Convicted fundamentalist will answer to 'higher court'

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- A self-proclaimed minister, convicted of child abuse for turning to prayer instead of medicine to heal his dying daughter, said he acted properly and will meet his accusers in heaven for a final judgment.

'Our judge is the one that counts,' Jon Lybarger, 41, said.


'I did what I thought was right.'

Lybarger, a fundamentalist Christian and former Illinois state trooper, was convicted by a jury of felony child abuse late Thursday for refusing to seek treatment for his 5-week-old daughter, Jessica Ann. She died of pneumonia March 15in a house across the street from an Estes Park, Colo., hospital.

Attorneys for Lybarger, who faces up to eight years in prison, said they planned to appeal the verdict.

The lawyers said they will ask that Lybarger be placed on probation if the appeal fails, and prosecutor Stuart VanMeveren said putting the father of nine surviving children behind bars would be inappropriate.

'I see no point in incarceration,' VanMeveren said, adding the guilty verdict would warn parents that 'if your children are sick, you have a duty to properly care for them.'

Lybarger, who remains free on $5,000 bond, said before the trial that 'the Lord is my defense,' but District Judge William Dressel ruled Lybarger's religious beliefs could not be used as a defense.


His lawyers then argued Lybarger did not know Jessica Ann's illness was serious.

'My Father's court is in heaven and we will all go there one of these days,' Lybarger said following the verdict. 'My God is still in control ... I can walk with my head held high.'

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