Judge dismisses case against pastor in 2-year-old's death

DA says he plans to re-file charge

Judge dismisses case against pastor...

JEFFERSON TWP., Pa. - The leader of a church that rejects modern medicine won't stand trial on a charge that he failed to report suspected abuse before the death of his two-year-old granddaughter.

The Rev. Rowland George Foster appeared in a courtroom in Jefferson Township, Berks County, on Wednesday for his preliminary hearing on a third-degree felony charge of failing to report or refer an incident of child abuse when he was a mandatory reporter.

Magisterial District Judge Andrea Book said there's not enough evidence to support allegations that Foster, 72, broke state law by not alerting authorities before his granddaughter, Ella Grace, died of pneumonia on November 8, 2016.

The girl's parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, are accused of failing to seek medical treatment for their daughter before her death inside the family's home in Upper Tulpehocken Township.

The Fosters told investigators that, because of their religion as members of Faith Tabernacle Church in Lebanon, they believe in the power of prayer over medicine and doctors.

Rowland Foster is the church's pastor. He told investigators that he observed Ella Grace just prior to her death and said that she was not talking much and "sounded sick."

At the time of her death, authorities said Ella would have had extreme difficulty breathing and a fever of around 104 degrees. They said the girl almost certainly would have survived had she been given a simple course of antibiotics.

All pastors have a duty to report abuse, said Berks County District Attorney John Adams, who charged Rowland Foster in March.

Adams told 69 News on Wednesday that his office is planning to re-file the dismissed charge, saying that it believes the court's interpretation of the facts was incorrect.

Jonathan and Grace Foster, who were arrested in February, are awaiting trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor.

In the meantime, the couple's six other children are in the custody of Berks Children and Youth Services.

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