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Child Dies After Adoptive Parents Prayed Instead of Calling 911

Photograph by Facebook

On the night of Sunday, March 29, 2015, a Minnesota couple returned home from an out-of-town wedding to find Seth, their 7-year-old son, laying on the floor. Seth did not respond to their arrival. Instead of calling 911, they prayed for his health. They then picked him up, brought him to the table for dinner, cut up two bites of pizza and put it into his mouth. After "dinner" they gave him a bath and laid him to sleep on a mattress in their room in a diaper and long-sleeved shirt without a blanket or pillow.

The next morning, the couple, Timothy, 38, and Sarah Johnson, 39, woke up to find him unresponsive and covered in vomit. That's when Sarah called for paramedics while Timothy performed CPR on Seth.

But it was too little, too late. Seth was dead.

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Turns out, he had been sick for weeks. His parents noticed he was shaking and had trouble sleeping and eating several weeks ago. When he died, the medics found numerous bruises on his body and lesions on his heels (the parents told law enforcement that Seth was always hurting himself and throwing himself down the stairs).

They refused to do what most parents would have done and take him to a doctor.

But they never sought medical attention. The parents told police they had "issues with going to doctors" and were concerned a doctor would put Seth on medications. They treated Seth's wounds with Neosporin and "medical honey" while doing their own personal research, which led the Johnsons to diagnose Seth with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. They also said Seth was previously diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and reactive attachment disorder, but the clinic had no record of this diagnosis or treatment.

A pathologist determined Seth had pancreatitis and acute sepsis.

The Johnsons have now been charged with neglect of a child resulting in substantial physical harm, a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, both parents face a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

Seth was in their foster care at age 3 and later adopted when he was 4.

"They refused to do what most parents would have done and take him to a doctor," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. "Worse, the Johnsons went out of town to attend a wedding three days before Seth died. They left him in the care of his 16-year-old brother. The young man called his parents Sunday morning, telling them that Seth stopped talking on Saturday, that he could not get out of bed and had not been eating. The parents decided to leave the gathering right then, until the 16-year-old called back and said he was eating some Cheerios. They finally arrived home that night."

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“We cannot comprehend how a parent would leave a very sick 7-year-old to the care of a 16-year-old so they can go away for a weekend,” Freeman continued. “Nor can we comprehend how the parents refused to come home Sunday morning to care for their sick child when they were notified of his serious condition. Nor can we comprehend why the parents did not call an ambulance Sunday night to immediately obtain medical help when they finally got home.”

In November 2016, another parent was charged in her son's death after choosing to use essential oils instead of antibiotics. The 7-year-old had meningitis and pneumonia.

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