By WILLIAM McCALL
Associated Press Writer
OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) -- The prosecutor in the trial of an Oregon City couple charged with criminally negligent homicide in the faith-healing death of their 16-year-old son said the teen should never have died.
Prosecutor Greg Horner told a Clackamas County jury in opening statements Tuesday that Jeff and Marci Beagley failed to meet the community standard for medical care for their child.
They did absolutely nothing, Horner said. Their failure is an outrageous deviation from the standard of care our community expects and demands.
But defense attorneys for the Beagleys told the jury the couple were not aware of the serious disease affecting their son, Neil, because his symptoms resembled a cold or the flu.
The teen died in June 2008 of complications from a congenital urinary tract blockage he had since birth that doctors said could have been corrected and treated.
The couple belong to the Followers of Christ Church, which avoids medical care in favor of prayer, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.
Horner said the Beagleys should have been more alert to the potential for a serious illness with Neil because their 15-month-old granddaughter died in March 2008 from pneumonia and a blood infection that could have been easily treated.
The Beagleys' daughter, Raylene Worthington, and her husband, Carl Brent Worthington, were acquitted of manslaughter in the death of their daughter, Ava, following a trial last summer. But Carl Brent Worthington was convicted of criminal mistreatment.
Horner told the jury doctors will testify that Neil Beagley, like Ava Worthington, would have recovered with medical treatment and lived a normal life even though his condition had progressed to the point of kidney failure.
They failed to be aware of the substantial risk that he would die, Horner said. They should have been aware. It was outrageous. It was criminal.
Boy's young cousin died months earlier
Just four months earlier, Neal's 15-month-old cousin, Ava Worthington, died at home from bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. Her parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington, also failed to contact a doctor and were also facing criminal charges in her death. More:Ava Worthington's death
But defense attorneys Wayne Mackeson and Steve Lindsey said the Beagleys believed their son had nothing more than a cold or the flu, and asked him whether he wanted to go to a doctor.
They told the jury that an Oregon Department of Human Services worker visited the family to check on Neil and his younger sister, Kathryn, in April 2008 and found no problems.
Mackeson and Lindsey also said the Beagleys relied on the DHS worker, Jeff Lewis, when he told them Oregon law allows a 16-year-old to make decisions about medical care.
Lindsey said Lewis had access to advice from the Clackamas County district attorney's office, the sheriff's office, doctors and his managers at the state agency but took no action.
Mackeson also said that Neil Beagley had been a healthy child and teenager, and there were no signs of his underlying disease and its progressive symptoms leading to kidney failure.
He said the family was disturbed when Dr. Cliff Nelson, the deputy state medical examiner, made a public statement saying Neil must have been in excruciating pain before he died when the disease typically is painless and the teenager had not complained of pain.
Horner, however, told the jury that Neil was home schooled and did not have contact with adults besides his parents who otherwise might have intervened.
Horner also said the Beagleys were trying to shift responsibility to their son, claiming he repeatedly refused medical care so they followed his wishes rather than step in and make the hard call.
The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.