Parents with faith-healing ties charged with murder

Sarah Mitchell, Travis Mitchell, June 5, 2017 (Clackamas County Sheriff's Office)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — The parents of a prematurely born infant who died within hours of her birth now face murder charges.

Sarah Mitchell, 24, and her 21-year-old husband Travis Mitchell are members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. The church is known for practicing faith-healing and rejecting medical care and modern medicine in favor of prayer and anointment with oil, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said in March.

Sarah gave birth to 2 girls at her parents’ home in the 1400 block of S. Lodger Road. One of the girls, Ginnifer Mitchell, died.

Ginnifer Mitchell's grave, March 2017 (KOIN)
Ginnifer Mitchell’s grave, March 2017 (KOIN)

Dr. Karen Gunson said Ginnifer Mitchell was born prematurely. She said there were complications with the baby’s lungs and oxygen getting into her bloodstream. An autopsy showed the infant died of natural causes, according to Gunson.

Family members and other people from the church were present for the births.

No one called 911 when one of the babies, Ginnifer Mitchell, developed breathing problems, deputies said. Church elder Carl Hansen called the medical examiner after the infant died.

Suzi Shumaker, a former member of the Followers of Christ Church, said their scriptures tell them not to put faith in doctors.

Sarah and Travis Mitchell were arrested Monday.

The Mitchells will be the 5th Followers of Christ church couple in Oregon City charged for relying on faith healing for kids.

Sarah Mitchell testified in the trial of her sister, Shannon Hickman and her husband Dale in 2011, when their baby died. Her sister went to prison and remains behind bars serving a sentence for manslaughter.

Sarah is a direct descendant of church minister Walter White, who brought a congregation to Oregon City when he broke off from Idaho.

Oregon changed laws to prosecute faith healing parents for kids. It’s still legal in Idaho despite calls from police, doctors and former members.



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