ALBANY — A Linn County judge has ruled that the religious beliefs and practices of an Albany couple can be used as evidence when they are tried on manslaughter charges in the death of their 12-year-old daughter.
Travis and Wenona Rossiter are accused of depriving their daughter of life-saving medical care for diabetes. Syble Rossiter died in 2013.
The Rossiters are members of the Church of the First Born, whose members believe traditional medical treatment is sinful.
Their lawyers argued their beliefs should be excluded as prejudicial — that they should be tried for their actions rather than their beliefs.
Judge Daniel Murphy ruled last week that if their beliefs compelled their actions, that’s a form of motive evidence.
Murphy called the lawyers’ argument unusual and wrote that without the information about their religious convictions, the Rossiters’ actions appear “wanton and grossly reckless.”
“The court cannot find that evidence of a religious motive is more prejudicial in this case than the absence of such evidence,” Murphy wrote.
The Rossiters are scheduled for separate two-week trials, his in August, hers in November.
Murphy previously ruled in favor of a defense motion to exclude information about the death of Wenona Rossiter’s brother.
Anthony Hays, 7, died of leukemia in 1994, and his parents were accused of failing to provide medical care for him. They were the first people in Oregon to be prosecuted in such a case.
In 1996, a Linn County jury convicted his father, Loyd Hays of Brownsville, on charges of criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.
Hays’ wife, Christina Hays, was acquitted.