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Religious group charged with murder over death of Toowoomba girl Elizabeth Struhs remanded in custody

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 6/07/2022
A court sketch of today's hearings in Toowoomba. (Supplied: Michael Felix) © Provided by ABC NEWS A court sketch of today's hearings in Toowoomba. (Supplied: Michael Felix)

Twelve members of a religious group charged with murder over the death of an eight-year-old girl in southern Queensland have all been remanded in custody after appearing in court today.

The seven women and five men, aged 19 to 65, were charged on Tuesday night over the death of Toowoomba girl Elizabeth Struhs.

The girl died at her Rangeville home on January 7, 2022, after she was allegedly denied medical care for type 1 diabetes for about six days.

The group was arrested during a morning raid of a house in the Toowoomba suburb of Harristown yesterday. 

Andrea Louise Stevens, 32, was the first to appear via video link from a room at the Toowoomba watchhouse.

The woman was polite but curt with her responses to Magistrate Kay Philipson and declined when urged to seek legal advice and representation.

Exchanges over legal representation were repeated for most of the accused over the next hour. 

Magistrate Philipson ordered a full brief of evidence to be made available by August 10, with the matters adjourned to August 31, and September 1-2.

Police prosecutors then asked for 65-year-old Loretta Mary Stevens to be brought into the room, but watchhouse officers told them she was in the shower. 

Keita Courtney Martin, 20, was next before the court and was again urged to seek legal representation. 

"I understand, but I'm happy to represent myself," Ms Martin replied.

She briefly whispered to someone off camera before her matter was adjourned. 

Samantha Emily Crouch, 24, was fourth to appear, but there was brief confusion when Magistrate Philipson asked her name.

"Are you Samantha Crouch?" asked the Magistrate.

"Oh, I used to be, I've been married for four years," Ms Crouch said. 

Loretta Stevens was then brought before the court. She briefly replied to the magistrate's questions, again declining to speak to a lawyer about her charge.

Lachlan Stuart Schoenfisch, 32, Acacia Maree Stevens, 29, Alexander Francis Stevens, 24, Camellia Claire Stevens, 26, Sebastian James Stevens, 21, and Maria Therese Stevens, 35, were brought into the room one by one, with their matters proceeding in the same manner. 

Questions asked

When 19-year-old Zachary Alan Struhs was brought before the court Magistrate Philipson asked, "Do you have any questions?"

At first, he replied 'no', before asking, "Am I being charged with any evidence being provided for two months?" 

"Am I proven guilty? This is two months of my life and I'm innocent," he said. 

Magistrate Philipson explained the court process before again urging him to seek legal advice, but Mr Struhs declined with a "no, thank you".

Brendan Luke Stevens, 60, was the last accused to be brought before the magistrate. 

When asked if he had any questions, Mr Stevens said, "I think it's disgusting that no justice [has been] done.

"Why are not we being released on bail immediately? We have been out for the last six months; I have a child at home that needs care," he said.

Mr Stevens then agreed to speak to a lawyer for further advice. 

Under Queensland law, people charged with murder cannot apply for bail in the Magistrates Court, but must instead apply via the Supreme Court.

His matter was adjourned until early September. 

Parents charged

Elizabeth's parents, Jason Struhs, 50, and Kerrie Struhs, 47, were charged on January 11 with murder, torture and failure to supply the necessaries of life.

The pair were last before the Toowoomba Magistrates Court in late June. 

Appearing via video link the pair again chose to represent themselves.

They were remanded in custody and will return to court later in July.

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