Sick girl's mom said she expected 'divine healing'

WAUSAU, Wis. -- Hours after an 11-year-old girl died of untreated diabetes, her mother told police she never considered taking her tired, pale and skinny daughter to a doctor for what she believed was a spiritual attack.

Leilani Neumann said in a videotaped interview played Wednesday at her trial that the Lord was going to take care of her daughter and all she needed was prayer.

"It did scare me with her being cold," Neumann told an Everest Metro Police Department detective. "I just believed the Lord is going to heal her. I never thought she was close to death."

Neumann, 41, is on trial for second-degree reckless homicide for not seeking medical care for Madeline, who died March 23, 2008, at their Weston home.

Prosecutors contend a reasonable parent would have known something was wrong with Madeline but that her mother ignored obvious symptoms of poor health instead of rushing her to a doctor.

If convicted, Neumann faces up to 25 years in prison.

In the interview, Neumann told police she didn't oppose doctors and medicine but that Madeline hadn't seen a doctor since she was 3 and had never been sick. The family believes in "divine healing" by trusting the Lord, the mother said.

"I just felt that, you know, my faith was being tested. I never went through an experience like that before in my life and I just thought, man, this is the ultimate test," she said. "We just started praying and praying and praying over her."

The interview occurred several hours after Madeline died. Her mother told the detective she believed her daughter would come back to life.

"It may be crazy to you but that's why I'm not crying and wailing right now," Neumann said.

She also said her husband briefly considered getting their daughter to a doctor. "I said, `No, the Lord's going to heal her.' I believed that God was going to just restore our daughter," she said.

Neumann was expected to take the witness stand in her own defense Thursday, said her attorney, Gene Linehan.

Earlier Wednesday, Neumann's mother-in-law, Elvira Neumann, said she advised the mother to get Madeline to a doctor on the morning the girl died after being told she was in a coma.

"I told her that she better get her to a doctor or hospital real fast," the mother-in-law said. "She wanted us to come over and pray with them to get Kara well. I said, `No, we are going to church and we will pray for her there."'

Kara was Madeline's nickname.

Elizabeth Neumann, 16, said her sister was so weak the day before she died that she had to be helped to the bathroom and could only mumble her words.

The sister showed jurors how she held up Madeline and, with her father, got the girl to the bathroom.

She testified that her sister seemed "cranky but otherwise fine" the morning before she died. But she said her sister's condition quickly deteriorated until she couldn't talk or walk and urinated on a couch.

"We were just very confused about all of a sudden she was just very tired and weak, and we didn't understand," Elizabeth testified. "We were very concerned, and we were praying for her. We didn't know what was going on. ... I thought she was going to come out of it, and it wasn't anything serious."

Elizabeth said she noticed a week earlier that Madeline was tired and drank an unusual amount of water. Doctors have testified that those are both symptoms of diabetes.

Jennifer Peaslee, a regular member of the Neumanns' Bible study group, testified that she and her husband went to the Neumanns' home the day Madeline died and saw her laying on a bathroom floor unconscious.

Peaslee tried to talk to the girl but got no response.

"I was in shock," Peaslee said. "I didn't expect to see Kara like that."

She never considered advising the family to get the girl to a doctor. "Because the Neumanns believe in faith, in God healing rather than the medical doctors," she said. "If you have enough faith, the Lord can do anything."

Peaslee's husband carried Madeline downstairs and placed her on a mattress on the floor. There, the couple joined the Neumanns and their three other children in prayer, and found Biblical phrases related to healing, Peaslee said.

Peaslee said she and her husband left about 1:30 p.m. Madeline died about an hour later.