Family bids boy a simple farewell

Memorial service held for toddler at center of Baltimore 'cult' murder case

Baltimore Sun/August 30, 2008

There was no casket, no bouquets of flowers, no pews filled with people.

Instead, there was a small wooden toybox and pictures of a 15-month-old baby drinking his bottle and playing, and the dozen mourners who came to say good-bye to him.

"I fought hard to save this little boy's life ... but nobody would help me," said Seeta Khadan-Newton, Javon Thompson's grandmother. "So I was fighting a fight by myself which ended with me losing my grandson and my daughter where she is now."

Javon's mother, Ria Ramkissoon, 21, is among five people Baltimore homicide detectives have charged with first-degree murder in connection with the toddler's death. Javon died while in the care of a religious group, 1 Mind Ministries, that police say was a cult. Police say the group denied the toddler food and water because he would not say amen after meals. He died in a West Baltimore apartment in late 2006 or early 2007.

Yesterday at March Funeral Homes in Northwest Baltimore, Khadan-Newton wept as she spoke of the grandson who loved his rubber ducky and swing set and who brought her more joy than anything else. "I loved this baby more than anything in my life," she said. "For him to die the way he died is eating up my heart."

"I don't know why I feel so guilty," she added. "Just because I wasn't there the whole time, that I wasn't there to help him, to save him."

Khadan-Newton has said she called Baltimore's Division of Social Services at least four times between April and December of 2006 because she was concerned about the whereabouts of her grandson and the conditions he was living in. But DSS officials say they only received two calls and that the complaints about how Javon was treated weren't specific enough to investigate.

Police say members of the cult put the boy's remains in a suitcase and brought it to Philadelphia in February 2007. They left the suitcase with an elderly man they befriended, and then several members eventually moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., police say.

Authorities found the suitcase and the boy's remains in April.

The Rev. Anna V. Nelson read a letter Ramkissoon wrote to her son that was printed on the back of the program for the memorial service. "I want to protect you from all harm, but I have to let you grow and learn on your own," she read. "Remember, no matter what, whether things are good or bad, I want you to know: You're my son, and I love you. Forever and ever."

Nelson offered the family words of consolation. "We would not like to think that it was the will of God what happened to this boy," she said. "I would like to think that this boy died for us. This baby has left a message here for the whole world.

"This baby died so that they could be exposed," she said, referring to 1 Mind Ministries.

At the end of the service, Javon Thompson appeared in a stream of video snippets. Javon in his swing. Javon with a toy turtle. Javon cooing as his mother played with him.

"Bye-bye Javon," says a female voice in the background, as Javon rubs his eyes. "Say bye-bye."

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