Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Pastor to face trial in granddaughter's faith-healing death

Published:Thursday | June 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Rev. Rowland Foster (centre) leaves district court after charges were dismissed against him in Bernville, Pa.

WERNERSVILLE, Pennsylvania (AP):

The pastor of a fundamentalist congregation that eschews modern medicine will stand trial on a charge he should have alerted authorities when his two-year-old granddaughter was dying of pneumonia last year, a Pennsylvania judge ruled Wednesday.

District Judge Ann Young said prosecutors put on enough evidence to send the case against Rowland Foster to the Berks County Courthouse for trial, reversing a different judge's decision in April to throw out the charge of failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

Young called the death of Ella Foster "tragic, sad, beyond belief", and told Foster she was not questioning his religious beliefs.

Her decision came after watching a video of state police questioning the elder Foster, but Young said an important part of her decision was testimony at the previous preliminary hearing by Dr Neil Hoffman, a forensic pathologist.

Hoffman did not testify Wednesday, but Young drew from the transcript of the earlier hearing in which he said the girl's condition would have been easily treatable and that if she had been, she almost certainly would have survived.

Young called Hoffman's testimony "clear, convincing and compelling".

Rowland Foster, 72, of Lebanon, ignored questions as he left the hearing, but his defence attorney, Chris Ferro, said prosecutors will have difficulty getting a conviction at trial, which will require a more stringent level of proof than was needed before Young.

"I think the commonwealth is going to be unable to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt," Ferro said.