Mom guilty of letting sick daughter die

May 23, 2009 8:06:52 AM PDT
A mother accused of praying instead of seeking medical help for her dying 11-year-old daughter was found guilty Friday of second-degree reckless homicide. A Marathon County jury deliberated for about four hours before convicting Leilani Neumann, 41, of Weston. She faces up to 25 years in prison, but no sentencing date had been set.

She remains free on bond and declined to comment after the verdict was announced.

Neumann's daughter Madeline died from untreated diabetes on March 23, 2008, surrounded by people praying for her. When she stopped breathing, her parents' business and Bible study partners finally called 911.

Prosecutors contend a reasonable parent would have known something was gravely wrong with Madeline and that her mother recklessly killed her by ignoring obvious symptoms, such as her inability to walk or talk.

"Obviously, there will be an appeal," defense lawyer Gene Linehan said after the verdict.

Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad declined to comment after the verdict because Neumann's 47-year-old husband, Dale, faces the same charge and was scheduled to stand trial in July.

During closing arguments, Falstad described Neumann as a religious zealot who let her daughter, called Kara by her parents, die as a test of faith.

"Basic medical care would have saved Kara's life -- fluids and insulin," Falstad said. "There was plenty of time to save Kara's life."

Linehan said Neumann didn't realize her daughter was so ill and did all she could do to help, in line with the family's belief in faith-healing.

He said Neumann was a devout Christian and took good care of her four children.

"The woman did everything she could to help her," Linehan said. "That is the injustice in this case."

Neumann's stepfather, Brian Gordon, said his stepdaughter did nothing wrong in trusting in God to heal her daughter.

"We should have that right in this country," he said.

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