what he found when he got there. Pastor Myers called Pastor Clark from Herbie and Cathy’s house: Brandon appeared not to be breathing, not to be living. Did Pastor Clark want him to call a funeral director?

Pastor Clark told him that was really up to Herbie. Herbie said yes, make the call. Pastor Myers called the funeral director, who in turn called the medical examiner.

That evening, police took Brandon to the medical examiner’s office. He appeared to be severely dehydrated. His eyes were sunk in their sockets. His lips were dry. His scalp had a scaly or flaky rash, without much hair. His cheeks were yellowish, with a cobblestone texture, perhaps because of dehydration or as part of the rash he had on his scalp. Tests revealed that he’d died from bacterial pneumonia in combination with dehydration, due to a strep infection.

“The manner of death in this case,” the medical examiner would testify at a June preliminary hearing, “was homicide.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 < Previous Next >View as One Page

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • J joseph

    Praise Jesus Christ for someone in this wicked world still believes and demonstrates faith for the healing of body.

    • Chrissy

      I agree with this comment^^

    • ChuckV

      When it takes letting your child die of a treatable disease to show your faith, something is very wrong with your faith.

  • J Joseph

    If nothing is at stake, there is no faith required.

  • leppy240

    they are only doing what they have been taught all their lives. I am pretty sure they never expected the kids to die. they are good people under some messed up teaching.

  • S.I. Rosenbaum

    wow. What I want to know is why this is not taken to other extremes. Why don’t you say, the lord will provide food without us ever going shopping, and then wait for food to arrive? How is that different from the faith required to eschew medicine for the sick?

    I also want to know how they explain people getting better by taking medicine, without prayer. Is that the work of satan? did God favor those people for some reason without them knowing it?

    there is something about the relationship between god and bodies that makes faith healing different from waiting for groceries? Is there something fortifying about the death of these children?

    • PsychicSecretary

      Exactly. Why do we need the artificiality of food to be nourished?

      Whatever this is, it is not Christianity, which does not require human perfection for God to hear our prayers.

      And how can these churchgoers claim genealogies are not important? Have they read Genesis, Numbers, I Chronicles or Matthew?

  • hagdirt

    I was taught that God works with human hands.

  • Georgina Yang

    Miracles work through a Messiah, currently dead for the last two thousand years. The rest of the time we are bound to plebeian laws of nature.

    • Michael

      I can’t say I agree with what these people did, but in reponse to this comment:
      Newsflash: Jesus is alive.

  • kc49

    Since they opt not to wear seatbelts, I would like to know if they lock their doors.

  • Antonette

    Using their logic that using seat belts is an affront to God, saying that you don’t trust him, then using crosswalks would be too. Or obeying red lights, or not walking into traffic or trying to put out a fire that’s burning down your house …

  • DRig

    I have faith in a Christian God too, but I have faith that He has also empowered us to be able to care for ourselves. If you believe that God is all-powerful, then why can’t you believe that people have vaccines, medicines and seat belts because that is God’s will and He created intelligent people, empowered to do these things to protect us?
    Have faith and trust in God, but also understand it may be His will that you get antibiotics, vaccines and birth control.

  • jane smith

    Letting your child slowly suffocate to death as he struggles to breathe for hours and hours isn’t faith-it’s torture. These people are disgusting.

  • Max Freeman

    These vile, twisted people should be put away for life. It’s ironic how much evil is possible through religion.

    • typedriven

      They’re not vile and twisted. They are simply people who believe in the example of Christ, as they call him. I agree with you that much evil is possible through blindness disguised as religion, but you have only to read this article with an open mind to see that these are genuinely loving, trusting people. Their inability to think about the modern world is a separate issue.

      • Charles Stevens

        I agree. I am an atheist and anti-theist; when I first heard of this family I felt very much like Max but I see now that these people are mentally ill. They had no intention of harming their child and they did not want their child to get sick or die. It is the same as any other crime being done through mental illness. These people need to have their remaining children removed from their home, but imprisoning them does not seem right. They need to be institutionalized.

  • typedriven

    I have a lot of respect for people’s faith, of whatever kind. People don’t believe what they do because they have malice or a deliberate lack of logic. They have deeper reasons for their faith. Yet when it comes to something like this — letting your children die for lack of medical care because you believe that Jesus didn’t use medicine, he used faith, and that God will heal you if he chooses — just defies a very basic logic. After all, these same people drive cars with gas engines and use electricity to light up their homes. You might ask: did God give men and women their intellectual gifts to help them understand the world? Certainly, they’d say. Did men and women use those God-given gifts to understand mechanics and combustion and electricity and so forth? Certainly, they’d say. Do you use an electric chainsaw to cut wood for your carpentry projects? Certainly, they’d say. Yet, wasn’t Jesus a carpenter? Did he use an electric saw? Well . . . they’d say. So you’re saying that you’ll take advantage of almost everything in the modern world, including things Jesus didn’t have, and yet medicine, where men and women have used their God-given gifts to develop mastery over illness and death, is some sort of exception for you? The single most important thing in the modern world, provided for you by God, and you won’t use it? These people should be sent to jail, not for negligence, but for a simple inability to think.

    What adds a further kink to the logic is that these people consider themselves to be living by God’s law. Thus, if you rely on your faith, your devotion to God, for healing, then it would stand to reason that your family would be healthier than Godless families that don’t live by faith. Yet, somehow it has escaped their notice that the children of the Godless aren’t dropping dead all around them, while they are losing child after child. Seriously, it’s not that their faith is wrong. It’s a simple lack of an ability to think outside certain very narrow limits of logic, of ability to actually look at the world around them and reason about what is there. They are truly a hazard to themselves and to their defenseless children.

  • MGN

    “They have prayed for greater understanding. To understand what it is they were doing wrong, what it is that would lead God not to answer their prayers to save Kent, and then Brandon.”

    The simple answer is: there is no god! Or they just happened to pick the one wrong god out of the 500+ that are worshipped in the world today.

  • JoJoJas

    Religion is bull. Face it. The truth shall set you free.
    -from an ethical Humanist

  • LeeAnn Gerleman

    A childhood friend of mine had a Christian Scientist Mother . She never got vaccinations, or stayed home sick from school, if they got really sick, they paid a person in the Church to pray for them. One time the father and one of the children was in a rollover car accident. The little boy (2) was in a coma for over two weeks. The doctors said they could save him, But his Mom paid for practitioners to pray for him. Finally the Father (not a Christian Scientist) signed the approval for the surgery. They got a divorce over it later, but the little boy lived. but he was brain damaged, acted like a 3 year old the rest of his life. They eventually remarried many years later. My friend grew up to be a teacher and would you believe it? Married a dermatologist! LOL.