50 years for head of Md. cult convicted in child's starving death
A cult leader convicted of the starvation death of a toddler for not saying "Amen" after meals was sentenced to 50 years in prison Tuesday by a judge who described her as a manipulator of lost souls.
Queen Antoinette was sentenced in Baltimore along with her daughter, Trevia Williams and fellow cult member Marcus Cobbs, who were each handed concurrent 25-year sentences for second degree murder and child abuse, with all but 15 years on one count suspended.
Judge Timothy Doory said the death of Javon Thompson was mystifying and the three fit the legal definition of “depraved heart” crimes in that they didn't care, and knew they didn't care, about the consequence of their actions.
Doory saved his harshest comments for the cult leader, saying, “You were the collector of people, of lost souls and in the name of religion you have manipulated them.”
Doory told Antoinette she had expressed no remorse and was most concerned about the description of her group as a cult. Antoinette told the judge before sentencing that she did not have any remorse because she was not guilty.
“I don't 'cause I'm not guilty of what I've been accused of,” Antoinette said, adding the “the truth will eventually come out, however long it takes.”
Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Antoinette to the maximum 60 years on second-degree murder and child abuse charges, 50 for Williams and 40 for Cobbs.
All three represented themselves, and again refused attorneys before sentencing, spending about an hour reviewing pre-sentencing reports in the courtroom while other cases were handled. Williams and Cobbs gave short rambling statements before sentencing, saying they disagreed with various items in the reports but did not want to contest them.
Doory told Cobbs and Williams he was not without hope they could change but also ordered they not have contact with unrelated minors or group members after their sentence is completed.
Javon Thompson's body was found in a suitcase in Philadelphia in 2008, more than a year after his death in Baltimore. The child's mother, 23-year-old Ria Ramkissoon, is already in a residential treatment program for young women as part of unusual plea bargain in which her plea will be withdrawn if the child is resurrected, as she believes will happen.
Ramkissoon's mother appeared at sentencing, telling the judge she became a “walking zombie” after the death of her grandson, not able to eat.
“When he was taken away, so was my happiness,” Seeta Newton said, adding “the most disgusting part of this is they did it in the name of God and the Bible.”
Prosecutors said Antoinette told Ramkissoon that denying food would cure the boy's rebellious spirit. The mother admitted denying food and water to the 16-month-old child, who wasted away over the course of a week before dying.
After Javon died in late 2006 or early 2007, Antoinette told her followers to pray for his resurrection, and the young mother spent weeks with her son's body.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
-- Associated Press
Washington Post Editors
May 18, 2010; 2:21 PM ET
Categories: Baltimore , From the Courthouse
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