INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A trial is underway in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a Jackson County woman who died after delivering a still-born baby at her home, as the woman’s parents say that their daughter was brainwashed by a cult that convinced her not to get medical help.
Misty Horner died on January 9, 2007, a little over a month after she gave birth to a still-born baby at her home. She was not taken to a hospital because of her and husband Caleb Horner’s religious beliefs.
According to investigators, Caleb Horner performed an emergency episiotomy on Misty Horner with a pair of scissors as the baby, named Sydney, was born dead and in a breach position. Investigators say that Misty Horner was septic and suffering from a terrible infection.
Misty Horner’s parents say that they were kept away from their daughter, but when they finally saw her she was clearly dying. They asked Caleb Horner to take their daughter to the hospital, but they say he refused, calling the situation “God’s will.”
Witnesses say that at one point, Misty Horner put her clothes on to go to the hospital, but was convinced that she just needed to believe in God’s healing power.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges in the case, saying that they weren’t convinced that Misty Horner had actually wanted to seek medical treatment. But her parents insist that was because their daughter was brainwashed. Their lawsuit names John and Caleb Horner, as well as other church members.
In court on Friday, the line of questioning focused on John Horner’s religious teachings, and why his followers don’t believe in modern medicine. John Horner describes himself as an “apostle,” and is the head of his self-created church.
Attorneys for Misty Horner’s parents claim that John Horner was responsible for more deaths than just their daughter and grandchild – they say that his teachings led to the deaths of six other babies as well.
Caleb Horner is a former Lee’ Summit Police Officer who was fired in June of 2008. He has sued the city, claiming that his firing was because of his religious beliefs, while the city said it was because he failed to notify authorities at the first sign of Misty Horner’s death.
Witnesses testified that church members prayed over Misty Horner’s body for hours because they believed that prayer can raise the dead.
The testimony was emotional for Misty Horner’s parents, as her father left the courtroom in tears at one point. John and Caleb Horner and another church member, Amber Leather, are representing themselves in court.
The trial is expected to wrap up early next week.