MELBOURNE, Australia — The police have charged 12 members of a religious group with murder in connection with the death of Elizabeth Struhs, 8, of Queensland state several months ago. The police say she was denied care over a period of days for an underlying medical condition.
After Elizabeth’s death in January, her parents, Jason Struhs, 50, and Kerrie Struhs, 47, were charged with murder, torture and failure to provide necessities of life. They face up to life in prison on the murder charge. They have not yet entered pleas.
On Tuesday, after a six-month investigation, the police charged 12 more people with murder, all members of a small, insular religious group. Authorities said that those people, who ranged in age from 19 to 65, were with Elizabeth before her death but did not seek help as her condition deteriorated.
The 12 people as well as Elizabeth’s parents were “present during the course of the six days that she was sick,” Detective Acting Superintendent Garry Watts of the Queensland police said on Wednesday. “They actively took part in that engagement and they did not provide any medical assistance that the child required over those six days.”
The police said they believe Elizabeth died Jan. 7 at her family’s home, but emergency medical workers were not contacted until the afternoon of the following day.
Footage released by the police showed officers raiding a house in Toowoomba early Tuesday and arresting 12 people inside.
Elizabeth’s sister Jayde Struhs, 24, has spoken out against her parents’ religious group.
The oldest of eight children, Ms. Struhs said she left home to distance herself from her parents and the group at age 16 when she realized she was a lesbian.
The group did not celebrate Christmas, believed members’ sole purpose was to serve God and did not accept medical intervention, she said.
“No outside help, no medicines, no Panadol, no doctors, dentists, anything,” she said in an interview. “It was all ‘God will heal.’”
She added that the group said they had no name and just declared themselves to be “the people of God or Jesus.”
She described her sister as a “really bright little 8-year-old” who loved pranks, and said she was diabetic and required insulin. The police have not specified the untreated medical condition that led to Elizabeth’s death.
Members of her extended family were “shattered and heartbroken” when they learned of the death, Ms. Struhs wrote in a GoFundMe she started after Elizabeth’s death to raise money to support her other siblings.
“We have faced the brutal reality that the people who should have protected her did not, and we may never know the full extent of what took place,” she wrote.
Charging 14 people with murder over the death of a single child was highly unusual, Superintendent Watts, the detective, said. “I certainly haven’t seen it in my almost 40 years of policing.”