The former leader of Florida‘s ‘House of Prayer for All People’ cult has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the starvation and medical abuse deaths of two young children in the 1980s.
Anna Elizabeth Young, 79, previously known as ‘Mother Anna,’ on Wednesday pleaded no contest to second-degree homicide and manslaughter charges.
The homicide charge stems from the 1988 disappearance and presumed death of two-year-old Emon Harper, who also went by his cult name ‘Baby Moses.’ The toddler had been locked in a closet and deprived of food and water. His body was never found.
Ex-Florida cult leader Anna Young, 79 (pictured), on Wednesday pleaded no contest to charges of homicide and manslaughter, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison
Young was said to have starved and abused Emon Harper (right), aged two, until the child died while locked in a closet in 1988
The manslaughter charge is related to the 1983 death of three-year-old Katonya Jackson, who was starved, beaten and denied her epilepsy medication because Young believed the girl’s seizures were a sign she was possessed by the devil.
Eighth Circuit Judge Mark Moseley accepted Young’s pleas and sentenced her to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter count and 30 years in prison on the homicide count, to be served concurrently. She will be given credit for more than three years of time served in jail, reported WCJB.
‘All innocent blood cries out from the ground for an answer,’ the judge told Young.
Katonya’s brother, John Neal, who is himself a survivor of the cult and still bears scars from being savagely whipped as a child, was given a chance to speak during the sentencing hearing, describing his sister as ‘exceptional’ and ‘beautiful.’
He later expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the case, telling reporters: ‘I feel like we got justice, 100 per cent. I often wondered if I would ever get justice or any accountability. I know God holds people accountable; I knew that was coming. But to be able to see it and live it, it’s just wonderful, it’s a blessing,’ reported WEAR-TV.
Young was the leader of ‘House of Prayer for All’ cult, which she ran out of this property in rural Florida between mid-1980s and early ’90s
Young’s daughter, Joy Fluker (pictured left with her mother’s photo as a cult leader), turned her in to the police in 2016 for Emon’s killing. She spoke at her sentencing on Wednesday
Neal was joined in court by Young’s daughter, Joy Fluker, who turned her mother in to the authorities in 2016 after years of silence.
Fluker said in her victim impact statement: ‘You can forget or try to forget many mistakes in life, but a human life should never be forgotten.’
Fluker has launched the non-for-profit organization Prevent the Pain, which is dedicated to encouraging cult survivors to speak out and offering them counseling services.
‘I have a thirst to be able to help others avoid the situation,’ she said.
Young ran the cult out of a home on a four-acre property near Micanopy, Florida, from 1983 until the early 1990s.
The religious community adhered to Old Testament-style teachings, as interpreted by Young, which required long robes and beards for men, and long dresses and head coverings for women.
Members of the group – many of them single mothers and people down on their luck – had to change their birth names to biblical names and keep a kosher diet. They were given free room and board on Young’s property, but were expected to hand over to her whatever money they earned.
All the children living in the community were under Young’s direct supervision and slept in her bedroom.
The cult dissolved after an incident in 1992, when Young bathed a 12-year-old girl in a tub full of chemicals as ‘punishment’.
Many of the members of the House of Prayer for All People were children whose parents were unable to take care of them for various reasons, and the girl’s parents were not members.
One day, Mother Anna had reportedly decided the girl ‘smelled bad’ and that bathing her in bleach would ‘burn the evil out of her’.
The parents reported Young to the police for child abuse, but she fled Florida and was captured eight years later in the attic of a relative’s home in Illinois.
John Neal, a survivor of the cult whose sister, Kaytona Jackson, died in 1983 after being denied her epilepsy medication, spoke about his trauma in 2018
In 2001, she was convicted and sentenced to six months and 12 days in jail.
Following her release, she moved to Marietta, Cobb County, where she kept her past hidden from her neighbors for more than 15 years.
Young was arrested in December 2017 after her daughter, Fluker, went to the police and told them she knew that Emon Harper had dead, as a result of regular beatings and starvation at the hand of her mother.
Witnesses alleged that Young placed the boy’s body in a straw hamper and burned it. She claimed she had given the toddler away to be raised by monks.
‘Moses only lived a few short years, but he taught me life is too big to be swept under a rug, imprisoned in a home, or buried in the ground,’ Fluker told the judge.