Indiana jury finds mother guilty of murder in child's exorcism death

The Associated Press/May 28, 2011

Fort Wayne, Indiana - A Fort Wayne woman who forced her 2-year-old son to drink a concoction of olive oil and vinegar because she thought it would exorcise a demon from him has been convicted of murder.

Latisha Lawson also was convicted of neglect and battery charges, the Journal Gazette reported. Jurors deliberated for about five hours Friday before finding her guilty. Lawson faces at least 45 years in prison when she is sentenced next month.

She testified Friday that the concoction was necessary to drive a demon named "Marzon" from her son Jezaih's body. She and another woman allegedly thought their other children were possessed as well, so they also were given the mixture to drink.

All four children vomited it up, but the women held onto Jezaih while they tried to exorcise the supposed demon, and he stopped breathing, authorities said. Lawson acknowledged under cross-examination that she put her hand over the boy's mouth, but insisted she didn't intend to harm him.

Police say Lawson kept Jezaih's body in a plastic tote for more than a year after his November 2009 death until she was arrested on Dec. 21.

Mental health experts who testified during the four-day trial gave conflicting opinions regarding her sanity.

Lawson told jurors she became convinced her son was acting out and changing physically because he was possessed because she had no love for God when she was pregnant.

"I knew and believe I was interacting with a demon at that time," she said. She said she knew it was time to exorcise the demon because God told her so.

After her son's death, she said she was convinced that he would be resurrected.

"I went in and just asked God to bring him back," she said, sobbing. "He did it in the Bible. He did it with Lazarus. He did it with a child in the Bible."

Defense attorneys argued that Lawson was delusional and incapable of understanding right from wrong

But prosecutors said no evidence was presented that Lawson didn't understand how wrong her actions were.

"Jezaih was an unwanted kid," said Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Thomas Chaille. "This is a simple child abuse case . She still thinks she did the right thing. Scary."

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