Testimony: Funeral plans alerted authorities to child death

Parents accused of not seeking medical treatment

READING, Pa. - Four witnesses have taken the stand in the trial of parents charged in the death of their two-year-old daughter.

The girl died of pneumonia at the family's home in Upper Tulpehocken Township in 2016, and authorities said her parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, never got her medical treatment because of their religious beliefs.

Testimony on Tuesday gave a clearer timeline of the events leading up to the child's death. Witnesses said the death came to authorities' attention after the parents started making funeral arrangements. The funeral home called the corner, who called police.

During opening statements in the trial Tuesday morning, the prosecution pointed out that Pennsylvania law overrules religious beliefs, and caregivers are required to seek medical help for children who are sick.

The defense asked the question: What did the parents actually know? Testimony reveled that the parents told first-responders they believed two-year-old Ella Grace had a common cold, not pneumonia, which was later determined as her cause of death.

Authorities have said the parents belong to the Faith Tabernacle Church, which believes in the power of prayer over medicine.

First-responders called to testify said that when they got to the Fosters' home, the child was dead on the couch and the girl's paternal grandparents were there.

The parents' emotions didn't seem fitting for having just lost a child and the parents only spoke when given the go-ahead by the grandfather, who serves as the church's pastor, according to testimony.

One witnesses told the jury that the parents said the child only started showing signs of sickness a day or two before.

The doctor who performed the autopsy also took the stand, saying the infection had obliterated the child's lungs, and in the days leading to her death, she would have likely shown signs of severe coughing, difficulty breathing and fever.

He said, in his opinion, had the child gotten medical attention, there would have been a 95-percent chance of survival.

During the fourth witness' testimony, the prosecution played a video-recorded interview with the Fosters. During the interview, the mother said she wouldn't have gotten the child medical attention, no matter the circumstances. The father said in the recording he didn't think his daughter would die, but said& he's not sure how he would have responded had he realized that was a possibility.

Weather-permitting, the trial will pick back up at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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