TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A couple whose 2-year-old son was stung to death by yellow jackets was acquitted Thursday of child abuse charges for waiting hours to seek medical help.
A jury took just 3 1/2 hours to acquit Wylie and Kelly Johnson of Melbourne, Fla. Their son, Harrison, died in 1998 after stumbling into a yellow jacket nest while the Johnsons were visiting friends in Tampa.
The boy was stung 432 times. The Johnsons called paramedics only after the child lost consciousness, more than seven hours later.
Prosecutors were not allowed to tell the jury that the Johnsons are members of an evangelical Christian sect that equates medicine with sorcery, nor that they had been acquitted of failing to report the death of a friend's baby the same year their son died.
Wylie Johnson told the jury that when Harrison tripped on the underground nest, the yellow jackets swarmed so thickly he couldn't see the boy at first.
The couple said they rushed Harrison into their friends' trailer home and gave him an oatmeal bath and rubbed lotion on his skin. But the couple and friends told jurors Harrison showed no signs of needing medical attention, though his body was covered with welts.
"He was acting as a little boy who hadn't taken a nap and had gone through a trauma," Wylie Johnson said. "If he were hurting, he would have told me he was hurting."
Emergency pediatrician Dr. Lalah Bahar-Posey testified Wednesday that the delay took away any chance of the boy's survival. The child died from brain swelling, and the autopsy indicated that he had been dead for some time when he arrived at the hospital, the doctor said.