THE COLUMBIAN, Vancouver, Washington, December 8, 2004.

Father convicted in circumcision attempt

Wednesday, December 8, 2004
By STEPHANIE RICE, Columbian staff writer

A jury deliberated 40 minutes Tuesday before convicting a Ridgefield man of assault for attempting to circumcise his 8-year-old.

Edwin B. Baxter, 33, was polite after the verdict as he was handcuffed to be taken back to the Clark County Jail. He thanked his attorney and the prosecutor, who last week offered Baxter a plea deal that would've given the father of nine credit for the three months spent in custody and released him from jail. He declined.

Now, Baxter faces up to three years and five months in prison.

A truck driver and fundamentalist Christian who wears a long beard, Baxter dressed in flannel shirts and work boots during his two-day trial and had a Bible with him in court. He did not testify before the jury of seven men and five women.

He did, however, make a statement to Judge James Rulli for the purpose of preserving his right to appeal on the grounds Rulli did not allow him to use his faith as a defense.

Baxter said he decided to circumcise his 8-year-old, the eldest of his four boys, on Sept. 3 after he read in the Old Testament that males should undergo the procedure.

"I had no reason to think I would be in violation of any of God's laws," Baxter said.

"I felt it was an act of obedience."

He said he was only following in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac and "every other godly man."

He had his son lay on towels in what was described by witnesses as a dirty bathtub. He used a hunting knife to attempt the procedure, but called 911 when his son began bleeding profusely.

"It breaks my heart to think that this state would think of me as a child abuser," Baxter said.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kim Farr asked whether the circumcision would have been equally symbolic if it had been performed by a doctor in a sterile environment.

"I have no reason to think otherwise," Baxter said.

Farr said after the trial that Baxter's son was not circumcised at birth because none of the Baxter children have been born in hospitals. He said the family used a van outside their Ridgefield home as a birthing place.

Baxter's 30-year-old wife, Tammy, is said to be pregnant with her 10th child.

She and the children have not been found by law enforcement or investigators from the state Department of Children and Family Services, who had been seeking them in connection with the trial.

After the verdict, Judge Rulli dismissed arrest warrants for Tammy Baxter and the victim.

A urologist who treated the victim said he has not seen the boy to know if his wound has healed.

Dr. Douglas Masson said he closed the boy's wound, rather than complete the circumcision, to let it heal and to minimize the chance of infection.

However, scar tissue could require that the boy be circumcised in the future, he said.

Stephanie Rice covers the courts. She can be reached at 360-759-8004 or

(File created 10 December 2004)