Faith-healing pair convicted in death of 2-year-old child

A fundamentalist Christian couple who relied on prayer, not medicine, to cure their dying toddler son was convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Philadelphia face more than a decade in prison for the January 2009 pneumonia death of 2-year-old Kent.

“We were careful to make sure we didn’t have their religion on trial but were holding them responsible for their conduct,” jury foreman Vince Bertolini said. “At the least, they were guilty of gross negligence, and (therefore) of involuntary manslaughter.”

The Schaibles declined to comment as they left the courthouse to await sentencing Feb. 2.

Experts say about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year. An Oregon couple were sentenced this year to 16 months in prison for negligent homicide in the death of their teenage son, who had an undiagnosed urinary blockage.

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore will ask the judge at sentencing to put the couple’s six other children under a doctor’s care. She was not yet sure if she would seek prison terms for the two felonies.

Kent Schaible’s symptoms had included coughing, congestion, crankiness and a loss of appetite, although his parents said he was eating and drinking until the last day, and they had thought he was getting better.

The lone defense witness, high-profile coroner Cyril Wecht, testified that a deadly bacterium could have killed the child in hours.


Boyfriend arrested, charged in fashion designer’s killing

The son of an Oscar-winning songwriter was arrested Friday on charges of choking his girlfriend, a fashion designer found dead and half-clothed in a bathtub overflowing with water in a posh hotel, police said.

Nicholas Brooks, 24, was arrested on charges of attempted murder and strangulation in the death of Sylvie Cachay, 33, who was discovered around 3 a.m. Thursday at the Soho House hotel. He has been at a police precinct more than a day and was cooperating with investigators, who obtained a search warrant to take swabs from under his fingernails.

Police said the death was ruled a homicide, but the medical examiner’s office has not determined a cause of death pending toxicology test results. An autopsy was inconclusive.

Brooks, the son of “You Light Up My Life” writer Joseph Brooks, has an attorney, but police didn’t know the lawyer’s name. His father, who is in unrelated legal trouble, has not commented on the case and doesn’t know who is representing his son, according to the elder Brooks’ attorney.

JUNEAU, Alaska

Judge rules against Miller in Senate vote challenge

A judge Friday ruled against Republican Joe Miller’s lawsuit challenging how Alaska counted write-in votes for rival Lisa Murkowski in their Senate race, delivering a crushing blow to the tea party-backed candidate’s longshot legal fight.

Judge William Carey’s ruling all but ends Miller’s hopes of getting relief in state court. Miller can appeal to the state Supreme Court, and his spokesman said he was mulling the option, but Carey cited past decisions by the high court in his ruling.

Carey said his decision to throw out Miller’s suit wouldn’t take effect until Tuesday to allow time for an appeal.

Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said there are still outstanding issues “in terms of wanting to get a true and accurate count.”

Murkowski called on Miller to concede, saying: “It’s time to end this.”

Senators are scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 5, and the legal dispute has thrown into doubt whether someone from this race will be included.

Miller’s attorneys had asked Carey to strictly enforce a state law calling for write-in ballots to have the oval filled in, and either the candidate’s last name or the name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written in.


Iran airs new confession by woman facing stoning

An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery confessed to helping a man kill her husband and re-enacted the alleged crime in an interview aired Friday by Iranian state television — an apparent effort by the government to deflect international criticism over the case.

It was the fourth time Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani, 43, has been shown on TV as Tehran has faced an international outcry over the announcement that she would be stoned to death, the latest source of friction between Iran and the West.

Authorities announced her conviction in the murder case only after the uproar over the stoning sentence erupted last summe. Her lawyer — who has since been arrested — said she was never formally tried in the killing and was tortured into confessing. Iranian authorities could use the murder charge to justify executing her by hanging instead of stoning.

In the new footage aired on English-language Press TV, the mother of two was brought from the prison to her home outside the city of Tabriz in northwestern Iran where she was shown acting out the alleged December 2005 killing, complete with an actor portraying her husband.

Ashtiani described how she began an affair. She said she gave her husband an injection that left him unconscious, then the other man came to her house and electrocuted him.

Amnesty International criticized the broadcast, which was announced by Press TV earlier Friday, saying it violated international standards for a fair trial by having Ashtiani implicate herself in a crime.


Leader of drug cartel killed during shootout with police

The eccentric leader of the brutal La Familia drug cartel was killed in a shootout during two days of fighting between federal police and gunmen that terrified civilians across a western Mexican state, the government said Friday.

The death of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez is a major blow to a cartel that rose to national prominence in 2006 by rolling severed heads into a nightclub and declaring that its mission was to protect Michoacan state from rival gangs and petty criminals.

Police believed that Moreno, 40, was killed in a clash Thursday between cartel gunmen and federal police, said Alejandro Poire, government spokesman for security issues.

In a brief statement, the office of President Felipe Calderon confirmed Moreno’s death. Moreno’s body has not been recovered, Poire said.


Famous Christian landmark tree cut down to a stump

Legend has it that the rare thorn tree on a hill in southern England had ties to the earliest days of Christianity, and pilgrims often left offerings at its base. In more recent times, local children cut sprigs each year to place on Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas dining table.

Now British police want to know who sawed the limbs off the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree, reducing it to a stump. And they want to know why.

“I’ve just driven past the site, and people are coming out in tears,” said Glastonbury Mayor John Coles.

Glastonbury, 125 miles west of London, is best known for its annual rock music festival. Its mysterious landscape — including the Glastonbury Tor hill, believed by some to have magical qualities — has drawn pagan worshippers for many years.

Coles said the nighttime attack came between Wednesday and Thursday shortly after he, the local vicar and schoolchildren participated in the annual sprig cutting for the queen’s Christmas table. The tree had no security cameras nearby.

“It could be an anti-monarchist, an anti-Christian, or someone who’s an atheist,” Coles said. “We don’t know whether it’s one person responsible or a group.”

Avon and Somerset police would not comment on the motive. No arrests have been made.