Religious home owner, now 75, charged in child’s death, Forida/December 1, 2017

By Cindy Swirko

Anna E. Young already had a criminal record. In 2001, she was convicted of child abuse for bathing one of the children in her care in a tub full of chemicals.

A woman who ran a religious boarding house south of Gainesville, desribed as a cult leader who once bathed a child in chemicals, has been indicted in the late 1980s death of a toddler by torturing him and withholding food — and investigators say she may have many more victims in her wake.

Anna Elizabeth Young, 75, was arrested near Atlanta Friday, Alachua County Sheriff’s spokesman Art Forgey said.

Young operated the House of Prayer for All People in the 700 block of Southeast 138th Avenue off Wacahoota Road, near Micanopy from about 1985 to 1995.

Young already has a criminal record. In 2001 she was convicted of child abuse for bathing a child in her care in a tub full of chemicals.

“We think there are many, many more. We can document other states and other missing children that we believe are tied into this,” Forgey said. “They ran a religious institution — exorcising demons and other things like that. We have documentation involving her clear back the ’60s. We did extensive forensic examination on the property this summer. We are still analyzing the evidence that we gathered.”

Young is accused of causing the death of Emon Harper, who was around 2 or 3 years old at the time.

Forgey said the investigation of Emon’s death began when new information was presented to the sheriff’s office. Cold case investigator Kevin Allen began exploring the new leads and uncovered more evidence, ultimately resulting in the indictment.

Eighth Circuit State Attorney’s spokesman Darry Lloyd said authorities aren’t saying how Harper came to be in Young’s care.

Children who lived with Young, now generally in their 40s and 50s, have been cooperating with investigators.

“It’s going to be a really complex case and there is a lot of sensitivity with the victims, who are all adults now,” Lloyd said. “Their recall is very good because they’ve been through it.”

A sworn complaint for child abuse was filed against Young in 1992, according to Alachua County court files. She fled and was captured eight years later in the attic of a relative’s home in Illinois, according to the Cobb County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office. It assisted in Friday’s arrest.

Cobb County authorities described Young in a press release as a former “cult leader” and said the child abuse case stemmed from Young bathing a 12-year-old girl in a steel tub with chemicals that caused severe burns.

Alachua County court files show she pleaded no contest. Additional details about the case weren’t available Friday because the file is in storage and couldn’t be quickly accessed.

Records from the Alachua County Property Appraiser indicate Anna and Robert Young bought the property in 1983. In 1985 they transferred it to the House of Prayer for All People Selah, Inc., a nonprofit.

Officials would not say when they began taking in children and how the children came to be in their care.

Other family members were involved in the House of Prayer operation, including Young’s husband, Jonah Young.

The Sun in 1988 reported the death of Jonah Young when his truck reportedly slipped off a jack and crushed him. That story said the House of Prayer for All People was an outreach ministry run from their home.

Investigators may take a fresh look at other incidents involving Young, but Lloyd wouldn’t say if her husband’s death is among them.

“I can’t speak for that but some of the other things we are reviewing — some of the things she was involved in — are reopened. These are things that were reported as an accident but were not,” Lloyd said. “The cases were left as unresolved. A lot of the investigators then felt something was wrong, but they didn’t have enough probable cause so they left it unresolved.”

Young was arrested without incident and will be returned to Alachua County to face charges.

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