Religious cult house near Micanopy to be auctioned Feb. 29

Gainesville Sun/January 28, 2020

By Cindy Swirko

At 3,800 square feet on about four acres, a home off Wacahoota Road built in 1900 and in terrific condition would be a dream for a lot of people.

Except maybe the squeamish or the superstitious.

Campen Auctions is going to sell the house at 723 SE 138th Ave. on Feb. 29.

It is where Anna Young had her House of Prayer, the compound where she allegedly killed a toddler by starving and beating him. It is the house where she bathed a girl in bleach, resulting in a conviction for child abuse. It is the house where she allegedly tortured and beat people while preaching about Jesus.

“We’re auctioning it off to the highest bidder, regardless of price,” auctioneer Brad Campen said Tuesday at the house, less than 10 miles south of Gainesville. “Is this not gorgeous? When I first walked in, I thought, ‘This is my dream house.’

Young, 78, is in the Alachua County jail awaiting trial on a murder charge. She was arrested Dec. 1, 2017, on allegations she killed Emon Harper, who was around 2 or 3 years old in the late 1980s when he died. His remains have not been found.

The house was owned by Young from 1983 to 1995. She fled in 1992 because she was wanted on a child-abuse charge for bathing a 12-year-old girl, Nikki Nickelson, in a tub with bleach, causing burns.

>> Photos: A tour of the Anna Young House

Young was eventually located and convicted years later. She was sentenced to time served in the jail awaiting trial, about six months.

The death of Emon came to light in 2017 when Young’s daughter, Joy Fluker, told authorities about what happened at the compound.

Fluker and others allege Young controlled people who lived at the property through fear and charisma. Residents — adults and children — were routinely beaten or kept confined in small areas. Food was withheld.

Family members of another child, Katonya, believe Young caused her death through torture and starvation. One day in 1983, Katonya had a major seizure and was taken to Shands Hospital. She died from cardiac arrest a few days later.

Young was not charged with Katonya’s death, though family members believe she should have been.

A search of the property that included the use of ground penetrating radar and a cadaver dog failed to find Emon’s remains.

Authorities have called House of Prayer a cult. A cult expert interviewed by The Sun last year said the behavior of Young and the members fit the criteria of a cult.

A case management hearing in court for Young is set for Thursday. State Attorney Bill Cervone said Tuesday he does not believe the case will go to trial this year.

For buyers interested in old homes, the house is a winner. It has large living room-style areas including one that the current owners made into a bar.

One inside wall is stone and the original wood floors are in great shape. The house has five bedrooms and five bathrooms. A large screened front porch is another highlight.

It also has hidden spots in the house that Fluker and others said had a role in Young’s actions.

One was a loft in Young’s bedroom — children at the House of Prayer slept in her room rather than with their parents, and some bedded down in the loft.

An outbuilding with wood interior walls has one unsuspecting section that was actually a door to a secret space behind the wall.

Part of the wall at the bottom of the stairwell opened for another hidden spot.

But the most obvious signs of the House of Prayer were concrete. Much the way kids would write their initials when neighborhood sidewalks were made, concrete slabs through the yard were inscribed with religious messages when the material was poured.

“Jesus is lord,” “Savior God is love,” and “Keep the word, obey God, repent” were among them.

The slab in front the outbuilding was inscribed “Brother Jonah is in the Lord Jesus.” Jonah Young was the name of Young’s husband, who was killed in 1988 when a truck on which he was working reportedly slid off a jack and crushed him.

The current owners have added some quirky touches. Paintings of rottweilers are on a few walls, and the tile in a bathroom features a large dog paw.

Campen had no estimates on how much the house will fetch. But for someone unbothered by the relatively small slice of its history, the house could be a steal.

“Some people will want this house because it’s 120 years old and it is a historic home,” Campen said in a Tuesday email. “Some people won’t be concerned about the history and only see a really cool house and 4-plus acres. Some people will be discouraged because of things that happened here.”

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