ALBANY, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Wenona and Travis Rossiter, convicted of manslaughter in the death of their 12-year-old daughter, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday.
Syble Rossiter died in February 2013 of a treatable form of diabetes. Her parents opted to use prayer instead of medicine for the girl, and were convicted in the case in November.
The Rossiters are members of the Church of the First Born, whose members believe traditional medical treatment is sinful.
The courtroom was full of friends and family of the Rossiters, and it was silent as the judge presided over their sentencing.
Before the judge handed down his sentence, both parents spoke.
A tearful, emotional Wenona Rossiter said, “There are no words to the pain a parent feels when she loses a child. … There is not a day that goes by that I wish I could go back, I would’ve known I could change something.”
She also said, “When you lose a child, you lose the biggest part of yourself.”
Travis Rossiter said his daughter “was one of the best things in my life.”
The judge merged the sentences for first- and second-degree manslaughter into one, handing down 10 years for each parent.
After they were sentenced, her attorney Mark Heslinga told KOIN 6 News, “The trial was very difficult for her and I wasn’t surprised to see her get emotional.”
Three years ago, Oregon changed its law to exclude spiritual treatment as a defense against all homicide and manslaughter charges. That means parents like the Rossiters are now subject to mandatory sentencing under Measure 11.
Judge Murphy imposed the 10-year sentences despite their defense attorneys efforts to exclude applying the stricter sentencing guidelines.
“It treats everybody the same despite the fact everybody is not the same, that somebody who intentionally tortures a child is going to be treated the same as a mother who is a good mother in all respects, but because of religious beliefs hasn’t provided medical care for the child,” Heslinga said.
Two other childrens of the Rossiters are being remanded to guardianship. They will not be allowed to be with friends and family since that would put them in the same church – and possibly dangerous situation – as Syble.
In May, Judge Daniel Murphy ruled that if their beliefs compelled their actions, that’s a form of motive evidence.
The trial lasted about a week before the jury deliberated for four hours before convicting the Rossiters.