Mother says she agreed to starve son to rid him of demonic spirit

Testifying against alleged cult members, woman also believes boy will be resurrected

The Baltimore Sun/February 24, 2010

The mother of a dead child testified Wednesday that she agreed to starve her toddler son, who refused to say "amen," to rid him of a demonic spirit that was potentially placed there when her own mother offered the boy up to the devil.

Ria Ramkissoon, 23, also said she has faith that God will resurrect her son, Javon Thompson, and she's not afraid to say so, even if it makes her sound crazy.

"I don't have a problem with sounding crazy in court," she said bluntly, as former acquaintances poked each other in the audience and rolled their eyes.

Ramkissoon has pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death, and expects to receive a 20-year suspended sentence, along with inpatient counseling and five years of probation. Her official sentencing has been repeatedly postponed in anticipation of her testimony Wednesday against three other defendants who are accused of running a religious cult and are charged with murder in 16-month-old Javon's death.

On trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court are accused cult leader Queen Antoinette, 41, her daughter, Trevia Williams, 22, and Marcus Cobbs, 23. Antoinette was developing a religious organization called 1 Mind Ministries and had plans to open a shelter for kids, according to testimony. She ran a religious household that required its members to read the Bible, travel outside in pairs for safety and wear certain colors, namely blue, white and khaki, witnesses have said.

Ramkissoon learned about the house through a childhood friend, who said she could live there and spend more time with her son. At the time, Ramkissoon felt the boy was bonding more with her mother, his grandmother, than with her because she was in community college and away for much of the day.

She also said she was uncomfortable at home, where she lived with her younger brother, her mother, Seeta Newton, and her stepfather, with whom she had a "difficult" relationship.

When a juror asked Ramkissoon, via a note handed to the judge, why she trusted strangers with her infant child over her mother, she said simply: "If you think your son is being offered to the devil by your mother, who you go to?"

Ramkissoon, who converted from Hinduism to Christianity in middle school, said she found her mother and stepfather holding the boy up to the sun one evening. They "said they were showing him God's creation," she testified, but she believed they were "offering him up to the devil."

The boy later died while living in Antoinette's household because she allegedly ordered that he be deprived of food until he said "amen" after prayers.

In an interview after the morning testimony, Ramkissoon's mother said she never offered her grandchild to the devil and "wasn't even holding him" that evening. She said she hopes her daughter, who sounded lucid and confident on the stand, gets counseling.

"She comes and goes. Her mood comes and goes. She's confused sometimes. ... But altogether, she's a very smart girl," Newton said.

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