Albany couple accused in daughter's death

2013-08-29T19:00:00Z 2013-08-30T13:02:41Z Albany couple accused in daughter's deathBy Kyle Odegard, Albany Democrat-Herald Corvallis Gazette Times

An Albany couple have been arrested on charges of first-and second-degree manslaughter regarding the death of their 12-year-old daughter in February.

“They didn’t provide adequate and necessary (medical) care for their daughter,” said Capt. Eric Carter of Albany Police Department.

“Had they done so, she would still be alive today,” he added.

Travis Rossiter, 39, and Wenona Rossiter, 37, were arrested at about 8 a.m. Thursday and lodged in the Linn County Jail.

Their bail has been set at $50,000, and they are scheduled to appear in Linn County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon. 

Indictments filed Wednesday accuse the Rossiters of recklessly causing the death of Syble Rossiter by neglect or maltreatment. 

At about 6:15 p.m. Feb. 5, police officers responded to the Rossiter residence in the 500 block of Queen Avenue S.E. following the reported death of Syble Rossiter.

Carter said the Rossiters belong to the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist Christian sect that believes in the power of healing prayer rather than medicine, according to Democrat-Herald archives.

In 1996, a Linn County jury convicted Church of the First Born member Loyd Hays of Brownsville on charges of criminally negligent homicide. His 7-year-old son was dying of a treatable form of leukemia, and Hays was trying to cure it through prayer.

Hays and his wife, who was acquitted, were the first people in Oregon to be prosecuted for following their religion rather than taking a sick child for medical care.

Hays is the father of Wenona Hays Rossiter, said Neil Jensen, her uncle, contacted via telephone on Thursday afternoon.

The family also dealt with the courts in Linn County in 1981, when a public health nurse reported that an 8-month-old girl had an abnormal increase in brain fluid that causes the skull to swell. The girl was the aunt of Wenona Rossiter.

The girl’s family fought and eventually lost a legal battle to keep her from getting medical treatment. She underwent court-ordered surgery seven months after the condition was first noticed. 

According to a dispatch report, Syble Rossiter had been sick with the flu.

Carter said that initial report was inaccurate. He added, however, that he couldn’t get into the cause of  death, other than it was due to an untreated medical condition.

Carter said the manslaughter charges regarding a child’s death from a medical condition was very rare in Albany.

“I don’t recall us having one in the recent past. I would have to ask to see if we have even had one,” he said.

Carter added that the investigation took time because of medical reports and the sheer number of people who needed to be interviewed. 

“It was not something we wanted to rush,” Carter said. “It’s tragic that a 12-year-old girl lost her life, so we wanted to make sure we did a thorough job.”

Kyle Odegard covers public safety for the D-H. He can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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