Group believed eight-year-old ‘would rise from diabetes death’, court hears

Group believed eight-year-old ‘would rise from diabetes death’, court hears

An eight-year-old girl watched “joyously” as her father was baptised into a faith that would soon convince him to fatally withhold medical care and await her resurrection, a judge has heard.

Elizabeth Struhs died at the family home in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, on January 7, 2022, after her parents and 12 others allegedly withheld her diabetes insulin medication for six days.

Crown prosecutor Caroline Marco said Elizabeth’s parents and other defendants were present during Elizabeth’s last days and on January 8 after she had died in the night.

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”They gathered to pray for the rising of Elizabeth. They believed God would raise her from the dead so she could walk amongst them again,” Marco said.

The religious group of six men and eight women, who called themselves ‘the Saints’, faced their second day at trial today after they refused to enter pleas in Brisbane Supreme Court.

Elizabeth’s father, Jason Richard Struhs, 52, and the group’s leader, Brendan Luke Stevens, 62, are charged with murder while her mother, Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs, 49, and the others are charged with manslaughter.

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Marco said Jason Struhs had been under continuous pressure from the other defendants to join the Saints and reject man-made treatments.

“Pressure was brought on Jason Struhs to change … to persuade him not to administer insulin under their fundamental tenet that God heals,” Marco said.

Marco described the Saints as a “small congregation with extreme beliefs” that had split off from a church in Brisbane.

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Jason Struhs agreed to be baptised into the Saints in August 2021 while his wife was serving a five-month sentence for neglecting to provide Elizabeth with medical treatment in 2019, which nearly proved fatal.

“In the video (of the baptism), Your Honour can see Mr Struhs submerged in a trough of water and Mr Stevens speaking in tongues … members of the congregation singing and see Elizabeth’s joy at her father being baptised,” Marco said.

Marco said Jason Struhs continued to provide insulin for Elizabeth’s type-1 diabetes, leading to further attempts to get him to stop.

Stevens wrote to Kerrie Struhs in November 2021 saying he was praying for Jason Struhs “not to put off” having God heal Elizabeth.

Jason Struhs told police he decided he could not be “half and half” about his faith and stopped giving Elizabeth her rapid-acting insulin on January 1, 2022.

He told police after this made the Saints “happy” he ceased her remaining slow-release insulin doses.

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Marco said Elizabeth continued to get sicker and police recovered deleted photos that depicted the congregation gathered around her unconscious body.

The other accused are Zachary Alan Struhs, Loretta Mary Stevens, Therese Maria Stevens, Andrea Louise Stevens, Acacia Naree Stevens, Camellia Claire Stevens, Alexander Francis Stevens, Sebastian James Stevens, Keita Courtney Martin, Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch and Samantha Emily Schoenfisch.

The youngest was 21 years old while the eldest was 67.

Marco is due to continue her opening address on Friday with the judge-only trial expected to go for 11 weeks.

Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

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