News Crime Twelve face court over Queensland girl’s murder
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Twelve face court over Queensland girl’s murder

Religious members arrested over death of girl, 8

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Twelve people have faced court charged with the murder of an eight-year-old girl after allegedly denying her medical treatment as part of a religious “cult”.

Seven women and five men – aged from 19 to 65 – have been charged with killing Elizabeth Struhs west of Brisbane six months ago.

The girl died at the family home in Toowoomba on January 7 after her parents and the 12 people allegedly withheld her diabetes medication for six days.

Instead they prayed over her and opted not to alert authorities as the girl’s health deteriorated, police allege.

Her body was found in the Rangeville home on January 8.

Elizabeth’s parents Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs, 46, and Jason Richard Struhs, 50, have already been charged with murder, torture and failing to provide the necessities of life.

The other 12 people appeared on murder charges in Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Their names are Loretta Mary Stevens, 65, Brendan Luke Stevens, 60, Therese Maria Stevens, 35, Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch, 32, Andrea Louise Stevens, 32, Acacia Naree Stevens, 29, Camellia Stevens, 26, Alexander Francis Stevens, 24, Samantha Emily Crouch, 24, Sebastian James Stevens, 21, Keita Courtney Martin, 20 and Zachary Alan Struhs, 19.

Besides murder, Brendan Luke Stevens has also been charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.

All 12 will remain in custody until their next appearance from August 31.

Detective Acting Superintendent Garry Watts said the six-month investigation had taken a toll on police, describing it as a “very sad set of circumstances”.

“An eight-year-old child dying, in the way we allege she did, is very dramatic for all involved,” he told Nine’s Today program on Wednesday.

“I pay testament to the investigators’ ability and their commitment to the job over the last six months.”

He said Elizabeth’s parents and the other 12 people were members of a religious group, comprising three families.

“They had had, I would suggest, some differing views in relation to quite a number of things, and that’s probably best where I will leave it,” he said.

However, Elizabeth’s adult sister Jayde Struhs claimed her family were members of a “fear-driven” cult that she fled at age 16.

“They take the religion to its extremes – separating us from the real world and extended family who did not believe,” Ms Struhs wrote on her GoFundMe page.

“I made the decision to run away from home and leave my family behind due to the fear-driven and controlling beliefs the cult my parents are a part of.”

Elizabeth’s death left her “shattered and heartbroken” when she found out on January 11 but Ms Struhs said she was determined to keep her sister’s memory alive.

She has vowed to take care of five siblings aged three to 16 and set up the GoFundMe page to raise funds for their welfare.

She has raised more than $17,600 so far.

“Even though I was rejected by my parents I have tried to stay in touch because I cared for my siblings and hoped to help them one day live a normal life,” she wrote.

“I will dedicate all money raised to providing the ongoing care for my five youngest family members to ensure they are welcomed into a safe, secure and loving home.”

-AAP