By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Plymouth couple is facing child neglect charges in the death of their 7-year-old son nearly two years ago.

An autopsy found the boy was suffering from numerous medical ailments including open sores and bruises all over his body. The boy’s cause of death was listed as pancreatitis and possible sepsis.

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Court document say the parents, Sarah and Tim Johnson, told investigators they had “issues with doctors” and they relied on their own research in treating their son, Seth, who they had taken in as a foster child and had adopted when he was 4.

A criminal complaint says the couple found Seth unresponsive on a March 2015 morning, covered in vomit on a mattress. The parents told investigators they been treating Seth with vitamin A, Neosporin and medical honey.

No one answered Wednesday when we went to the Johnsons’ home. WCCO-TV has not been unable to reach the couple.

A statement released by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says the gross misdemeanor charges were the most serious he could file because child abuse experts could not draw a direct connection between Seth’s death and his parents’ actions.

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In social media postings, which are now deleted, the Johnsons said they relied on their strong faith to overcome their son’s death.

Hamline University Law Professor Emeritus Joe Daly says this is not “an open and shut case,” as Minnesota is one of 38 states that protects parents exercising beliefs.

“If you are doing this based on religious principles, unless you have operated in an extremely negligent, reckless manner, you are exempt from prosecution,” Daly said.

The parents have not been arrested. They were charged via summons and their first court date is Jan. 31.

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In his statement, Freeman, the county attorney, said that despite the fact Seth’s death occurred in March 2015, his office was not made aware of the case until 9 months later and have spent the past year investigating.

Esme Murphy