|Zachery Swezey, 17, faith healing victim.|
Zachery Swezey was a junior in high school who, like millions of people, got appendicitis. His parents chose to ignore proven medical options that has long rendered appendicitis more of a nuisance than a life threatening decision.They watched as he writhed in pain and misery, offering nothing but empty prayers while he died the kind of death that we don't even allow a death row inmate to suffer.
The couple, Greg and JaLea Swezey, are members of the Church of the First Born, whose doctrine of faith healing has left a bloody of trail of agony and senseless death.Some of the Church of the First Born's victims include:
- Saundra Arnold, 13, who died in the 1960s after being sick 18 days with an intestinal blockage. Her mother did not believe in seeking medical treatment and offered her prayer and a deathbed baptism.
- Travis Drake, 14, of Colorado, who died in 1982 several days after his appendix ruptured and his parents chose prayer over treatment.
- Desiree Camren, 14, of Oklahoma, who died in 1987 after a week of illness because, despite the fact that her parents knew she was dying, they “believed her death was punishment from God because the father had not been attending church.”
- Newborn Lukas Long, who died several hours after being delivered by unlicensed midwives in Colorado in 1987. The baby suffered breathing problems and his parents called the church elders to pray for healing. Six hours later, he died.
- Amanda Bates, 13, who died from diabetes in 2001 because her parents refused to seek medical treatment. The Mesa County coroner ruled her death a homicide.
In most of these cases, the parents were tried and convicted on counts of manslaughter. Joshua and Mindy Glory, for example, were sentenced to 16 years in prison after their infant son died from pneumonia. But when Jason Lockhart died at age 9 of a ruptured appendix in 1982, his Church of the First Born parents were acquitted of first degree manslaughter thanks to a religious exemption law in Oklahoma that made child neglect excusable by sincerely held religious belief. Public outrage eventually led to that law being changed.
Yet in Washington state, Zachery Swezey's death will go largely unpunished because a law similar to the one on the books in Oklahoma in 2002 remains in place.Greg and JaLea Swezey were acquitted of second degree murder when a jury deadlocked, citing State Law RCW 9A.42.005 as the source of their confusion.