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Faith Healing Adherent Convicted In Son’s Diabetes Death

October 28, 1988

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ The former deacon of a faith-healing sect was convicted Thursday of manslaughter in his son’s death from untreated juvenile diabetes.

Bobby Dan Norman, 43, quietly hugged his wife, Judith, following the verdict by a Spokane County Superior Court jury that deliberated about 10 hours after nearly three weeks of testimony.

The Normans were members of a nameless, Christian faith healing sect that eschewed conventional medicine and practiced strict discipline of children and adults.

Witnesses testified that the Normans’ 10-year-old son, Aaron, was spanked and harshly interrogated by his father and sect founder Doug Kleber the day before he died at the family’s home near Spokane on Dec. 20, 1987.

The beatings were an effort to get the boy to confess sins, which the men believed were making him ill, witnesses testified.

A doctor testified that the beatings could have worsened the boy’s illness. Norman admitted under questioning by Colwell that he was responsible for his son’s death.

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Clark Colwell declined to say whether he will ask for a sentence outside the standard 31- to 41-month range for first- degree manslaughter.

Norman’s lawyer, Roger Peven, said it’s too early to consider an appeal, noting that the Normans originally were both charged with first-degree murder, but only Bobby Norman was tried for manslaughter.

In closing arguments, Colwell depicted Norman as a ″fanatic″ who recklessly failed to seek medical attention for his son.

Peven argued that Norman was a man whose life was controlled by sect leaders and said religious fervor blinded his client to the boy’s illness.

Sect leaders were seen as prophets, and were consulted on matters ranging from car purchases to sexual relations, testimony indicated.

Kleber and former Spokane pastor Jeffrey Siegel, both 34 and from Champaign-Urbana, Ill., pleaded guilty earlier to second-degree criminal mistreatment. Three former elders face trial on similar charges next year.

Before the sect disbanded in February, it claimed about 300 adult members in Washington, Illinois, Texas and New Jersey.