MEMBERS of a religious cult who starved a toddler to death because he refused to say “amen” during a mealtime prayer face jail sentences of up to 60 years each.
Cult leader Queen Antoinette, founder of 1 Mind Ministries, was convicted yesterday in Baltimore of the second degree murder of Javon Thompson, aged about 16 months, along with two of her followers – daughter Trevia Williams and Marcus A Cobbs.
Jurors also convicted the three of child abuse resulting in death. The defendants each face up to 60 years in prison when they are sentenced May 18.
Antoinette, 41, Williams, 22, and Cobbs, 23, represented themselves at the trial. They did not testify or call any witnesses. Antoinette introduced a single piece of evidence: a copy of a handwritten application for non-profit status for her outfit. In that document, she described herself:
As a chosen daughter of the most high God and a queen of Jesus Christ.
In their closing arguments, Antoinette and Cobbs accused prosecutors and the media of conspiring to condemn them. Said Antoinette:
We’ve been like pariahs. These people want to blame someone for this child’s death, so they’ve chosen us.
Witnesses said Antoinette claimed to speak to God and ran a tightly controlled household. Among the rules were that the group dressed in only white, blue and khaki and they left the house only in pairs. They destroyed identification documents, cut off contact with relatives and were encouraged to smoke marijuana, which Antoinette called “God’s weed.”
Javon died in either December 2006 or January 2007. His mother, Ria Ramkissoon, testified that no one in the eight-person household did anything to prevent Javon from wasting away. His heart stopped beating after a week or more without food, his mother said.
After Javon died, Antoinette told her followers to pray for his resurrection and ordered Ramkissoon to “nurture him back to life,” according to witnesses.
Ramkissoon said she stayed with Javon’s body for weeks, talking to him, dancing for him, even trying to give him water. Ultimately, according to testimony, the group members stashed Javon’s body in a suitcase and relocated to Philadelphia, where they stayed briefly with an elderly man. The suitcase was stored in a shed behind the man’s home for more than a year.
Ramkissoon, 23, pleaded guilty last year to child abuse resulting in death. Her plea deal included an extraordinary provision: If Javon comes back to life, the conviction will be thrown out. Prosecutors said only a “Jesus-like resurrection” would suffice.
Ramkissoon will soon be released from jail and placed in a residential treatment programme, prosecutors said.
“She’s a very convincing manipulator,” said Tiffany Smith, who lived with Antoinette before Javon died and testified that she was forced to give birth without medical care.
Even Antoinette’s name, she said, was given to her by God. Although she was arrested and charged under the name Queen Antoinette, prosecutors said her real name is Toni Sloan.
Williams was referred to as “Princess Trevia,” and Cobbs was “Prince Marcus.” Ramkissoon was known as “Princess Marie.”
Ramkissoon’s attorney, Steven D Silverman, said he was relieved with the verdict.
I was fearful that the jury might consider her [Ramkissoon] the most culpable, since she is the custodian of the child. But fortunately, they were able to see clearly that the Queen was in control of the situation.