Lawsuit blames religious group for woman’s death after stillbirth

A Kingsville, Mo., woman’s parents want a jury to hold her partner and his religious group responsible for letting her die without medical help after unlicensed midwives allegedly cut her with dirty scissors to deliver a breech baby.

The details of Misty Mansfield’s labor and then death 31 days later in 2007 are unfolding in a Jackson County civil trial that began last week and could go to the jury as early as Wednesday.

In the middle of the trial, one of the midwives, Wendi Nield of Blue Springs, agreed Thursday to settle the case for $300,000, but she denies liability, according to court records.

Darrell and Gail Mansfield filed the wrongful-death lawsuit in 2009 on behalf of their daughter and grandchild Sydney Mansfield, who was stillborn after at least four days of labor.

Defendants include Caleb Horner, a former Lee’s Summit police officer, who assisted in the botched delivery. The lawsuit says he and Mansfield had a religious wedding ceremony but weren’t legally married, and court documents use her maiden name.

Testimony and evidence in the wrongful-death case allege that Mansfield was caught up in a religious group that prohibits medical care, instead relying on God to heal.

The Mansfields’ attorney, Daniel Thomas of the Humphrey, Farrington & McClain law firm, declined to comment while the trial is ongoing.

The Mansfields are suing Caleb Horner and his brother John Horner, who are representing themselves at the trial. Other defendants are alleged midwife Amber Leathers of El Dorado Springs, Mo.; Carol Balizet, an author who promotes faith healing and home births; and three ministries in Texas and Colorado.

The lawsuit alleges that Nield and Leathers told Mansfield that it was common and normal for a delivery to last four or five days. It accuses the defendants of ignoring “clear physical signs” that her baby was breech and then cutting her vagina with dirty household scissors.

Sydney was stillborn on Dec. 6, 2006. The defendants then failed to adequately help Mansfield or give her information that would let her make an informed decision about her health care, according to the lawsuit.

The Horners also prevented family and friends from visiting her, the lawsuit says.

A month after the birth, Mansfield died when blood poisoning and infection reached her heart and uterus, according to the death certificate. A friend told The Star in January that members of Mansfield’s group spent several hours trying to raise her from the dead.

The Jackson County prosecutor at the time investigated her death but found there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone had prevented Mansfield from seeking medical help.

Caleb Horner, who as a police officer was decorated for saving a person from suicide, was later fired by Lee’s Summit. He filed a lawsuit in federal court in January alleging he was terminated because of his religious beliefs, but the case has been dismissed.