Mother accused of choosing prayer over medical treatment for dying daughter

By Calvin Palmer

A mother’s claim that she was unaware her 11-year-old daughter was close to death with untreated diabetes was refuted by her sister-in-law in a Wisconsin court today.

Leilani Neumann, 41, is accused of second-degree reckless homicide in the death of her daughter, Madeline Kara, on March 23, 2008.

Prosecutors argue that any reasonable parent would have known something was wrong and Leilani Neumann, who believes healing comes from God, recklessly killed her daughter by praying instead of taking her to a doctor as the girl became so weak that she was unable to talk or walk.

The defense says the family did not know the girl was dying.

But Susan Neumann, the first witness to testify at the trial, said Leilani Neumann told her that she came home from work at the family’s coffee shop March 22 and “felt the spirit of death” when she reached for the knob to open the door to the house.

“She was afraid,” the sister-in-law said. “She ran upstairs to Kara and felt her and was relieved to feel warmth in her arm. Then she said they started praying and praying and praying and didn’t stop praying until supper time.”

Before testimony started at the trial Leilani Neumann read from her Bible and circled the defense and prosecution tables several times in prayer.

Susan Neumann told the court she no longer had a relationship with her brother, Dale Neumann, who is Madeline’s father. She said she contacted police about two weeks after the girl’s death fearful for her brother’s other three children and worried that there could be “mass suicide” in the family.

Under cross-examination, the witness was asked whether God told her to go to the police.

She said she prayed about it but “felt in my heart” it was the right thing to do and maybe God answered her prayers.

Ariel Neff, 18, of Ripon, California, testified that she made three calls from California to police in Marathon County trying to get someone to check on Madeline the day she died.

Neff had married Leilani Neumann’s brother two days earlier and knew the mother believed in “faith and not in doctors”.

Neff, who is separated from her husband, said she had learned from her new family that Madeline was likely in a coma and that someone was trying to give the girl fluids with a syringe, which she believed could drown the girl.

Neff’s three calls to police came roughly 40 minutes before someone in the Neumann home called 911 to report that Madeline was no longer breathing.

Everest Metro Policeman Scott Marten was the first officer at the Neumann home March 23. He found the girl on a mattress and chaos throughout the household as the father pushed on her chest trying to get her to breathe.

Madeline looked malnourished, the officer testified. “She was skinny and just appeared to be frail.”

Martin told the court the family, at one point, went into a trauma room in the hospital where the girl was taken.

“They were walking in circles around her bed and they seemed to be praying for quite some time,” he said.

Dale Neumann, 47, is scheduled to face trial on July 23.

[Based on a report by newsday.com.]

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