Murderous ministry?

Our view: Prosecutors must scrutinize group's role in boy's death

August 12, 2008

A jury will decide whether 21-year-old Ria Ramkissoon is guilty of murder in the death of her son, Javon Thompson, who police say was starved to death in 2006 while his mother was a member of 1 Mind Ministries, a secretive Baltimore cult. But it's already clear that others also were involved.

The 21-month-old toddler's death, related in charging documents released this week, is a horrific tale of cruelty and neglect. Police say Ms. Ramkissoon allowed group members to beat her son for trivial infractions such as disobeying orders to say "amen" at meals, then slowly starved him to death. Afterward, the leader allegedly stuffed his body into a suitcase before she and her followers fled to Philadelphia, where they dumped the remains in a storage shed, police say. Investigators didn't catch up with them until this year, when Ms. Ramkissoon and the others were arrested in New York.

Tragedy might have been averted had Ms. Ramkissoon's mother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, succeeded in gaining custody of her grandchild in 2006, after she discovered her daughter had joined the group. In court papers, she told a judge she feared for their safety and begged to take the boy herself. But her lawsuit bogged down because members wouldn't come to court. Clearly, they knew how to play the system, and in this case, the system failed utterly to protect the victim.

Now police and prosecutors must ensure that everyone involved in Javon's death is called to account. The investigation is continuing, and last night, four other members were charged with murder in the boy's death. Whatever Ms. Ramkissoon's culpability, she did not act alone. The bizarre group of which she was a part must also bear responsibility for what happened.

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