Juror says 'decision' to deny medical care damned Beagleys

Jeff Beagley testified his faith and values, taught by his church, would not allow him to knowingly harm his son, who he claimed had been sick with the flu.

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by Eric Adams and Pat Dooris

Bio | Email | Follow: @PatDoorisKGW

kgw.com

Posted on February 4, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 5 at 11:29 AM

OREGON CITY, Ore. -- One of the jurors that found Jeff and Marci Beagley guilty said he thought they decided to deny their son medical care, possibly against his wishes.

Oregon City residents have expressed relief at the guilty verdict in the Beagleys case. They will be sentenced Feb. 18 for killing their son, Neil, by relying on faith to heal him instead of taking him to a physician for a congenital urinary tract blockage.

Doctors testified that 16-year-old Neil could have been treated for the condition up until the day he died.  Background: Beagleys found guilty

One of the jurors in the trial told KGW News that the case was an emotionally overwhelming one. But Robert Zegar was confident the jury had delivered the right verdict.

The most influential evidence for jurors, Zegar said, was an interview between police and Marci Beagley that was taped within hours of Neil's death.

During that interview, Marci Beagley said, "I'd follow my son's wishes" if he were still alive.

Zegar said that confession showed the Beagleys had decided for their son to rely on prayer and faith to heal him.

"I mean, they made a decision - a conscious decision - somewhere along the line that they weren't going to use the doctor, period," Zegar said.

The Beagley family belongs to the Followers of Christ church which favors faith healing to doctors. Church members typically avoid the media and their building was vacant Tuesday.

Jeff and Marci Beagley face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Prosecutors have indicated that they would likely receive a lesser sentence, with the possibility of probation, because neither has any prior convictions.

Neighbors say justice was served

The owner of a cafe near the Followers of Christ church thought the jury made the right decision. 

Cafe Joli owner Kevin Countryman said the case made him think of his own children.

"I think its an appropriate verdict,” he said, adding, “You know, I think of myself internally, I have four children, and I just can’t imagine -- not doing anything in this whole world to help them."

Kevin's wife, Julie hoped that the verdict will send a message to the church after years of controversy over faith-healing.

"It's been years and years and it's time. We have so many modern technologies, even going to a simple (holistic physician) that has some access would have helped," she said.

Genevieve Murstig, another Oregon City resident, said she worries the headlines generated by child deaths connected to the church was tainting the city's image.

“I think something definitely needs to be done and I'm glad that they definitely pursued it and they're considered guilty. Because as a mother myself, I considered her guilty for letting it happen," she said.

The Beagleys have become the first faith healers to be convicted under a controversial decade-old law that was written in response to the Followers of Christ Church's doctrine of faith healing.

Last summer, a jury found two other church members, Carl and Raylene Worthington, not guilty of homicide in the death of their daughter, Ava.

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