April 28, 2008 — -- The parents of an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl who prayed instead of seeking medical help for the diabetic child are facing homicide charges in connection with her death.
Dale and Leilani Neumann were charged with second-degree reckless homicide, Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad announced at a press conference today. If convicted, the couple could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
"It is very surprising, shocking that she wasn't allowed medical intervention," Falstad said.
Madeline Kara Neumann, who went by the name Kara, died in March at a hospital in Everest, Wis. Her parents called 911 after she stopped breathing on Easter Sunday.
A message left by ABC News with Gene Linehan, the Neumanns' attorney, was not immediately returned. A spokesman for the Everest Police Department said that the district attorney made an arrangement with Linehan for the couple to make their first appearance in court Wednesday.
The Neumanns told authorities they did not call for help earlier because they believe in the power of prayer.
Dale Neumann, a former police officer, told The Associated Press at the time that he started to perform CPR on his daughter "as soon as the breath of life left."
But the Marathon County medical examiner said the condition, which apparently was never diagnosed, was treatable and the girl's death could have been prevented.
Kara was the youngest child of the Neumanns, who had ties to the Unleavened Bread Ministries, a little-known sect with an online presence that shuns modern medicine in favor of prayer.
Kara died of "diabetic ketoacidosis," according to the autopsy report. Efforts were made to revive the little girl, whose diabetes had never been diagnosed, when she stopped breathing at the house, officials said.
She was transported to Saint Clare's Hospital in Weston, where she was pronounced dead.
Ironically, county officials were on the way to the Neumanns' home the same day to perform a welfare check on the girl after the Marathon County Sheriff's Office got a call from Kara's aunt Ariel Gomez of California expressing concern about Kara.
Before officials reached the home, a 911 call came from the Neumann house about a medical emergency.
Gomez called the sheriff's office three times that day about her niece's medical condition, according to the sheriff's office.
"My sister-in-law is, her daughter's severely, severely sick and she believes her daughter is in a coma," Gomez is heard telling the dispatcher in one of the 911 calls released by the sheriff's office. "And, she's very religious, so she's refusing to take [Kara] to the hospital, so I was hoping maybe somebody could go over there."
Gomez asked authorities to send an ambulance and warns the dispatcher that Leilani Neumann will fight attempts to intervene. "We've been trying to get her to take [Kara] to the hospital for a week, a few days now," Gomez told the dispatcher in one of the calls.
Gomez reportedly learned about the girl's condition from the child's grandmother, who told investigators the Kara's health deteriorated over several days, according to search warrant documents.