‘Faith-healing’ couple gets 3 1/2 to 7 years for second child’s death

Herbert and Catherine Schaible leave court in May 2013.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible leave court in May 2013. Credit: Metro File Photos

Herbert and Catherine Schaible were sentenced Wednesday to three-and-a-half to seven years in prison on third degree murder charges for the April 2013 death of their son Brandon.

The Schaibles prayed over their son as he slowly died from bacterial pneumonia. They were previously convicted and sentenced to probation in 2011 for the death of their 2-year-old son Kent, also from bacterial pneumonia.

“All it would’ve taken was a 911 call,” said assistant district attorney Joanne Pescatore at the sentencing hearing.

“Everybody in the system failed these children,” Pescatore said, her voice choked with emotion. “It was so forseeable to me that this was going to happen.”

Pescatore prosecuted the Schaibles after Kent died and said she pleaded with the Department of Human Services to investigate the welfare of their children because she believed they would let another child die.

“It was right there in the pre-sentencing notes,” Pescatore said, reading from a past interview with Catherine in 201. “Asked if she would do the same thing again, she said she was not sure as she would have to give up her beliefs.”

Defense attorneys claimed the Schaibles were good parents.

“When I think of Catherine Schaible, two words jump out at me: devotion and commitment,” said defense lawyer Mythri Jayaraman.

But Jayaraman also said that after defending Catherine in 2010, she agreed with Pescatore and asked Judge Carolyn Temin, who heard that case, to intervene in the Schaible’s home due to concerns about the welfare of their children.

“We both pled with Judge Temin to find a way to maintain DHS control of the family,” Jayaraman said. “She is no longer a danger, because what we requested years ago is in place.”

The Schaibles’ six other minor children who are all currently in foster care.

Herbert’s lawyer, Bobby Hoof, called Braden’s death “a crime of omission rather than commission” and described his client as a “family man.”

“I would change places with them in an instant if I could,” Herbert Schaible said of his two dead sons before being sentenced.

Catherine Schaible said she would “accept whatever the court decides.”

Commonwealth Court Judge Benjamin Lerner said his sentence was intended to prevent them from ever making medical decisions for one of their children again.

“You’ve killed two of your children,” Lerner said. “It wasn’t the lord who decided to take him [Brandon]. You two took him. That’s why he’s not celebrating any more of his birthdays.”

The Schaibles are life-long members of First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park.

Lerner granted a defense request that Catherine Schaible will remain free on bail until March 14 so she can be present for her daughter’s 11th birthday with Pescatore’s support.

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Follow Sam Newhouse on Twitter: @scnewhouse

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