Aug 12, 2008

4 more in 'cult' cited in death

Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey
Baltimore Sun
August 12, 2008

5, including boy's mother, charged with starving him

Baltimore police have obtained warrants charging four more members of what authorities call a religious cult in the death of 2-year-old Javon Thompson, whose body was found in May in a suitcase in Philadelphia. The warrants bring the number of people charged in the boy's death to five.

Charged with murder in warrants were Queen Antoinette, 40, Trevia Williams, 20, Marcus Cobbs, 21, and Steven Bynum, 42. All but Bynum are in jail on other charges, and the Warrant Apprehension Task Force is looking for Bynum in the New York area, said Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the city's Police Department.

With the most recent charges, police have charged all but two known adults associated with the tiny religious group, 1 Mind Ministries, in the boy's death. The gruesome details of that crime were outlined in a 12-page statement of charges written over the weekend by homicide Detective Vernon Parker.

Police say the five suspects belonged to a small group of adults and children who operated for a time in East and West Baltimore. Police allege that the victim's mother, Ria Ramkissoon, 21, the first to be charged with murder, and others neglected Javon and allowed the boy to starve to death because they thought he was a demon for not saying amen after he was fed, according to police charging documents.

Javon is believed to have died in December 2006 in a West Baltimore house, according to police charging documents. The cause of death was ruled homicide by unspecified means, according to court papers.

In early February 2007, police say, the group fled to Philadelphia, taking the boy's body in a green suitcase with wheels. They stayed at various places, settling for about a week at the home of a man the group befriended, according to police. Police found Javon's body in a shed behind the house in May this year. He was wearing a diaper.

DNA evidence provided preliminary confirmation that the remains are those of Javon, according to a police source close to the investigation. Authorities are awaiting complete results.

In early May, three members of the group - including its alleged leader, Toni Ellsberry, also known as Queen Antoinette - were arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., on outstanding warrants connected to an unrelated Baltimore case in which they are accused of assaulting a city officer who had gone to their home to retrieve a child involved in a custody dispute. The suspects were returned to Baltimore and held on charges that they had failed to show up for a court date.

Ramkissoon, also known as Princess Marie, was to have had a bail hearing in district court in Baltimore yesterday, but the proceeding was postponed because she was under psychiatric observation at the Women's Detention Center, according to court and correctional officials.

Judge Charles A. Chiapparelli postponed Ramkissoon's hearing until this morning. Ramkissoon and the other four are charged with first- and second-degree murder, child abuse, assault, reckless endangerment and conspiracy charges, police said.

Ramkissoon's mother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, said she was pleased to hear that others have been charged in her grandson's death. Referring to her daughter, Khadan-Newton said: "She had no control. They made the rules."

She still struggles with why her daughter joined the group. "I don't think my daughter knew what she was getting into," she said. "The baby's father was in jail. She was going through a long time."

Ramkissoon was with the other members in Brooklyn, but when they were arrested in May she returned to Baltimore and was staying at the Mattie B. Uzzle Outreach Center in the 1200 block of N. Chester St. in East Baltimore. A woman answering the door there yesterday declined to comment.

In court documents charging Ramkissoon, Parker, the homicide detective, recounts eyewitness accounts from a source within the religious group. The source said the group's leader, Queen Antoinette, "had a problem with baby Javon, who would not comply with mealtime ritual by saying 'Amen' after meals," Parker wrote. "The more the Queen pressed Javon, the more resistant he became."

The child stopped getting food and water, and he became thin with dark circles under his eyes, according to the document. Javonstopped breathing and was placed in a back room of a house in the 3200 block of Auchentoroly Terrace. At one point everyone was instructed to pray around the boy's body, the document said.

"The Queen told everyone that 'God was going to raise Javon from the dead,'" according to Parker's statement of charges. "That resurrection never took place."

After the child died, Bynum rented a silver Chevrolet Impala from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and drove to Philadelphia, according to court documents. Records obtained by the detective showed that the car was rented from Feb. 13-16, 2007.

The group stayed at the Red Roof Inn near the Philadelphia airport through March 9, when they were evicted, according to charging documents. Next they lived for a while on the streets, and Bynum left the group, according to charging documents.

On March 16, the group encountered the Philadelphia police who notified the city's social services department, which took two "school-aged children," according to the charging documents.

Queen Antionette then befriended Samuel Morgan, an elderly man living in South Philadelphia. "The Queen was able to gain the confidence of Morgan, who allowed the group to stay at his residence approximately one week," Parker wrote.

The group - it is unclear how many people were left - decided to go to Brooklyn. But they stored their belongings in Philadelphia - leaving behind the green suitcase, police allege.

After receiving a tip from a caseworker with the New York City Administration for Children's Services in early February, Baltimore homicide detectives went to Philadelphia and found the suitcase in early May.,0,4021858.story

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