An herbalist surrendered Friday to begin serving a 120-day jail term on two misdemeanor counts stemming from the death of a 13-year-old diabetic boy in the Harbor Gateway area.
Timothy Morrow, now 85, was convicted Feb. 20 of practicing medicine without a license, but jurors deadlocked two days later on a child abuse count stemming from Edgar Lopez’s August 2014 death. Morrow subsequently pleaded no contest to child abuse likely to produce great bodily injury or death following an agreement that his jail term on both counts would run at the same time.
On Feb. 25, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria B. Wilson sentenced Morrow to 120 days in jail, four years probation, a one-year child abuse treatment counseling program, a $5,000 fine and more than $4,200 in restitution to the boy’s family for funeral expenses.
The judge also ordered him to take down You Tube videos extolling the virtues of herbal treatments in lieu of medicine and to print a clear warning label on herbs he packages for sale.
Morrow also was advised that he could be charged with murder if he continues such acts and they lead to another person’s death, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
“It really tore me apart, seeing the (hand)cuffs put on him tore me apart,” one of Morrow’s longtime friends, Doug Hedlund, said outside court after Morrow was taken into custody.
Hedlund described his friend of 25 years as “one of the finest men I know” and said his fellow Air Force veteran friend “believes everything that he recommends in the way of his products” and is “not a con man.”
Morrow’s friend said he sent a letter to Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer before Morrow’s trial in which he expressed his belief that “this is a miscarriage of justice.”
In a statement released last month, the city attorney said that the case “underscores the serious health and safety risks of taking medical advice from someone who lacks a license and the proper training that goes with it” and that Morrow’s conviction sends a “strong message that my office will continue to hold accountable those whose actions place lives in danger.”
In closing arguments last month, Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Heidi Matz told jurors that Morrow gave “hope” to the teen’s family by assuring the boy’s mother that he was going through a “healing crisis” and convincing them to use herbal products instead of insulin to treat his Type 1 diabetes before the teen’s August 2014 death. She cited what she called “criminal negligence” and “callous disregard” by Morrow.
Defense attorney Sanford Perliss countered that the teen’s mother didn’t even know Morrow when she informed a doctor that she wanted to give her son herbal remedies.
“Nobody held a gun on Edgar. Nobody held a gun on Edgar’s mom. Nobody stole insulin from that house so Edgar’s mom couldn’t use it,” Perliss said in his closing argument. “Edgar’s mom wanted to do what Edgar’s mom wanted to do.”
The herbalist’s attorney noted that the teen’s mother testified about growing up in Mexico using traditional remedies and about Morrow telling her his story about successfully battling cancer without undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.
“That’s his life,” Perliss said. “Is it a crime to tell people your experiences?”
The defense lawyer — who urged jurors to acquit his client — suggested that Morrow became a “sacrificial lamb” after the teen’s death, and said the case “hasn’t been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In her rebuttal argument, the prosecutor countered, “This case is proven beyond any doubt.”
She told jurors the boy died within hours of Morrow visiting the family’s home and that Morrow’s control over the boy’s family did not abate until the teen passed away.
“Edgar died unnecessarily and today we are here for him,” the deputy city attorney said.
The teen had a cardiac arrest and died as the result of complications from his diabetes. The medical examiner determined that he would have lived if he had received the proper medical treatment, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Through a Spanish interpreter, the teen’s mother, Maria Madrigal, testified last month that she initially began giving her son supplements and only used products that Morrow sold after meeting him. She told jurors that Morrow had warned her “not to trust doctors,” and that she “absolutely” felt he had brainwashed her.