The case against 14 people charged over the death of a young girl, who died after allegedly being deprived of her insulin medication, is facing further delays as more than 100 hours of recorded interviews are waiting to be transcribed, a court has been told.
Police allege Elizabeth Rose Struhs wasn’t given lifesaving insulin medication for her diabetes on January 3 by her parents Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs and Jason Richard Struhs.
The eight-year-old girl died on January 7, 2022.
Her parents and 12 other members of a small tight-knit religious group – led by Brendan Luke Stevens – are all charged over Elizabeth’s death.
It is alleged the members of the religious circle had opted to pray for the young girl, claiming God would “heal” her.
On Friday, all 14 accused faced Brisbane Supreme Court and met for the first time Justice Martin Burns, who will be the trial judge.
Only Jason Struhs and Brendan Stevens are charged with the girl’s murder.
The other 12 – Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs, Loretta Mary Stevens, Acacia Naree Stevens, Therese Maria Stevens, Sebastian James Stevens, Andrea Louise Stevens, Camellia Claire Stevens, Alexander Francis Stevens, Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch, Samantha Emily Schoenfisch, Zachary Alan Struhs and Keita Courtney Martin – will face charges of manslaughter only.
All 14 members have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and continue to decline legal representation.
When Justice Burns asked the group again on Friday whether they wanted legal representation, the eight women and six men remained silent.
Jason Struhs stood up when asked to tell the court that he’d been in custody since January 2022.
“Me and my wife have been in for 16 months and the rest have been in for 10 months,” he said.
The remaining 12 people were arrested in July 2022.
Due to the number of people accused, the six men were seated in the jury box with a Queensland Corrective Services member seated between each of them.
The eight women were placed in the dock for Friday’s proceedings.
Justice Burns had asked a member of Legal Aid Queensland to address the group about their rights for a final time.
He ordered each member be given a piece of paper with a list of legal contacts for them to reach out to.
“In the event one or more of you change your mind,” Justice Burns said.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Todd Fuller KC told the court the particulars in the case had been filed on Thursday, but the prosecution required more time to finalise the evidence in the case against the group.
“There’s over 100 hours of record of interview that has not been completed,” Mr Fuller said.
“There’s a number of interviews with the accused … they’re not covert, they’re recorded interviews.
“It will take at least three months to review material to ensure they have all the material.”
Justice Burns said he wished to regularly review the case ahead of the trial.
He said there were “still a number of steps” the Crown needed to take before a trial could begin.
“I’m asking the Crown to provide more so (the case is) more comprehensible to you and me,” Justice Burns told the group.
The court was told there was yet to be any clarification made by the Crown for the “element of intent” for those of the group charged with manslaughter.
During Friday’s proceedings, members of the group were smiling and nodding.
The men and women also made gestures to each other across the room, as they remain in separate correctional centres.
Justice Burns said he would also be requesting that the group appear via video link for future review matters, as it was unnecessary for them to appear in person.
“There might be some reviews where you need to be here in person,” he said.
“If it’s a review like today, and how I think it will operate, that could be done by video link.”
The court was told Queensland Corrective Services had organised an open court room for the group to use to discuss their case during the trial.
Justice Burns ordered a further request to see if there was a chance for the group to meet before the trial to discuss proceedings, as they each remain unrepresented.
The matter will return to court for further review on June 16.