The older sister of an alleged murder victim says her family’s religious beliefs became stricter as she grew up.
Jayde Struhs’ little sister Elizabeth died in January after her parents, Kerrie and Jason, allegedly refused her diabetes medication because they believed God would heal her.
In an exclusive interview with A Current Affair, 23-year-old Jayde detailed what life was like growing up.
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Jayde is the eldest of eight Struhs children.
She said the family originally went to a traditional church in Toowoomba, west Brisbane, until the Struhs and another family, the Stevens, went their separate ways.
“All we were told was that the church we were going to was corrupt and didn’t quite fulfill the whole religion,” she said.
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“They, well we, we would call ‘The Saints’.”
Since then, she said the church is still held at the home of the Stevens family, led by Patriarch Brendan Stevens.
Jayde said the rules got stricter as she got older.
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Christmas was no longer celebrated, no medical procedures were allowed, and their sole purpose was to serve God.
Jayde said she struggled for years as she came to terms with her own sexuality before fleeing the family home at 16, knowing she would not be accepted.
“When I told my mum I was a lesbian and disagreed with her beliefs, I had Brendan at the door straight away. I was taken to their house, we sat for hours and had (them), reading scriptures to me saying what an abomination it was,” Jayde said.
But after Jayde left, the Saints’ faith only grew stronger.
They tried to recruit more people, including 19-year-old David, who was only in high school at the time.
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“They believed they were the only true Christians because they could speak in tongues,” David said.
“Mr. Stevens was talking about how all their wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should submit to God.”
David said the group then met three times a week, where Kerrie and her children were always present.
After going there three times, he decided not to return, concerned about their beliefs.
Jayde also grew concerned about these beliefs when her father Jason called her in 2019 to say Elizabeth was in a coma about to be airlifted to Brisbane Children’s Hospital.
Elizabeth arrived at the hospital unconscious and needed resuscitation.
It was there that she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
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She stayed in the hospital for a month, while the medical staff taught her how to administer insulin daily.
But that’s what the insulin police now allege was denied him, in his final days.
Police will also allege that Kerrie and Jason were not home alone at the time of Elizabeth’s death.
It is alleged that there were 20 people from the church group at the house, who were said to have chanted, prayed and chanted from Friday evening to Saturday evening, until Jason finally called the police.
Neighbor John Burns was shocked to learn what had happened on his quiet street in Toowoomba.
“We could hear music. It sounded like guitars and they were just singing,” he said.
“We had ambulance drivers up front talking to the police and one of them looked really distraught.”
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A topical matter tracked down church leader Mr Stevens, who refused to answer questions about his controversial religion.
Jayde is now fighting for custody of her younger siblings – five children aged 3 to 16.
She also started a fundraiser so she could provide essentials for her siblings, including bedding, clothes, a bigger house and a car to give them the life she said she deserved.
“I want to be able to give them the life they deserve and really take them away from that,” Jayde said.
She has the support of her grandparents, including Jason’s parents, Rick and Rosemary, who are still in shock their son and his wife have been charged with murder.
“To her, we were bad people because we didn’t believe,” Rosemary said.
Jayde wants people to know Elizabeth’s name and her beaming smile and hopes it never happens again.