Couple Whose Son Starved to Death in Religious Fast Face Murder Trial

From United Press International

A former minister and his wife whose teen-age son starved to death during a prolonged religious fast must stand trial on third-degree murder charges, a judge ruled Thursday.

Luzerne County District Justice Ronald Swank said Larry and Leona Cottam also must stand trial on two counts each of recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children.

The Cottams are accused of allowing their son, Eric, 14, to starve to death during a religiously motivated fast. Police found the boy’s body Jan. 4 at the family’s home in Nuangola.

The parents and another child, Laura, 12, were hospitalized for severe malnutrition. Larry Cottam, 39, a former Seventh-Day Adventist Church minister and an unemployed truck driver, said the family had not eaten in six weeks.


The couple had more than $2,100 in cash in the home and another $1,500 in bank accounts, but Cottam told police the money could not be used for food because it belonged to God.

The Cottams have been in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility since they were discharged from the hospital in mid-January. They have been unable to post bail, which was set at $100,000 each.

Laura Cottam was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 1 and has been placed in a foster home.