A Pennsylvania couple who say they don't believe in conventional medicine and failed to take their ailing newborn son to the hospital are now facing involuntary manslaughter charges after the infant died. NBC News cites a release from the office of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro that lays out how state police responded to a 911 call on Jan. 20 from the home of Amy and Drew Hoenigke, where Amy Hoenigke, 34, said she'd found her son dead in his bassinet, per a criminal complaint. Investigators determined, however, that the baby—born at home Jan. 14, with the assistance of family friend Brigitte Meckes, 47—had died three days before they arrived on the scene.
Authorities say Amy Hoenigke eventually told them that the baby started showing signs of distress after he was born and was "turning blue," and that, while her husband traveled for work, she and Meckes "utilized a peppermint oil infuser and attempted to create a makeshift breathing tube from a water bottle" to try to help the baby, per the release. It notes that, lacking proper medical care, the baby died two days or so after the birth. When investigators asked Amy Hoenigke why she didn't take the baby to a hospital, she said she doesn't believe in modern medicine, adding that she and her family live an alternative lifestyle that doesn't hew to time frames or acknowledge the days of the week, per a complaint. The couple also feared their 2-year-old daughter—who's unvaccinated and lacks a birth certificate, as she was also born at home, per the Daily Beast—would be taken from them.
Police say they found a makeshift wooden coffin in the home, but that Drew Hoenigke told them he couldn't bury his son because the ground was frozen. The Beast makes another startling revelation: The Hoenigkes had another infant who'd died, and whose remains were buried behind the home of Amy Hoenigke's parents a few towns away, per the affidavit. It's not clear what happened in that situation. As horrifying as this case is, legal experts notes it's "no slam dunk—and raises difficult questions about when, exactly, bad parenting becomes a crime," per the Beast. "The parents miscalculated in a horrible way. They did not make the right choices here," says Lawrence Gostin, a director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law Center. "But to bring the strong arm of the law—I don't know if it helps the situation."
Shapiro thinks it's a little more clear-cut. "These individuals neglected their responsibilities to care for an innocent child," he says in the release. "By failing to get him appropriate medical care, this baby needlessly suffered and died." In addition to the involuntary manslaughter charge, the Hoenigkes and Meckes face charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person. The Hoenigkes, who've been released from custody, will have a preliminary hearing next month. Meckes, who's being held at Columbia County Prison, has a $150,000 bond. Much more on this story from the Beast. (Read more involuntary manslaughter stories.)