Elizabeth Struhs’ mother was previously jailed for failing to obtain medical assistance for her child, court hears

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The mother of an eight-year-old girl who died after her insulin was refused had already served a prison sentence for failing to get medical help for her child, a court has heard.

The claim came as another of 14 members of a fringe religious group faced the Toowoomba Magistrates Court over the death of Elizabeth Struhs.

Elizabeth had type 1 diabetes and died on January 7 of diabetic ketoacidosis several days after her insulin was stopped.

Samantha Emily Schoenfisch, née Crouch, 24, was the sixth member of the group, including the child’s parents Kerrie and Jason Struhs, to stand trial for murder.

The committal hearing before Magistrate Louise Shephard was told Ms Schoenfisch told police in an interview in July that she joined the religious group known as ‘The Church’ in late 2021.

Samantha Emily Schoenfisch appeared via video link before the Toowoomba Magistrates Court.(ABC NewsKemii Maguire)

“When she joined the church group, Ms. Schoenfisch was very happy to learn that Kerrie Struhs was in jail for not getting medical assistance for her young daughter Elizabeth, as it showed that Kerrie had real faith,” said Magistrate Shephard told the court.

“She knew how sick Elizabeth was in 2019 when Elizabeth was taken to hospital by her father.

“Mrs. Schoenfisch had read in a newspaper article, and a member of the Struhs family had told her that Elizabeth had stopped breathing [in 2019] and was resuscitated and doctors were so worried they thought Elizabeth might suffer permanent injuries, such as brain damage.”

A sketch of a man with a white beard in court.
Brendan Luke Stevens has been taken into custody.(ABC NewsKemii Maguire)

The group’s leader, Brendan Luke Stevens, 60, also faced court for remand, but the remand hearing on his murder charge was adjourned until December 8.

He was remanded in custody until November 15 on a separate charge of failing to provide the necessities of life for Elizabeth in 2019.

He refused to be represented by a lawyer and was taken into custody.

The father said to have faith, the court hears

The court heard that Ms Schoenfisch had been informed on Tuesday January 4 that Elizabeth had fallen ill.

That week, she and her husband Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch, 30, also charged with murder, went to the Struhs’ home to support the family.

“Mrs Schoenfisch talked about looking after the children,” Magistrate Shephard said.

“She knew that Jason [Struhs] struggled with the situation and hugged him and told him not to be sad, to rejoice in the Lord and ‘not to lose faith,'” Magistrate Shephard said.

The court heard that during her interview with police, Ms Schoenfisch said she hoped her encouragement of Jason would help her “stand firm in her decision to take Elizabeth’s insulin off”.

“She hoped she had encouraged him to keep his faith in God,” Ms Shephard said.

The day before Elizabeth died, Ms Schoenfisch had helped care for her by trying to get the child to eat and helping her to the toilet.

In her interview, Ms Schoenfisch said on Thursday evening that Elizabeth was not walking and that when she, her husband and their children visited the Struhs’ home on Friday, Elizabeth was not breathing.

Accused labels accuse of ‘disgusting’

Ms Schoenfisch was remanded in custody and sentenced to stand trial for murder in the Supreme Court.

She pleaded not guilty and told the court the charge was “disgusting”.

“Not guilty is all I will say…there was no recklessness or indifference at any time,” Ms Schoenfisch said.

“Everything that was done was with Elizabeth’s wishes in mind, along with absolute care and love for her, her life and how she felt.

“At no time did anyone intend to hurt her or harm her or anything, and absolutely no indifference – the accusation of indifference which I find disgusting.”

“And further, the implication is that there was harm and there was absolutely no intent at any time other than full and complete healing and his wishes, which were to no longer rely on the insulin – she didn’t like it and she didn’t like it.”

Court sketch of a dark haired bearded man in his thirties wearing a sweater.
Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch’s case has been adjourned.(ABC NewsKemii Maguire)

Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch, 30, also appeared in Toowoomba Magistrates Court charged with the murder of Elizabeth Struhs.

He refused to be represented by a lawyer and his case was adjourned until November 17 to allow the magistrate to examine the evidence.

He was remanded in custody.

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