The parents of an infant twin girl who died hours after her birth in 2017 pled guilty on Monday.
The couple, Sarah Mitchell, 25, and Travis Lee Mitchell, 22, pled guilty to negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment in the death of their daughter Gennifer Mitchell, according to the Associated Press.
The two are members of the Followers of Christ church, a small religious group that rejects medical care in favor of faith-healing.
Sarah gave birth to another child, Gennifer’s twin, Evelyn, who survived after a deputy medical examiner visiting the home because of the other baby’s death, noticed the still-living twin was also struggling to breathe, the AP reported.
Sarah did not know she was expecting twins or when she was due as she did not have any prenatal care.
The court heard that after being born the child struggled to breathe for a number of hours and members of the church were instructed to pray or lay hands on the dying baby but no one called 911.
After the baby died, a church elder, Carl Hanson contacted Clackamas County Deputy Medical Examiner Eric Tonsfeldt.
Tonsfeldt determined that the babies were born prematurely, at about 32 weeks. Ginnifer weighted 3 pounds 16 ounces and was 16 inches long.
About 60 people, including family members and church members, were at the home for the birth, Tonsfeldt said. No one in the home called 911.
After Tonsfeldt examined the deceased child, family members informed him Sarah had also given birth to a twin girl, Evelyn. He asked to see her and was taken into the master bedroom bathroom, where several women were sitting in chairs caring for a similar-sized baby.
Tonsfeldt said Evelyn appeared healthy, but he told family members in the home that because of her size and because her twin sister had just died, Evelyn was “at medical risk” and needed to go to the hospital. He repeated this instruction two times. On both occasions, Sarah Mitchell’s father responded with the words, “Thank you for your input.”
After the medical examiner left the home, he called Oregon City Police and requested a “welfare check” on the surviving baby to make sure the family had taken her to the hospital.
When officers arrived, Sarah Mitchell’s father came to the door and the officers told him they were there to do a welfare check on the baby. He asked the officers to wait, went back in the house and returned with Travis Mitchell’s father and another unidentified man.
The officers again said why they were there and that the baby needed to go to the hospital. Joshua Mitchell asked the officers, “Are you telling us we have to go to the hospital?” The officers responded yes. The three men went back inside the house. After about five minutes, they returned and agreed to take Evelyn to the hospital in a personal car.
Travis Mitchell left with the baby in one car and drove to Willamette Falls Hospital with the patrol car following behind.
Evelyn was seen at the Willamette Falls Hospital emergency room, stabilized there and then transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Oregon Health & Science University.