Woman in 'cult' charged in son's starvation death

Sun exclusive

August 11, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

A Baltimore woman who police say is connected to a religious cult has been charged with first- degree murder in the death of her child, according to court documents obtained yesterday.

Ria Ramkissoon, 21, also known as "Princess Marie," additionally is charged with child abuse, reckless endangerment and other offenses in the death of 21-month-old Javon Thompson. In December 2006, Ramkissoon had taken her son and joined the religious group, 1 Mind Ministries, which operated for a time out of East Baltimore, according to relatives and police.

Court documents say cult members starved the toddler to death and kept his remains in a suitcase for more than a year, until Baltimore homicide detectives found the body in Philadelphia.

Last night, Ramkissoon's mother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, said her daughter called her from the city jail - the first time the two had spoken in two years. Khadan-Newton said police arrested Ramkissoon at a Baltimore homeless shelter yesterday.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said a court commissioner ordered yesterday that Ramkissoon be held without bail. She is to have a bail review hearing in front of a judge today.

Khadan-Newton said that she was angry that her daughter was the only person arrested in her grandson's death and that she plans to stand by her.

"I would like to see the people responsible for this arrested," she said. "My daughter was a victim, just like my grandson. She didn't willingly decide, 'I'm going to kill my son.' ... It's not like that. Somebody made that decision to not feed that child, and my daughter had to follow instructions."

The leader of 1 Mind Ministries, who identifies herself as Queen Antoinette, had a problem with Javon, who a police source in court papers said would not comply with the group's ritual of saying "amen" after meals.

Court papers say that the more Queen Antoinette pressed the toddler, the more resistant he became and that he was subsequently deprived of food and water as punishment. Javon became thinner and developed dark circles around his eyes, the source told police.

The boy eventually stopped breathing, but the group - which included Javon's mother - sought no medical assistance, court papers allege. The police source said Javon's body was placed in a back room at the group's headquarters in the 3200 block of Auchentoroly Terrace in West Baltimore. Queen Antoinette told the group that Javon would be raised from the dead, according to court papers.

After more than a week, Javon's clothing was removed and burned, along with the mattress where he lay, the police source said, according to court papers. The boy's remains were placed in a green suitcase, which the source said Queen Antoinette would occasionally open and spray the interior compartment to mask the odor, court papers allege.

The group, which also included Marcus Cobbs, Trevia Williams, Steven Bynum and two school-age children, moved to Philadelphia in February 2007, where they carried the green suitcase in the trunk of a rented vehicle, court papers say.

After living in a hotel for about a month, the two children were removed from the group by the Department of Social Services in Philadelphia, according to court papers. The group was evicted from the hotel, court papers say.

Court papers say Queen Antoinette was able to find housing for the group for about a week in March 2007 at a Philadelphia man's home. Members kept the green suitcase and other belongings in a shed behind the house long after they left, police said.

The group resettled in Brooklyn, N.Y., court papers say, and the green suitcase was found in the shed by Baltimore homicide detectives more than a year later.

Queen Antoinette, 39, and Williams, 20, were arrested in May in Brooklyn on a warrant charging them with assault in a case unrelated to that involving Javon. Bynum left the group shortly after members moved to Philadelphia, and his whereabouts remain unknown, according to court papers. Cobbs also faces charges in an unrelated case and remains in custody.

The people identified in court records as being associated with 1 Mind Ministries had plans to launch businesses all over Baltimore, including a clothing line called J.C. Apparel with the slogan "Don't be shamed to rock his name, Jesus Christ!" according to previous state records.

According to court records, the group referred to some members with royalty honorifics such as "queen" and "princess," wore all white and eschewed health care.

They are accused in court papers of insisting that a pregnant woman give birth without access to doctors.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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