Faith-healing parents refuse to seek medical attention as preemie newborn dies of breathing complications

An Oregon couple who looked towards faith healing as their premature newborn daughter died from breathing complications will spend the next  six years in prison, a judge ordered on Monday.

Sarah Elaine Mitchell, 25, and Travis Lee Mitchell, 22, members of Followers of Christ Church, gave birth to twin girls in March 2017 with others from the congregation in attendance. Within hours, one of the babies, named Ginnifer, died, leading the church elder to call the medical examiner, according to KPTV.

The medical examiner recommended that the surviving newborn receive medical attention. The family ignored the recommendation to seek help for the other baby girl until law enforcement got involved. reported the medical examiner found Ginnifer’s death was caused by complications of prematurity. The newborn’s lungs appeared to be “airless” when she suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome, the medical examiner wrote.

KPTV noted that Sarah’s sister, Shannon Hickman, and her husband, Dale Hickman, were convicted of manslaughter in 2011 after their newborn son died under similar circumstances.

READ More: Faith-healing family charged with murder when newborn dies hours after birth

Monday’s sentence was handed down after Sarah and Travis pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment. According to, Sarah read a statement in court urging “everyone in the church should always seek adequate medical care for our children.”‘

Sarah’s father signed the statement. As mandated by the plea agreement, the document will be posted inside the church for all to read.

Their now-16-month-old daughter remains in foster care but visited her parents during their incarceration.

“These are senseless and avoidable deaths, and we keep asking ourselves what will it take” to convince others in the church to get the right medical care for their children, Senior Deputy District Attorney Bryan Brock said,

The district attorney also said he hopes the Mitchells’ story will show church members that they can “seek medical attention and prayer. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

[Featured Image: Sarah Elaine Mitchell, Travis Lee Mitchell/Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office]