Judges orders couple in prayer death case to jail

** FILE ** Madeline Kara Neumann, of Weston, Wis., is shown working on chalk art last summer during downtown Wausau's Chalk Fest. (AP Photo/Wausau Daily Herald,Butch McCartney)
** FILE ** Madeline Kara Neumann, of Weston, Wis., is shown working on chalk art last summer during downtown Wausau's Chalk Fest. (AP Photo/Wausau Daily Herald,Butch McCartney)

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin couple must begin serving their jail sentences for praying over their dying daughter instead of seeking medical treatment for her, a judge ruled Thursday.

Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Huber ordered Dale and Leilani Neumann of Weston to begin serving their sentences this September. The Neumanns appeared in court by phone, Daily Herald Media reported.

The couple prayed instead of seeking help as their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann, died at home in 2008 from a treatable form of diabetes. They were convicted of second-degree reckless homicide in 2009 and have been on probation since.

At Thursday’s hearing, Byron Lichstein, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, asked Huber to throw out the couple’s jail sentence. The judge denied the motion.

“In this case, jail wasn’t meant to protect the public,” Huber said. “A crime was committed; a life was lost. Jail was appropriate to reflect the seriousness of this offense. I see nothing here that would change that fact.”

Separate juries convicted the Neumanns in 2009. A judge ordered them to serve one month in jail per year for six years, a concession intended to ease the burden of caring for their surviving children.

They’ve stayed out of jail because of appeals, but in December, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Doctors testified that the girl, known as Kara, would have had a good chance of survival if she’d received medical care in time. She had been growing weak for several weeks and eventually became too sick to speak, eat, drink or walk. Her parents resisted suggestions from her grandmother to take her to a doctor.

Before the judge ruled Thursday, both Leilani and Dale Neumann asked him for mercy, saying they already paid a price and wanted to avoid spending time away from their remaining children.

“God has used this situation in our lives to humble us,” Leilani Neumann said. “I have cried a lot of tears, but sorrow is a teacher.”

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