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Fourteen in court over death of 8yo diabetic girl

Six men and eight women charged over the death of an eight-year-old girl have appeared without lawyers in a Brisbane court during a review of the case.

BRISBANE COURT STOCK Fourteen people charged over an eight-year-old girl's death continue to refuse legal representation.
May 12, 2023
By Cheryl Goodenough
12 May 2023

Fourteen religious group members charged over the death of an eight-year-old girl remain behind bars as they continue to refuse legal representation.

The six men and eight women appeared before the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday for a case review.

Elizabeth Struhs died at the family home in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, on January 7 last year after her parents and 12 others allegedly withheld her diabetes medication for six days.

Instead they prayed next to her and did not alert authorities as the girl’s health deteriorated, police say.

Elizabeth’s body was found in the Rangeville home on January 8.

Her father 51-year-old Jason Richard Struhs and Brendan Luke Stevens, 61, were indicted on a charge of murder during a previous court appearance.

The other 12 – including the child’s 48 year-old mother Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs – were indicted on a manslaughter charge.

The other accused are Zachary Alan Struhs, Loretta Mary Stevens, Therese Maria Stevens, Andrea Louise Stevens, Acacia Naree Stevens, Camellia Claire Stevens, Alexander Francis Stevens, Sebastian James Stevens, Keita Courtney Martin, Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch and Samantha Emily Schoenfisch.

The youngest is 20 years old while the eldest is 66.

The women sat together in the dock on Friday, while the men sat among corrective services officers in the jury box.

After the court proceedings they chatted to one another, most smiling and appearing to be in high spirits. 

In response to questions from allocated trial judge Justice Martin Burns as to whether the accused wanted to apply for legal assistance or bail, some softly said “no” while others shook their heads.

Another judge had previously spoken at length about their rights, Justice Burns said.

He asked crown prosecutor Todd Fuller KC to give each accused a one-page document with numbers for Legal Aid, the court and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in case they needed to make contact.

Prosecutors have given the group details of the charges, but will provide a more comprehensive document and are required to disclose all material they intend to rely on during the trial.

“We need to get to the point where full disclosure has been made as quickly as possible,” Justice Burns told Mr Fuller.

Corrective services have been asked to enable the group to communicate with one another to prepare for the trial.

When Justice Burns asked how long the accused had been in custody, Jason Struhs said: “I can tell Your Honour ... I’ve been in custody for ... two days short of 16 months.”

His wife was arrested on the same day, while the others have been behind bars since July last year.

“We have to move as quickly as we can, Mr Fuller,” Justice Burns said.

Whether the trial will be held in Brisbane or Toowoomba, and before a jury or judge only, will be discussed later,  he said.

Another case review is expected on June 16.

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