Faith-healing couple investigated for infant’s death

The Followers of Christ Church sign hangs in front of their church Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, in Oregon City, Ore. Dale and Shannon Hickman are charged with second-degree manslaughter. They are fourth couple prosecuted in the past two years by the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office for failing to seek adequate medical care for a child. The Hickmans are members of the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City faith-healing church. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — Sheriff’s deputies are investigating an Oregon City couple whose infant daughter died of apparent breathing complications just hours after she was born on Sunday.

Sarah Mitchell, 24, gave birth to 2 girls at her parents’ home on the 1400 block of S Lodger Road, according to Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

Sarah and her husband, 21-year-old Travis Lee Mitchell, are members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. The church is known for practicing faith-healing and rejecting medical care and modern medicine in favor of prayer and anointment with oil, the sheriff’s office said.

Family members and other people from the church were present for the births.

No one called 911 when one of the babies developed breathing problems, deputies said. Church elder Carl Hansen called the medical examiner after the infant died.

The newborn’s cause of death is currently under investigation.

The surviving baby is reportedly several weeks premature. Deputies said the infant is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Oregon Health and Science University.

In 2011, Sarah’s sister and brother-in-law, Shannon and Dale Hickman, were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter following the death of their infant son in 2009, the sheriff’s office said. The baby died less than 9 hours after being born.

Both Shannon and Dale are currently serving 6-year prison sentences. Their earliest release date is January 29, 2018.

Sarah and Shannon’s father, Walter Matthew White, is believed to be a direct descendant of Walter White, the founder of the Followers of Christ Church congregation in Oregon City.

“He turned into what I would call a dictator,” Myrna Dee Cunningham, a former member of the Followers of Christ Church, said. “They were scared to death of him.”

Anyone with information on the latest case should call 503.723.4949.

“Even though maybe it’s difficult to come forward, we think this is an excellent time to come forward and stand up for kids,” Detective Sgt. Dan Kraus said.

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