DA says Wisconsin girl's diabetic death was 'needless'

WAUSAU, Wis. -- The mother of a diabetic 11-year-old girl knew her daughter was dying but disregarded advice from other family members to seek medical attention, prosecutors said Saturday.

Leilani Neumann, 41, told a friend that "she sensed the spirit or Angel of Death present at her home" shortly before her daughter Madeline died, Marathon County assistant district attorney LaMont Jacobson said in opening statements.

He told the jury the case wasn't about religious freedom or parental rights, but "about the needless suffering and death of an 11-year-old child" who only needed some fluids and insulin to get better.

Neumann and her husband, Dale, were charged with second-degree reckless homicide in Madeline's death on Easter Sunday in 2008. Dale Neumann, 47, was scheduled to face trial July 23. If convicted, they each face up to 25 years in prison.

An autopsy determined that Madeline died from undiagnosed diabetic ketoacidosis, which left her with too little insulin in her body. Court records said she likely had some symptoms of the disease for months.

Prosecutors contend any reasonable parent would have known something was wrong. They said Neumann, who believes healing comes from God, recklessly killed her daughter.

Her attorney, Gene Linehan, disputed Saturday that the girl showed apparent symptoms, saying that people who saw the girl a day before she died could see "no indication of any illness whatsoever."

The girl, who was called Kara by her parents, was naturally thin and they thought some of her symptoms in the days leading to her death were attributed to puberty, Linehan said.

Authorities said the girl couldn't talk or walk, went into a coma and died in the family's rural Weston home. The girl showed early symptoms of diabetes by March 2008, growing tired, weak and was "extremely thirsty," the prosecutor said.

Jacobson told jurors that hours before her death, Madeline was "completely helpless."

Neumann sent an e-mail saying, "Help, our daughter needs emergency prayer," but refused advice from her mother-in-law to rush the girl to a doctor," he said.

Linehan said his client "honestly believes that she was doing the right thing for her daughter" and said prayer was a way of life in the family.

"They pray when they go to work. They pray at work. They pray when they get their tax forms," he told the jury. "It is going to be a sad case. There are no winners here: There's a dead child, a mother with the loss of a child."

The first witnesses will testify Monday.