Longform

Born to Believe

Page 2 of 9

Mindy had been born at home, just like her mother. So it was only natural that she, too, would want to give birth to her own children in the privacy of her home. Seventeen months earlier, she had given birth to a healthy young baby girl named Tiana Mae with no complications whatsoever.

On February 9, 1999, she went into labor with her second child. The Glorys kept no medications in the house save for some herbal remedies and prenatal vitamins. Two "helpers" from the Church of the First Born were on hand to aid in the delivery. Although the women were not certified as midwives, one of the helpers, Esther Byers, later told investigators from the Mesa County Sheriff's Department that she had participated in the delivery of 148 children.

After fourteen hours, Warren Trevette was born. By all accounts, it was a normal delivery. Weighing nine pounds and four ounces, Warren seemed like a fat, healthy baby, and he began nursing even before the umbilical cord was cut. In the days following their son's birth, the Glorys' trailer overflowed with well-wishers. Friends and relatives stopped by to look at the new baby and bring covered dishes of food.

Mindy nursed the baby herself and supplemented his diet with Carnation Good Start. Although he had a good appetite that first week, seven to ten days after he was born, he developed a runny nose and the sniffles. Everyone assumed the infant had a touch of the flu, since Mindy and her husband were just getting over the flu themselves when he was born.

Mindy's mother-in-law, Beverly Peterson, midwife Esther Byers and other female friends helped take care of the infant, changing his diapers, feeding him, occasionally suctioning the phlegm from his nose or mouth with a little syringe. Several noticed that he seemed to have lost a little weight and was having a hard time catching his breath. Esther Byers told deputies the child's lips had looked a little blue, but then they would "pink up."

On Thursday or Friday of that second week, Mindy and Josh became concerned enough about their son's well-being to ask the elders of the church to come pray for him. The elders anointed the baby's head with olive oil, then bowed their heads and began to pray.

By Sunday morning, it looked like their prayers had been answered and the baby was going to be fine. Warren started "chowing down," his father would later recall. Joshua was so relieved that he went to church with his father-in-law and thanked the congregation for all their prayers. Afterward the pair went to Arby's and got some food to take back to Mindy and the others at the trailer.

That afternoon, the baby suddenly took a turn for the worse, and the Glorys called for the elders again. When a call comes in like that, "you go," elder Calvin David Raff later told an investigator from the sheriff's department. "Most members don't call the elders to come for a runny nose. They don't abuse that privilege." Warren's head was again anointed with olive oil, and the elders and family members began to pray.

Soon after the prayer session was over, Warren started to gag. Thinking he needed to burp, Marvin Peterson picked up the infant and patted him on his back, then gently laid him back down on the couch. But the baby's stillness must have alarmed him. He leaned his face down next to Warren's and listened for breathing. Nothing.

The minutes that followed were extremely confusing; everyone gave a slightly different account when questioned by sheriff's deputies. Someone apparently advised Marvin Peterson to call McClean's Funeral Home. In the old days, when they had a death in the family, First Born members would simply call the funeral home; the mortuary, in turn, would contact the coroner and send someone out to remove the body. But the law has changed, and so William McClean advised Marvin Peterson to call 911. The emergency dispatcher instructed the grandfather on how to perform emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation until an ambulance arrived. Mindy ran into the bathroom and began crying. "I couldn't handle it," she would later tell deputies.

It took paramedics about nine minutes to get to the trailer. When they arrived, they found the baby lying in a blanket on the couch with family members and several church elders hovering nearby. Everybody had "cried their eyes out" when they realized the infant had died, but by the time the ambulance arrived, they'd composed themselves. Mike Kelley of the Grand Junction Fire Department later told Deputy J. Warner that he felt as if he had walked into a funeral. "'I've been doing this for nineteen years, and I've seen some strange shit, but that was really strange,'" Warner quoted him as saying. "Mr. Kelley thought it strange that there were so many people present and they all seemed relatively calm."

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Eileen Welsome