Cult Members Face Sentencing for Starving Toddler Javon Thompson to Death for Not Saying "Amen"

Ria Ramkissoon and Javon Thompson (AP/Seeta Khadan-Newton)

BALTIMORE (CBS/AP) Javon Thompson was 16 months old when his mother and three other cult followers effectively ordered his execution by starving the toddler because he didn't say 'Amen" before meals.

Prosecutors say cult leader Queen Antoinette told the mother that denying food would cure her child's rebellious spirit.

Antoinette, her daughter Trevia Williams and fellow cult member Marcus Cobbs face up to 60 years on second-degree murder and child abuse charges at sentencing Tuesday in Baltimore.

Javon's mother, Trinidad-born Ria Ramkissoon, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to child abuse resulting in death, testified that Antoinette said Javon had "a spirit of rebellion" inside him and that denying him food would cure him. She said she believed Antoinette's claim about the evil spirit.

Ramkissoon testified that after Javon died Antoinette ordered her to pray for his resurrection and "nurture him back to life." Ramkissoon said she stayed with the body for weeks, dancing for him and singing to him, even trying to give him water.

When those efforts failed Javon's body was stashed in a suitcase and taken with them when the group relocated to Philadelphia.

Twenty-three-year-old Ramkissoon is already in a residential treatment program for young women as part of an unusual plea bargain, in which her plea will be withdrawn if the child comes back to life.

According to the Huffington Post, law experts and psychiatrists said there was no problem with the agreement because Ramkissoon was mentally competent and freely entered into the deal, and extreme religious beliefs aren't deemed insane by law.

"To say that someone is crazy because they have beliefs is very difficult," said Dr. Jonas Rappeport, a retired forensic psychiatrist and the former chief medical officer for Baltimore Circuit Court. "If I believe that God wants me to starve my child, that gets close to the edge, but it's very questionable as to calling that an illness that would exonerate someone for a crime."