The 13-year-old weighed only 68 pounds when Edgar Lopez died in August 2014. His condition deteriorated rapidly for two days, and he had gone from being unable to keep food down to breathing. His eyes were fixed and his skin was feeling cold to the touch, his father, Delfino Lopez Solis, told jurors as he broke down sobbing earlier this month in court.
But even as he wasted in front of their eyes, the parents of Lopez hesitated to call 911. Solis testified that they were told that the insulin their son was supposed to take for his Type 1 diabetes was poison. Instead, Timothy Morrow, a herbalist based in Torrance, California, told them to rub the boy’s spine with lavender oil and prescribed herbal medicine that he claimed he would cure Lopez for life.
“He told us that if we took the child to the hospital, he would get killed there,” Solis said through an interpreter, according to KABC.
Lopez instead went into cardiac arrest and died the following day. The medical examiner from Los Angeles later determined that he could have survived if proper medical care had been given.
On Monday, Morrow, who was accused by prosecutors of contributing to the death of the boy, pleaded no contest for one count of child abuse. He was previously found guilty of
As part of his sentence, Morrow, 84, was warned that if his practice leads to another person’s death in the future, he can be charged with murder. He was also ordered to cover Lopez’s funeral costs and pay a fine of $ 5,000.
On his website, Morrow describes himself as a master herbalist and claims that he
During the February trial, Morrow’s attorney, Sanford Perliss, tried to use this warning as evidence that his client was not responsible for the death of Lopez and that the boy’s family was responsible. He argued that Lopez’s mother was interested in treating her son with herbal medicine before she met Morrow and pointed out that she testified that while growing up in Mexico, she often relied on traditional remedies.
“Nobody held a gun on Edgar’s mom,” Perliss said in his closing statement, according to the Daily Breeze. “Nobody stole insulin from that house so Edgar’s mom couldn’t use it. Edgar’s mom wanted to do what Edgar’s mom wanted to do.”
But Solis argued that Morrow had “brainwashed” the family, who told them that the American health care system for profit benefited from ensuring that people remained sick. Maria Madrigal, Lopez’s mother, said through an interpreter in her own testimony that the herbalist seemed to her to be “like a god” and that she had attended several of his seminars on herbal medicine and was so bowled that she agreed to recruit new customers for him, eventually earning a total of $753 in commissions.
“I had doubts at the beginning, but then I kept going to the classes,” she said, according to KABC. “He has something that convinces you.”
She explained that her son’s diabetes symptoms seemed to go away for a short time, only to return two months before he died. The boy’s
Instead, the seventh-grader’s condition worsened. Solis testified that Morrow visited the family’s home three times in the two days leading up to the boy’s death in August 2014, and told them that Lopez needed herbs and reflexology — a massage technique that involves applying pressure to the feet — to release the toxins from his body, according to KABC. When the 13-year-old seemed to stop breathing, Morrow allegedly advised them to open the windows so that air and light would come in.
Daniel Lopez recalled in his testimony that the laborious breathing and inability to move of his younger brother was only part of the “healing crisis” that was going on. He saw similar advice from other herbalists when he looked online, he told the jury. But then Edgar stopped answering him, and his breath became increasingly flawed. The family called Morrow again, and finally the herbalist told them they could call 911. Edgar died the following day at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center.
During the trial, Morrow did not testify, but a video played by prosecutors showed that while the police questioned him, he denied that he had told Madrigal not to insulin her son. He also claimed he couldn’t call an ambulance because it would invade the privacy of the family. He didn’t know why the boy died, he said, “They said he had a heart attack-when I saw him, he didn’t have a heart attack.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, prosecutors with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had considered filing felony charges against Morrow, but chose to pass the case to the city attorney instead. Last Friday, before Morrow entered his no-contest plea, a jury failed to reach unanimous agreement over whether he was guilty of misdemeanor child abuse. Lopez’s parents have not faced charges in connection with their son’s death.
At the start of the trial, jurors were shown several videos in which Morrow said that a tumor was a “gift from God” and that “insulin is very poisonous to the system.” As part of his sentence, he’s been ordered to remove YouTube videos where he advocates for the use of herbs in lieu of seeking medical treatment and take down any similar statements from his website. As of Tuesday morning, however, his YouTube channel remained a repository of debunked and otherwise questionable medical advice, including claims that shots and vaccines are “absolute poison” for children. (Last week, amid a surge in the number of measles cases being reported across the United States, YouTube said that it would stop running ads on anti-vaccine videos but would not remove those videos from the site.)
Morrow’s most popular video, which claims that all illnesses can be traced back to a clogged colon, has been viewed nearly 59,000 times.
In another video, he claims that a
“The reason why you know you don’t have to have surgery to remove a tumor is because you didn’t have to have surgery to put it there,” he concludes.
At least one other person listened to Morrow’s dubious medical advice, KABC reported. After watching television news coverage of the trial, a widower came forward in the middle of February and told police that his wife had declined to treat her cancer with mainstream medical approaches before she died, since Morrow had advised her not to do so. But the judge overseeing the case ruled that the trial was too far along to have another grieving witness testify.