'God ... makes no mistakes': Warned baby could die, couple rejected treatment, police say

LANSING - A Lansing woman refused to seek medical treatment for her newborn daughter even after a midwife warned that the infant's jaundice could lead to brain damage or death, a police detective testified last week in court.

The mother told the midwife her baby was fine, and that "God ... makes no mistakes," the detective said.

Two days later the infant was dead.

The woman, 30-year-old Rachel Joy Piland, and her husband, 36-year-old Joshua Barry Piland, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Attempts to reach Rachel and Joshua Piland were not successful. No one answered the door at their Lansing home Wednesday evening. Court records indicate they have requested court-appointed attorneys.

Authorities only learned of the child's death after Rachel Piland's brother called from California and told police a baby had died at the couple's home, Lansing Police Detective Peter Scaccia said in a hearing that led to the charges.

Scaccia then described a series of events that ended with the child's death.

Abigail Piland was born about 9:50 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, at the Pilands' home one block east of the Lansing Country Club.

A midwife and her assistant helped with the delivery. The midwife, who had previously helped deliver two of Rachel Piland's children, expressed no concerns about the child's health when she and the assistant left around midnight.

But when the midwife saw the baby on Feb. 7, her assessment changed.

Abigail appeared jaundiced, and the midwife advised Rachel Piland to take the child to a pediatrician or an emergency room, Scaccia said. "She told Piland the baby could suffer brain damage or die if not properly cared for.

"Rachel declined to seek any medical treatment for Abigail, stating God makes no mistakes," Scaccia said. "She indicated to the midwife that the baby was fine."

The midwife scheduled another appointment for the next day, but Rachel Piland later cancelled it.

On Feb. 8, Abigail wasn't eating properly and coughed up blood.

Rachel Piland then put the two-day-old child "near a window wearing just a diaper utilizing a hair dryer to keep her warm," the detective said.

At one point Piland's mother, Rebecca Kerr, told her daughter that Abigail's skin was "not the right color."

"Rachel told Rebecca about (the midwife's) concern," the detective said. "And then Rachel went to listen to sermons."

On the morning of Feb. 9, the mother and daughter noticed blood coming out of Abigail's nose, and that the baby wasn't eating or breathing well.

Rebecca Kerr wanted to call for help but "Rachel would not allow her," Scaccia said. Around 11 a.m., Rachel Piland found her daughter "lifeless and not breathing" in a bouncy seat.

She took the baby to Joshua Piland — her husband and Abigail's father — who had been asleep.

"He attempted one rescue breath but had no success," the detective said. "He did not want to perform CPR because he only knew how to perform it on adults, not children.

"They then brought Abigail upstairs to pray for her. Joshua continued to massage Abigail, attempting to get her good air. Both Josh and (Rachel) reached out to friends and fellow church members to come to their home and pray for Abigail’s resurrection, but never called the police.”

When police later arrived at the home they "went upstairs and found a baby that had passed away and three other people praying for it," Scaccia said.

Dr. Patrick Hansma, a medical examiner at Sparrow Hospital, later conducted an autopsy and found that Abigail died from unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus. Both conditions are related to jaundice.

"He said if treated, most likely she would've been alive," the detective testified.

The husband and wife were each charged with a single count of involuntary manslaughter and released after posting $75,000 bond on Sept. 21. Their next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5 in Lansing's 54A District Court. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

At the time of their daughter's death, the Pilands appear to have been involved with a Lansing-based bible school called Faith Tech Ministries, which describes itself online as nondenominational but similar to other “full gospel” or “Pentecostal” organizations.

Joshua Piland has posted online videos of missionary trips to Kenya with the group, and in 2016 he was listed as a speaker at a Divine Healing Conference, organized by Faith Tech Ministries.

His LinkedIn profile indicates he left the organization in February, the same month his daughter died.

No one at Faith Tech Ministries answered the phone Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Piland worked for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation from 2009 until sometime this month, MEDC Executive Vice President Lynne Feldpausch said. She would not say which day was Piland's last, or why he left the agency. Piland on Wednesday was still listed as a senior project manager in the organization's online directory.

Contact Christopher Haxel at 517-377-1261 or chaxel@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


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