Longform

Born to Believe

Page 4 of 9

When sheriff's deputies arrived at her home, she was lying on a single bed in the front room, covered with a sheet. Her body was taken to Montrose Memorial Hospital, where Dr. Thomas Canfield performed an autopsy. He realized immediately that Angela didn't have the flu. Her appendix had ruptured and she had died from peritonitis, an infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity.

The case was forwarded to Mike Stern, who was then the district attorney of Montrose County. He was appalled by the circumstances of Angela's death. "It was a tragedy, a tragic loss," he says.

Stern struggled with the question of whether the couple should be criminally prosecuted. He knew that there would be obstacles: contradictory laws, as well as the fact that the social worker and nurse had apparently failed to detect Angela's life-threatening condition. And then there were the parents themselves -- good, decent people. "They were not on a par with armed robbers," he says. "They thought they were acting in their daughter's best interest."

Ultimately, Stern decided to charge the Sweets with one felony count of child abuse. The couple tried to get the case dismissed on constitutional grounds but were unsuccessful. Eventually they received a three-year deferred sentence.

After reviewing the file Mike Stern had compiled almost a decade before on Angela Sweet and reading the case law, Frank Daniels invited Mindy and Josh Glory to his office on the second floor of the Mesa County courthouse annex. Josh, then 23, was handsome in a Garth Brooks sort of way, with jet-black hair, tight blue jeans and a cowboy hat. Mindy, 22, had long blond hair and open, regular features. Both were tall and slender. "They were the nicest couple you'd ever want to meet," says Daniels.

The Glorys were firm in their belief that what they had done was in the best interest of their son. And now they were prepared for the worst. "They have a belief system that is infallible," says Daniels. "If they pray and the child gets better, it's God's will. If they pray and the child dies, then God is calling the person back home."

The couple's ties to the Church of the First Born stretched back at least five generations, and their contact with the medical profession had been minimal.

Josh was a carpenter and had injured himself several times on the job. Once, after he cut his finger, his boss ordered him to the hospital to have it stitched up. But the next time he injured himself -- accidentally cutting his leg with an electrical saw -- he went home instead. His boss later told sheriff's deputies that he thought Josh -- "his second best worker" -- would have been back on the job the following day if he had received proper medical treatment.

In Oklahoma, where they lived for a while before returning to Grand Junction, Josh had fallen and broken two ribs. Mindy had called for the elders. "My husband was pretty much gone, and we thought that his ribs had punctured one of his lungs since he couldn't breathe and he was gasping for air," Mindy told a sheriff's investigator. "Then after the elders prayed for him, he was lots better." In that same interview, Mindy admitted that she was a bit frightened of doctors and hospitals. "I just don't like 'em," she says.

When the deputies went to the Glorys' trailer to collect evidence, they found a note tucked into Josh's Bible citing passages in which the faithful were warned away from doctors. The apostle Mark speaks of a woman who "had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered but rather grew worse" and was healed only after she touched Jesus's garment. In II Chronicles, a severely diseased king who "sought not to the lord, but to the physicians" wound up dying at a relatively young age.

Although Frank Daniels was impressed by the candor of Mindy and Josh Glory, he told them he was going to have to indict them on several counts of child abuse resulting in the death of their son. The two young people seemed to take the news rather stoically. "I got the impression that they would have been disappointed if I hadn't charged them," Daniels remembers. "Martyrdom seems to be something that goes along with their actions."

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Eileen Welsome