Parents in Gwinnett County, Ga., are accused of killing their 11-week-old daughter by not getting her proper medical care. Now in a murder trial, the father said he didn't seek medical care for the infant because it went against his religious beliefs. Police stated the baby died from drinking too much water and not enough milk. Jury members related to the trial were questioned extensively over the past week about their religious beliefs, freedom of religion and medicine.
The two parents of the deceased baby, Nevaeh, were arrested Wednesday, about a month after they took their emaciated daughter on March 25 to Gwinnett Medical Center. However, the girl already was dead, according to arrest warrants, reports USA Today.
Herbert George Landell, 26, and his wife, Lauren Fristed, 25, insist they believed prayer, not medicine and milk, would heal their baby when they saw health challenges in her, according to WSB-TV.
Medical experts said the parents watering down Fristed's breast milk caused Nevaeh's electrolyte and sodium levels to drop and made her brain swell, according to the warrants. But the detectives' investigation since the infant's death also revealed unsanitary conditions at the couple's apartment.
"On the day she (the infant) died, George believed that his prayers were what she needed. He believed his prayers were the medicine for the evils that were attacking her," said defense attorney Maryann Blend. "Ultimately, this will come down to what you believe."
Landell wept through the entire trial Wednesday afternoon, according to local reports.
Prosecutors argued by ignoring the advice of doctors and avoiding medical help, Landell murdered his baby. "They believed there was something malicious or sinister or evil on the day that child passed," Blend said.
Fristed pleaded guilty last week, and will testify against her husband. Prosecutors said she stated she was worried she wasn't providing enough breast milk and wanted to add formula, but Landell ordered her to only add water.
"His wife is asking him to go to the hospital and he refuses and he says your negativity is interfering so you need leave the room," prosecutor Dan Mayfield told jurors.
Fristed, Landell and Landell's minister will all take the stand later in the trial, lawyers said.
A nursing supervisor testified Wednesday. "He walked out of the room (after his child died) and he was just very flat and not what you'd expect," she said.
Landell was charged with felony murder and aggravated battery by depriving; Fristed was charged with aggravated battery by depriving, first degree cruelty to children, and second degree cruelty to children. Neither are eligible for bond and remained Thursday in Gwinnett County Jail.